Bako National Park: Everything You Need To Know

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Staying in Kuching and want to explore the jungle and wildlife that Sarawak is famous for? It’s easy! Just head to Bako National Park.

Bako National Park Borneo is just a 35 minute drive and 15 minute boat ride from the heart of Kuching. It’s easy to take a day trip to Bako National Park or to go on a Bako National Park tour. You can also stay at Bako National Park overnight so you can experience more of this national park including interesting night walks.

So why visit the Bako National Park Malaysia? It’s Sarawak’s oldest national park and is known for its incredible biodiversity. It’s a great place to view orchids and pitcher plants or to spot wildlife such as bearded pigs and proboscis monkeys.

The park itself is located on a peninsular in the South China Sea. So in addition to the rainforest and wildlife, there are beaches, cliffs, mangroves, waterfalls and more. There are different ecosystems to explore, and it’s all relatively easy thanks to a good network of trails.

Bako National Park Telok Pandan Kecil trail
Telok Pandan Kecil trail – typical section with little shade

The best way to have an awesome time at Bako is to have a good understanding of what you’ll find there and what Bako National Park activities are perfect for you before you go.

It can be a little chaotic on arrival and while there are some great people doing what they can to help, it’s hard to give good advice if you don’t have any idea of what you want.

In this full guide, I share everything you need to know to visit Bako National Park Sarawak Malaysia including information about the Bako National Park trails, how to get from Kuching to Bako National Park, the Bako National Park accommodation, how to visit with a Bako National Park guide or independently, the Bako National Park opening hours, the Bako National Park entrance fee and everything else you need to know to be an expert on visiting Bako National Park.

This is also a Bako National Park review based on my experiences of visiting here. Of course, there are lots of Bako National Park photos as well. Keep reading because this Kuching Bako National Park day trip blog has everything you need!

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Bako National Park: Full Guide And Review

Bako National Park is known for its scenery and biodiversity so when it comes to what to do in Bako National Park, it’s all about exploring that. There are many trails you can take, and you should keep your eyes open for wildlife.

In this section of the guide, I’ll walk you through what can we do in Bako National Park once you arrive there. Further down in the guide, I’ll give you details on how to get there.

Bako National Park Animals

Bako National Park Bearded pigs
Bearded pigs are common to find

Animals you will want to keep a look out for as you go Bako National Park hiking are the Bornean bearded pig, proboscis monkeys, long-tailed macaques (be careful round these cheeky Bako National Park monkeys), silvered langurs, snakes and monitor lizards.

If you go on a night walk, you may be able to spot some of Bako’s nocturnal wildlife such as mouse deer, palm civets, tarsiers, slow loris, pangolins and colugo.

The best spotting times are right after sunrise and right before sunset, but you’ll need to stay at the park to access these opportunities at these times.

Unfortunately, I did not see any animals 🙁 It was a really busy Saturday in August (peak time) when I visited and I would avoid visiting on a weekend if I did this again. There were too many loud groups. One even walked past with loud music playing 🙁

I think a guide is the best way to have the best chance to see wildlife.

Telok Paku
Telok Paku

Bako National Park Jetty

On arrival at the park, you’ll start your adventure at the Bako National Park Jetty. Before getting off your boat, arrange your pick up time with your boat driver. There is more information about getting to Bako National Park below.

Bako National Park jetty
Jetty on arrival in the national park

From here, you need to follow the boardwalk to the right for about an eight minute walk to Park Headquarters. There’s a clear sign and actually, the jetty is on one of the main trails so it’s hard to go wrong.

You need to go to Park Headquarters first. This is where you’ll get a map, register and get advice for your trip.

Bako National Park path to headquarters
The path to Park Headquarters from the jetty

The walk heads past the Bako National Park accommodation and the canteen before arriving at the Headquarters.

Bako National Park Headquarters

Bako National Park Headquarters
Park Headquarters

Here, you need to register with your passport number. You can also grab a Bako National Park trail map and get suggestions from the ranger of where to hike. Also make sure you note down which trails are closed.

They regularly shut down parts of the park to visitors so they can regenerate. At the time of publishing, many of the trails that are further away from Park Headquarters are closed after they fell into disrepair over the pandemic.

Bako National Park map
Map
Bako National Park map
Map showing the path colours

The good news is that you’ll still find some hiking Bako National Park to enjoy. You can also check on their site which trails are currently closed before you go.

You need to fill in a separate sheet with what trails you are going to hike, your departure time and when you plan to be back. This is for your own safety.

The registration desk inside Bako Park Headquarters
The registration desk inside Park Headquarters

The staff here were also able to get me a one way boat within the park, but it would have been better to do this when I bought my boat ride across (more details about this below).

By the headquarters is the park canteen. It’s open for buffet style breakfast, lunch and dinner, and you can also buy a drink here, if you need one, before setting off.

Bako National Park Canteen
Canteen

The canteen food is bain-marie style. There are pre-made dishes that you can serve yourself onto a plate and then you pay for the plate. There aren’t that many choices.

The cold drinks were more my style. Note that they cost nearly double what they do in Kuching.

Unfortunately, the toilet at Park Headquarters was closed when I was there! I was not able to find another one, but surely there is one, somewhere!

Interpretation Centre

Bako National Park Interpretation Centre
Interpretation Centre

At Park Headquarters, there is a small Interpretation Centre.

This is a good place to start if you don’t have a guide to get an introduction to the park’s seven ecosystems.

Bako National Park Trails

Bako National Park Telok Paku Trail turn off signs
Paku Trail turn off

There are 18 trails ranging from a 30 minute walk one way to multi-day hikes. There are plenty you can do on a one day trip.

I recommend taking a look through the following information on the available trails so you already have some ideas about what you want to do before arriving. Many of them may be closed when you visit (as mentioned above), so have back up plans as well.

Here’s a brief overview of your options. The time taken and the kilometres mentioned are from Park Headquarters. The actual trail length and time may be less than this as some trails start from other trails. This means you may have to walk some distance on another trail first before you join the one you want. The times and distances below take this into account.

I found I did trails a little quicker than this. I didn’t take rest breaks, but I did take plenty of photos.

The trails are colour coded to help you find them and to keep to the right track.

Trail NameDistance (one way from Park Headquarters)Time (one way from Park Headquarters)Description
Tanjung Sapi800 metres30 minutesThis is a short, steep climb to a great viewpoint by the coast with views of Telok Assam beach and the South China Sea. Good for proboscis monkey sightings in early mornings.
Telok Paku*1.2km1 hourWalk through cliff forest to a small beach. A good trail for seeing proboscis monkeys.
Ulu Assam*1.4km1.25 hoursWalk through swamp forest and a flat area where you may spot proboscis monkeys. It then is quite a steep trail where you will have to hang on to tree roots to balance. Some great views of Bako coastline.
Telok Delima*1km45 minutesBranching off the Lintang trail, this is another prime trail for spotting proboscis monkeys.
Telok Pandan Besar**1.75km1 hourOn this trail, walk up forested hills with views of Teluk Assam beach. There’s then a scrub covered plateau before walking a sandy path with many pitcher plants. At the end, you’re greeted with a cliff top with great views of the Telok Pandan Besar bay.
Telok Pandan Kecil**2.5km1.5 hoursMost of this walk is the same as the one above. You’ll reach a cliff top with great views of Telok Pandan Kecil. There’s then a 10-minute descent through cliff vegetation down onto the beach
Serait2.2km1.5 hoursA secluded, not often walked trek to the park’s southwestern boundary.
Tajor3.5km2.5 hoursThis trek is through scrub and padang vegetation. On the way is Tajor Waterfall. At the end is a steep climb down to a beach.
Tanjung Rhu4.2km2.5 hoursBranching off the Tajor trail, this trail takes you through open country ending at the rocky Rhu peninsula. There is a lookout where you can see wave-weathered rocks and platforms
Bukit Keruing5.5km3.5 hoursThis trail connects the Tajor and Bukit Gondol trails and takes you through rainforest and the slopes of Bukit Keruing (second highest point in Bako).
Lintang5.25km (return)3.5 hours (return)This trail is highly recommended for day trippers as it passes through nearly all the different ecosystems at Bako. It’s also a loop so you don’t backtrack. There is some climbing up ladders and rocks and a long section without shade.
Paya Jelutong5.7km3.5 hoursThis is a very short trail which is meant as a short cut if you don’t want to climb Bukit Gondol and are on the Ulu Serait trail. It walks you through fresh water swamp forest.
Bukit Gondol7.7km4.5 hoursThis is a loop trail over Bukit Gondol (260 metres altitude). From the top, there are great views of various areas of the park.
Ulu Serait4.8km3 hoursThis trail connects the Lintang trail with the Bukit Gondol one. You walk through scrub, padang vegetation and swamp forest.
Telok Sibur5.3km3.5 hoursThis trail follows the Tajor trail to the waterfall and onwards for another 45 minutes. It then branches of this to the Sibur trail. This starts with a steep, 45 minute descent before a walk through the mangroves and a wade across the Sibur River. The end point is the longest beach in Bako.
Telok Limau10km7 hoursThis long trail branches off the Bukit Keruing trail and is only for fit, experienced hikers. It takes you through rainforest, scrub land, swamp forest, small streams and a number of hilly sections. You can either take a boat one way to make this a day trip or stay overnight at Telok Limau.
Telok Kruin10.5km7.25 hoursThis trail is a small trail that branches off Telok Limau. It is not used much. After exiting Telok Limau, there is a 15-20 minute climb through the forest to a scrub section. There are four short side trails as well that lead to lookouts and a small rock pool. The last part is a very steep descent into a mangrove forest. Finally, you’ll finish at a deserted beach.
Pa’ Amit (Lakei Island)1km30 minutes from entry point to islandThis final trail is on a small island off the northeastern tip of Bako peninsular. It has a white sand beach and clear water. This trail leads up to the highest point of the island up 160 steps. Here, there is the grave of a Malay warrior. The trail leads to two viewpoints. Arrange boats to get here and back.
* are trails they recommend for wildlife viewing, ** are trails they recommend for views
Bako National Park map
Many maps like this around the park on big signs

The beaches are gorgeous, but it’s not allowed to swim at them due to the risk of a crocodile attack.

It’s possible to hire a boat to one of the Bako National Park beach options and hike back or vice versa (so arrange a boat to pick you up before you hike out). Prices depend on how far away you want to go.

Bako National Park beach by Headquarters
Beach by Park Headquarters where you can take a boat to other parts of the park

I found this an excellent way to go. I took a boat one way on arrival to Telok Pandan Kecil. This way I got to see the sea stacks, and I also didn’t back track. I really recommend this as it’s quite a sweaty walk and much more bearable when you only have to do it one way! Plus, it gave me time to do other walks too.

If you take this walk, Telok Pandan Besar is just a small detour so it’s worth walking that too. I also added in Paku. All of this, including the boat ride one way, only took me about 2.5 hours and I saw a great overview of the park.

Bako National Park Telok Paku Trail
The roots you have to walk on/up/down a lot especially on Paku Trail

I found all trails quite hard work. This is mainly because it is hot and humid, and there isn’t as much shade as what you would imagine. I have never sweated so much.

Plus, there are a lot of roots to climb over. There is boardwalk in sections, but it’s often narrow. When you have to pass people, someone usually has to get off or it’s super awkward squishing past each other.

Stairs are usually ladders. All up, I felt like I climbed quite a lot in this park.

Here’s a little more information on my experiences on these trails.

Telok Pandan Kecil

Bako National Park Telok Pandan Kecil trail from beach
Starting at the beach with the steep walk up

I did this one way so I started at the beach. You can also choose to be picked up at the beach after walking there, but I figured it was easiest to start with the boat ride so I didn’t have to guess a time.

The first part of the hike is quite steep with lots of ladders to climb up. It is in the shade though so not so bad. At the top, there’s a viewpoint looking over the beach.

Then there’s a lot of walking in the open, like the picture at the top of the article and the one below this statement. It’s hot and sweaty.

Bako National Park Telok Pandan Kecil trail
Telok Pandan Kecil

Finally, as you join the other trails, there’s shade again, but it also has a climb back down that lasts for quite awhile. I went past many people struggling to climb up this part who didn’t take the boat ride option.

Telok Pandan Besar

Bako National Park Telok Pandan Besar Trail
Where the trail turns off to visit Telok Pandan Besar

The track to Telok Pandan Besar is only a short detour from the Kecil track so you may as well do them both 🙂

It’s quite open as well and much the same as the Kecil trail. The turn off is well sign posted. There’s a nice view at the end.

Bako National Park Telok Pandan Besar
Telok Pandan Besar

You then turn back and walk the way you came back to the Kecil trail.

Telok Paku

A typical section of Paku Trail with big tour groups at Bako National Park
A typical section of Paku Trail with big tour groups

You’ll also past the entrance to this track if you walk to or from Telok Pandan Kecil. It’s an 800 metre detour which took me about 20 minutes each way with stops to try to spot wildlife. It also took much longer than it should have as there were tons of groups on this track. It was a bit too busy to be as enjoyable as it should have been.

It’s also a lot of up and downhill walking over massive roots. It was tougher from that perspective than the trails above. However, I found it easier because there were lots of trees and you’re near the water. It felt much cooler.

This is a popular trail for seeing proboscis monkeys with plenty of groups stopping and waiting hoping they will appear. No one seemed to see any when I was there which was not surprising given how busy (and loud) it was.

Visiting The Sea Stacks At Bako National Park Trails

Bako National Park sea stacks
Famous sea stacks. It’s definitely worth taking a boat ride to see these

In addition to the great hiking, it’s worth considering a boat trip to the Sea Stacks. The Sea Stacks are a rock formation carved by waves.

While the park material says you can catch a glimpse of these from Telok Pandan Kecil, you can’t really see them and you do need to see it from the sea for the stereotypical photo and a good look.

You can book a boat ride to this from the ferry terminal before heading to the park or at Park Headquarters on arrival (the former is the better option though). Prices are below. If you take a one way ferry ride to Telok Pandan Kecil, like I did, you’ll also get a tour through these formations. I highly recommend this option.

Bako National Park Telok Pandan Kecil viewpoint
Telok Pandan Kecil viewpoint – you can’t really see the sea stacks from here

Night Walk

Paid night walks are the best way to see the animals out and about during the night. These guided tours take around 1.5 to 2 hours and a park ranger will take you for a walk pointing them out.

This occurs every evening at 8pm unless the weather is bad. It needs to be booked at Park Headquarters. Take a torch.

You need to be staying at the park to do this.

Bako National Park Telok Pandan Kecil from sea
Telok Pandan Kecil from sea

Where Is Bako National Park Kuching Sarawak Malaysia?

Bako National Park address: Muara Tebas Peninsular, 93000, Kuching

Bako National Park map
Click the map above to open it in Google Maps.

Taman Negara Bako is located about 37 kilometres northeast of Kuching on a peninsular surrounded by the South China Sea. It’s about 27 square kilometres big.

How To Get To Bako National Park From Kuching

Bako National Park Jetty
Bako Jetty Terminal

When it comes to how to go to Bako National Park from Kuching, there are always two parts to the journey.

The first part is getting to Bako Jetty Terminal from Kuching. This can be by taxi (use the Grab app) or local bus.

The bus to Bako National Park leaves approximately hourly in each direction starting from about 7am in Kuching and finishing about 6pm from Bako.

Look for bus number 1. It takes about 45- 60 minutes to make the journey and costs RM3.50 at the time of publishing.

In Kuching, the buses leave from the wet market next to the Electra building. It also travels along the waterfront on the river side of the street. Ask your hotel for the closest pick-up point. It’s also possible to get a seat in a minivan that departs from the same place as the bus. They don’t leave until full.

I took a Grab here which cost RM30.

Bako National Park ferry terminal ticket counters
Bako National Park ferry terminal ticket counters

Once you arrive at the jetty to Bako National Park, you first scan a QR code and fill in your details. You then go up to the Ticketing Booth pictured above so you can pay the Bako National Park ticket price (details on that below). You get your ticket here, and you need this before you go to the park.

You then need to pay the Bako National Park boat fee to get across to the park. There is no other way to get there.

Many articles out there will tell you the boat to Bako National Park costs RM30 each way to go in a shared boat on a Bako National Park boat schedule or you can pay more to charter your own boat so you don’t need to wait for the next departure.

HOWEVER, a new company has taken over the boat service and this is no longer the case. There aren’t group departures, and you need to take your own boat which costs RM200 return. This is for up to 5 people.

This is a crazy price, and honestly, it nearly stopped me going as a solo traveller as it seems like such a rip off. However, it is worth going 🙂 You just have to accept this will be an expensive day. Or consider a tour (more about this option below).

To save money, many people group together and split the cost. I saw this happening all around me when I was here. The problem with this is that you all have to come back together on the same boat you go out on. So this can be tricky. It really depends on how flexible you can be. I would discuss this with your new boat buddies before you commit to travelling across together.

It all felt a bit chaotic when I visited here on a Saturday morning in peak August, but it was all sorted quite easily.

Bako National Park prices for boats
Prices for boats to the park and to other parts of the park. Note that once I got inside the park, the prices were slightly higher

You can also book other boat journeys while you are here within the park, like to the famous sea stack Bako National Park (like I talk about above). It’s cheaper and easier to do this here at the same time. I didn’t realise this and was able to arrange a boat in the park, but it cost a little more (RM50 instead of RM46 to go to Telok Pandan Kecil).

If you didn’t book a tour Bako National Park, but you would like a guide, you can arrange one here. Note that there are none waiting in the park itself, so this is your last chance to get one.

There is a small drink shop and souvenir shop in the terminal.

Once you have your boat ticket, they will match you with a boat and you can leave straight away. There’s a small jetty.

Bako National Park Boats waiting to depart the jetty for the park
Boats waiting to depart the jetty for the park
Bako National Park boat
My boat

The return journey is paid for at the same time (RM200 is for the return journey). Sometimes, the tide can be low on return and you’ll need to get out before the jetty and wade ashore. In the wet season (November to February/March), rough seas can stop boats running.

Boats stop running at 3pm and all day trippers have to have left the park by then.

You can arrange your pick up time with your boat driver on arrival at the park. Otherwise, you are given a phone number and you can ask Park Headquarters staff to ring them for you.

Bako National Park ferry terminal shops
Shops at ferry terminal

The boat rides are quite nice and cooling, especially on the way back when you’re hot and sweaty. They can be a bit bumpy though if you go anywhere near another boat. The views are nice and I found it quite exciting to arrive at the national park this way.

Bako National Park views from the boat of the park
Views on the way into the park

When I got back to the ferry terminal, I could not get a Grab taxi back to Kuching. However, there were drivers waiting there. I had to pay RM50 for this journey (albeit in a big van). You can also take the bus back.

It would have been cheaper for me to do a tour (more information about this below).

Bako National Park Opening Hours

The Bako National Park opening times are 8am to 5pm daily. This is the time the Park Headquarters is open as well.

The canteen is open 7:30am to 10pm.

I recommend you head to the park early so you’re there around the 8am open time. It’s cooler in the morning, and this also gives you the maximum time you can have if you’re on a Bako National Park 1 day trip.

Remember, day trippers have to leave the park by 3pm.

Bako National Park Telok Pandan Kecil trail
Finally some shade on the Telok Pandan Kecil trail once it joins the main red trail

Bako National Park Entrance Fee

There is a Bako National Park Kuching entrance fee. The Bako National Park price depends on if you are Malaysian or a foreigner.

Malaysians pay RM10 for adults and RM3 for kids 6 – 17 years old.

Foreigners pay RM20 for adults and RM7 for kids 6 – 17 years old.

You pay this before taking the boat to the park as described above.

Bako National Park sea stacks
Famous sea stacks

Bako National Park Tours

As you can read in this Bako National Park blog, it is possible to visit here without a tour. I visited here alone as a woman.

However, a Bako National Park day tour makes it so easy. You don’t have to worry about getting to the park and the rip off price for a boat. You don’t have to decode trails or worry about anything at all.

Plus, you get a Bako National Park travel guide to help enrich your experience. I did not see any animals on my day trip, and I think a guide is necessary if you want the best chance for this.

A Bako National Park tour package is not expensive and easy to organise as well. It would have been cheaper for me to do a tour!

Click here to see the latest tour prices and inclusions.

Accommodation At Bako National Park

Bako National Park accommodation
Some of the accommodation on offer

While it’s easy to day trip to Bako from Kuching, staying in Bako National Park gives you more opportunity to enjoy the park and also to go on a Night Walk. Given the times you are most likely to spot wildlife is right after sunrise and right before sunset, there are definitely advantages to staying here.

All accommodation in Bako National Park is run by the Park Headquarters. It is basic and if you are looking for flash Bako National Park hotels, you are better off staying in Kuching and day tripping.

However, staying in the accommodation Bako National Park offers is the best way to get the most out of your visit here. It’s also the only way to check out the park at night.

There are basically three choices – staying in the Forest Lodge Bako National Park (individual rooms), the Bako National Park hostel (for dorm beds) or camping.

Camping is in a special area only and tents can’t be set up until 6pm and have to be put down again early in the morning – even if you are staying multiple nights. It’s also possible to try Bako National Park camping at Telok Limau when this area is open.

The Bako National Park lodge has various options and prices depending on how basic a room you want. The best ones have three single beds, air-conditioning, private bathroom and a fridge. The cheaper ones are fan cooled only and have shared bathroom.

To save money, you can stay in a dorm bed. The forest hostel has four single beds per room as well as fans and shared bathrooms.

No cooking is allowed on-site, but you can buy food at the canteen.

I will definitely stay over next time I come so I have more opportunities to spot wildlife when it’s less busy. I also like the idea of a cold shower right there after I got so hot and sweaty hiking!

You can find more information of the Bako National Park Forest Lodge and hostel and book it here. It does book out so book in advance, especially in the peak time from May to September.

When To Visit National Park Bako Kuching

It is best to visit Borneo Bako National Park in the dry season from March to September. This also coincides with the peak season of May to September so book ahead if you plan to stay at the park.

Visiting in the wettest and roughest sea months from October to February/March is still possible, but it can be a little tougher thanks to rough seas leading to infrequent boat rides across to the Park Headquarters. The Night Walk can be cancelled at this time too. Visiting on a Bako National Park package tour at this time will help make it a little easier.

Bako National Park Silvered Leaf Monkey
Silvered Leaf Monkey

What To Pack

Make sure you take a good hat, sunscreen, mosquito repellent and great walking shoes. Many of the trails have sections without much shade so you’ll be thankful for a hat. I didn’t use my repellent on my trip though and didn’t find any mosquitoes. This can vary at different times of year though. You’ll also want plenty of water and a snack.

If you are going to catch a boat, I also recommend a small towel. You have to wade through the water to get in and out of the boat. My feet got wet and sandy and I was stuck putting them back in my socks and shoes which isn’t ideal.

Bako National Park Telok Paku
Telok Paku

Final Words

I hope you have found this guide to Bako Kuching National Park useful. It’s a great place to visit when you are in Kuching and should be on every visitor’s list who wants to explore Sarawak’s jungles and coastline. Bako National Park reviews are always very positive.

I loved exploring here and how out of the city I felt when it really wasn’t far at all.

It was super busy when I went and I would avoid a Saturday in August if you can.

The trails were also much more open than I would have expected with a lack of shade on the longer ones. To be honest, I have never been so sweaty in all my life and this was the fifth national park in Sarawak I hiked in within a week! My t shirt was so covered in sweat, I had to wring it out!!

It was so worth it though. I really enjoyed exploring here.

Click here to see the latest tour prices and options.

Looking for other things to do in Kuching? Find our full guide here. You can also find our full guide to where to stay in Kuching here and our full travel guide to Kuching here.

Planning a trip to Malaysia? Have any questions? Join our Malaysia Travel Planning Facebook group here now! It’s the perfect place to ask any questions and to be inspired!

By Sharon Gourlay

Sharon is a certified Malaysia travel expert and can't get enough of travelling and talking about Malaysia since she first visited 21 years ago. She travels around Malaysia multiple times a year both alone and with her kids. She used to call Penang home and especially loves this food paradise. Sharon also has a Bachelor of Arts in Asian Studies, a Certificate III in International Travel Sales and has been certified by Tourism Malaysia as a Malaysia Travel Expert. Through this site, she'll help you have the perfect trip to this amazing destination.