16th October 2017 to 18th October 2017
Kuching & Bako National Park
Our final couple of days in Borneo were to be spent in Bako National Park, probably the premier destination in Borneo for seeing proboscis monkeys. By all accounts, it also offered some great hiking and some stunning coastal scenery. As such, we set off early for our bus with great excitement. We had seen quite a few proboscis monkeys in Borneo, but always from a distance and were really hoping for a close up experience with one of Borneo’s most bizarre endemic species.
The bus journey was about an hour on one of the most comfortable buses that I have been on anywhere in the world. Huge, soft leather seats and air conditioning meant that I slept most of the way to the jetty. From the jetty, we booked ourselves on a boat into the national park and sorted out the entrance formalities.
It was low tide, when we arrived, so the boat dropped us off on the beach by the visitor centre, greeted by a large bearded pig. It was still early, so a great time for wildlife spotting. We dumped our overnight bag at the centre and set off on one of the many trails that snake all over the park. We picked the Teluk Delima trail, as it was supposed to be one of the best trails for seeing proboscis.
There was no doubt that there were proboscis about, the tell-tale call of the male rang out across the rainforest as we walked towards the coastal mangrove forest at the end of the trail. On the picturesque beach at the end of the trail, we found a horse shoe crab shell, but not a great deal else. As we turned to go back, Kim spotted a proboscis high up in the canopy away from the beach. We were getting good at this primate spotting lark, but it wasn’t the close up proboscis experience that we had been hoping for.
Back at camp, we saw a fairly large monitor lizard and a macaque rooting through the bins. As is so often the case, the best wildlife sightings are at camp rather than out on the trails. To illustrate this point further, we encountered a troop of silvery langurs over the other side of camp as we were leaving to go on another trek. In an almost carbon copy of our red langur experience in Danum Valley, Kim and I stood below whilst the troop crashed playfully through the canopy above us. The proboscis on the beach a few yards further on was the icing on the cake. What a great trip back to the centre, we had only returned to sign out of one trail and onto the next!
Our next trail was the Pandan Kecil trail, which crossed multiple types of terrain (the gradient seemed to be mostly upward on the way out though!) before finishing with views of the famous Bako sea stack. The stack was my only disappointment the whole time that we were in Bako. I had imagined something massive, but in actual fact it is tiny. The photos that I had seen prior to our arrival had obviously been very creative with the camera angle!
The view was still pretty stunning and the trek itself was wonderful, but hard work in the heat in humidity. We certainly felt like we had earned our lunch when we returned back to the centre. Before we went for our late lunch though, we thought we would check back to the beach where we had seen the proboscis earlier. As luck would have it, there was still one there, which we watched for a bit before reluctantly leaving to go for lunch. We needn’t have worried as there were 4 proboscis in the trees right in front of the canteen. The leap that the largest male took out of the top of the biggest tree to a smaller neighbouring tree was spectacular. We were discussing the leap excitedly with the couple next to us, when the jungle mafia made an appearance. A macaque climbed down from the roof of the canteen and stole a can of drink off one of the tables. Cheeky git!
We checked into our cabin and freshened up slightly after a long and tiring morning/early afternoon.
Our late afternoon plan was very similar to our morning plan. Head in search of proboscis at the times at which they are most active, though I was struggling to understand how they could be more active than the show they put on a few hours ago over lunch!
As we stepped out of the cabin, we noticed a troop of proboscis in the tree above our cabin. This was getting ridiculous! It almost seemed pointless going on the walk, with all the wildlife around camp. That said, we had been enjoying our hikes and with the day trippers now out of the park, we would probably have the trail pretty much to ourselves.
We took the Teluk Paku trail and sure enough, we did have it to ourselves. At least in terms of other visitors, we did have to share with plenty of proboscis and a large troop of macaques! The beach at the end of the trail was an added bonus, particularly as it was crawling with huge hermit crabs. They were absolutely nothing like the hermit crabs we used to catch as kids rock pooling in France!
The way back offered more of the same in terms of monkey sightings and all in all, we were feeling very fortunate as we strolled back along the beach to the centre with the sun beginning to set. It would be fruitless to compare Bako, Danum Valley and Kinabatangan as they are so different, but already this was right up there with the other big name national parks that we had visited in Borneo. Better than that, we still had another day to go!
After a ludicrously early night (we were shattered!), we were raring to go for an early start the next morning. We had enjoyed the Teluk Paku trail so much the evening before, that we chose it for our starting point the next morning too, in search of early morning proboscis activity.
Once again, the trees outside the cabin were swaying with proboscis and long tailed macaques. A promising start to the day. As we hit the trail, we heard some proboscis in the distance. Also promising. Then nothing. The sounds we had been hearing dried up and we had seen no tell-tale movements in the trees.
That was until we rounded a corner to see a huge male proboscis monkey walking the other way on the trail. We stopped. He stopped. We stared. He stared. We all stood there in silence, not daring to move, until he decided that he had had enough and from only a few feet in front of us took a huge leap off the path into the trees below to join his mates.
Our hearts still racing from that encounter (and the trek!), we arrived at the beach to see a proboscis monkey and a baby sitting on the beach. He seemed unusually comfortable with us being around so we spent a good 10-15 minutes watching him eat the plants growing on the edge of the beach.
The two encounters on that trail in the morning were exactly the kind of close up proboscis sightings that we had hoped for from Bako. If we had left at this point, we would have been happy. Little did we know, but there would be plenty more to come!
Back at the centre for breakfast, there were 5 bearded pigs strolling across the beach like it was the most normal thing in the world. I suppose to them it is. I was still finding it odd to see pigs on a beach.
After breakfast, we walked the “popular” lintang trail loop. I put popular in inverted commas, because we only saw one other person in over 3 hours of hiking. Not that we minded of course! As was becoming customary, we saw far more monkeys than people over the duration of what was a really nice hike further inland than we had gone previously.
Back at the centre for lunch, there were proboscis everywhere. It was a fitting way to finish our time in Bako, giving us plenty of time to cement the image of the world’s strangest looking primate in our mind. Well…and take a few last minute pictures.