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Sep 27

Adventures in Bako National Park, Borneo

Bako National Park Borneo

It was my second day of traveling alone in Borneo. I’d spent a few days searching for crocodiles on the Kinabatangan river followed by another four days dodging pirates in Mabul, but those days had been with friends; now, here I was, heading to a small, uninhabited island off the west coast of Borneo to spend the night alone in a jungle hostel.  Glancing at the reflection of my sleepy eyes and frizzy hair in the dirt streaked cab window, I wondered to myself, “Is this really my life?”

 

I arrived at the check-in center for Bako National Park and confirmed my reservation with the kindly man behind the desk. I purchased my boat ticket and was soon ushered onto a humble wooden fishing boat with an outboard motor. Along with eight other tourists, I watched the village along the banks streak by as we zipped up the river and toward Bako, the rainforested island that had been converted into a national park in 1957.

Bako National Park Borneo

We rounded a bend and Bako came into view; dramatic rock formations burst from the water, bordered by lush greenery above and delicate sandy banks below. My jaw dropped in awe. I’d never seen a landscape quite like it.

 

The tide was out, which meant there was no water on the beach to take the boat to the dock. We anchored in a few feet of water and hopped out of the boat, carrying our luggage over our heads as we waded into the beach. I silently high fived myself for not bringing my rolly suitcase.

Bako National Park Borneo

The beach we walked in on from out in the water

 

As I walked across the expansive beach, I could see why Bako had been chosen as the final destination for the popular TV show “The Amazing Race: Asia”. Not only is it remote and widely unheard of, but the small island is teeming with wildlife and beauty. Bako contains almost every kind of vegetation found in Borneo (one of the most biodiverse places on the planet) and is home to an abundance of wildlife, including the rare proboscis monkeys (more scientifically known as “penis nose monkeys”) that are found only in Borneo. Bako boasts rainforests, jungle streams, secluded beaches, bizarre rock formations, and an extensive network of trekking trails to explore it all. I felt pretty cool just for being there.

Bako National Park Borneo

As awesome as I felt for coming to this place alone, I worried a little about trekking through the jungle on my own. Luckily I overheard a few people around my age speaking English so I jumped in their conversation and basically invited myself along to hike with them. They were two French girls traveling Southeast Asia together and their couchsurfing host, an Australian/Malaysian guy who lived in the nearest city of Kuching. They were friendly and welcoming and we spent the next two days together traipsing through the island, lounging on the beaches, and fending off evil food-stealing monkeys. They even let me join them after seeing that I would be hiking in my grape-scented purple rubber water shoes. What lovely, open minded people.

Bako National Park Borneo

Bako National Park BorneoMonkeys in Bako National Park Borneo

Bako National Park Borneo

Bako National Park Borneo

Rare proboscis monkey

Bako National Park Borneo

Bako National Park Borneo

A carnivorous flower, the Pitcher Plant. “Feed me, Seymore!”

Bako National Park BorneoBako National Park BorneoBako National Park Borneo
Bako National Park BorneoBako National Park BorneoBako National Park BorneoBako National Park BorneoBako was wonderful, and if you ever find yourself in Borneo, please include it in your itinerary. I highly recommend staying the night because there are so many trails and parts of the island to see that it would be difficult to do it all in one day. The forest hostel was around $5 per night and while it left a little to be desired, a basic roof over your head is all you really need for a night. During peak season you’ll want to reserve at least a week in advance.

  • Ashley of Ashley Abroad

    Wow that last shot of the sunset is stunning! I would love to make it to Borneo sometime soon 🙂

    • KaleenasKaleidoscope

      Thanks! YES, omg you definitely need to go there some day 🙂

  • Wow such a beautiful place! And how awesome getting to stay out in the forest. That picture of the monkey just made my morning, so adorable!

    • KaleenasKaleidoscope

      Thanks! yeah it was stunning scenery. The monkeys may look cute but they are actually so horrible–I watched them steal a little boy’s ice cream right out of his hand. Gotta be careful around them! haha

  • Woah. Your photos are gorgeous! Borneo looks incredible. It sounds like you had an epic trip! I’d love to go there someday!

    • KaleenasKaleidoscope

      Thank you! Yes, Borneo really is incredible, you should definitely try to get there someday. It’s a pretty rugged destination, but totally worth it!

  • Stu

    Thank you for posting this. Sometimes it is really hard to find concise information about solo hiking, but this includes everything I need to know. Will be heading there in a few weeks. Thanks!