Kuching means cat in Bahasa Malaysia, so no surprise if the capital of Sarawak is full of those, real ones and statues. Kuching is a small (around 350.000 inhabitants) but lively city, full of food courts, hostels and Asian expats. Indeed we are being hosted by a group of students from Bangladesh through Couchsurfing.
Besides being a pleasant city, Kuching is mainly visited for the nearby national parks, Bako, Gunung Gading and Kubah or the Orangutan in Semenggoh Rehabilitation Center.
We got to Kuching by boat from Sibu, an interesting journey that can be quite bumpy during the monsoon season.
Bako National Park
It sits on the north tip of the Muara Tebas peninsula, just 20km north of Kuching, and its also famous for its spectacular and weird limestone rock formations.
While many people visit the park on a day trip we strongly advice to overnight there, for several reason:
- more time to see the park
- spend one night listening to the sounds of the jungle
- most of the animals go out on certain times, proboscis monkeys for example apparently show themselves in the early morning and at sunset, in both cases very difficult to be on time if on a day trip, due to the fixed schedules of the boat. Indeed most of the visitors we met who were on a day trip didn't see any monkey
- sleeping in the park is really cheap
- during the monsoon season the last boat back is at 3pm, because of the tides that make the sea to rough, definitively to early!
getting there, entry fees and accommodation
The entry fee is 20MYR per person and the price for the boat is 20MYR for foreigners and 15MYR for locals, Karim and Adnan, our Bangla hosts just pretend to be locals so we get a little discount.
The national park can only be reached by sea, a very rough sea in monsoon season. The little boat tries to avoid giant waves and when it can't we just fly, literally, and land on the water abruptly, pretty exciting, on the verge of scary though, the boatman is very focused.
We arrive around 4 pm, immediately at the small pier there are many macaques and big bearded boars, both very accustomed to people, almost posing for pictures.
We take a 4 beds room in the park dorm for 100MYR, 25 ringgit per person, not bad.
While we are at the reception desk a macaque comes is and tries to steal Elena's bag, and when she react abruptly the monkey shows its fangs and threatens her, the girl at the desk comes with a broom and start beating the monkey, a cool welcome.
It's also possible to camp in the park for 5MYR per person, must bring your own gear and be very careful of the annoying macaques, seriously.
Teluk Pako and the proboscis monkeys
We got very lucky, since many people never get to see them, we are told that sunset is the right moment, the air is cooler and monkeys go out to feed.
We get back to the park headquarter and eat in the local canteen, food is not so good and expansive for Malaysian standards. In the evening we go for a little walk on one of the wooden walkways near the HQ, It's pitch dark and the jungle is full of creepy sounds, we proceed maybe one km but we already met several forks, afraid of getting lost in the heart of darkness we cowardly go back to our room.
We also see plenty of beautiful carnivorous plants,at least two species of pitcher plants and a few sundews.
By the way they say it's not safe to swim in Bako's beaches because of the many sea crocodiles.
Another little disappointment is the famous pinnacle rock, it can bee seen but is very far away and smaller than it appears in pictures. To get a good view of it you need to hire a boat. By the way the sandstone balcony where we are is very peculiar, the view is amazing and we lose the sense of time watching macaques down in the beach busy with their daily business, eating stuff they find in the sand, probably hermit crabs, and sometimes fighting each other.
Our plan was to head to Tajor waterfall, around 3km further deep in the park. The waterfall is nothing special but it has a nice swimming pond. By the way the last boat back is at 3pm and we probably won't make it. We get back and take the last boat for another bumpy ride.
Tomorrow we'll be back on the bike saddles, saying goodbye to Kuching to head slowly towards the Indonesia, country number 18.
Have thoughts about it? Comment!
our adventures in Borneo:
pt1: from Kota Kinabalu to Tenom, crossing the Crocker range
pt2: Jungle Train, from Tenom to Beaufort
pt3: crossing Brunei by bicycle
pt4: around Miri, Lambir Hills and Logan Bunut national parks and Tusan Beach
pt5: the caves of Niah National Park
pt6: from Belaga to Kuching by boat
pt8: the biggest flower in the world - Rafflesia in Gunung Gading National Park
pt9: From Aruk border crossing to Pontianak, West Kalimantan
check out our hints to budget travel in Borneo (by bicycle or not)
have a look also at our reportage about Hydroelectric devastation in Borneo
part 1: Interview with SaveRivers
part2: a visit to Sungay Asap