A Walk on the Wild Side

Trip Start Oct 30, 2012
Trip End May 30, 2013

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Where I stayed
Bako National Park

Flag of Malaysia  , Sarawak,
Monday, January 14, 2013

Hit the road early at 6am to make the first bus at 7-ish (no real schedule that's reliable). After an hour of achingly slow driving and frequent stopping, we arrived at the boat jetty. Paying double  for park fees than what they were a few months ago and having to charter our own boat (only allowed to share boats with others if they're leaving the same time as you ?!?!) we didn't let it dampen our spirits. Twenty to thirty minutes on the boat on rough seas took us around to the north part of the peninsula and into Sarawak's oldest National Park where sedimentary sand stone cliffs and sea stacks rose out of the churning (croc infested?) waters.

Within about one minute of disembarking and walking towards the park headquarters, we saw our first probiscus monkey. About one minute further down the path there were 2 bearded pigs. Looks like a good start!

Too early to check in, we simply stored our bags and took off for our first hike.  Barely into the bush, there was another pig and several long-tailed macques making mischief in the trees. This jungle was so alive! All around us the insects were buzzing and different birds were calling...a definite energy we did not feel in Taman Negara.

This was a steamy jungle! With some of the morning mist/fog in the air it was like hiking in a sauna. I don't think I've ever sweat so much in my life! Shirt drenched, arms glistening, sweat dripping off my chin and glasses sliding down my nose. Not that I could see anyway as my glasses had completely fogged up from the humidity. It didn't help that we had a lot of climbing to do. With the air so dense and no movement, I had a hard time catching my breath. Maybe I will adapt and sprout gills so I can breath in this moist air.

A lovely hike through 7 different kinds of forest. At one point we reached the top of some cliffs and descended into a little hidden beach surrounded by cliffs which we had all to ourselves. After some poking around at some sand crabs, we started back. Pigs were routing around the sand where the tide had gone out looking for goodies to eat. They seem to like to hang out where people are. So far I've counted 7 plus a big pig daddy. Many monkeys are in the trees and there are signs warning us not to open the windows so the monkeys can't get in. Could be an
interesting few days!

The second day we went for a nice long walk out to an isolated beach area. With the tide out, it was immense! At least 3 km for what we could see and according to the maps went around the point and continues much much further. Brian was in such bliss! Not only was it a beach, but an empty beach. This is what he's been questing for and thought no longer existed. Endless expanse of sand and water to explore – full of all sorts of shells, sea snails and crabs to play with.  Standing on that large beach with the tropical trees and cliffs on one side and the waves crashing on the other, there was a definite feeling of isolation. Like what it may be like to be ship wreaked.  But just as our joy was reaching it's apex, the others arrived. Even so, we couldn't be too upset. With all that space, the 3 other people were only tiny specks to be spotted with binoculars and nothing more.

Hiking out of the beach entailed an exhausting and tricky trek up the steep rocks. Not far along was a waterfall which was wonderful to take a dip in and feel fresh cool water on our sweaty skin. Although at first appearance, it looks like well steeped black tea, it's only the iron in the water, and it was not only refreshing to sit in but also to drink! I hiked further up the waterfall to look at numerous tiers and Brian sat and spat sunflower seeds at some eagerly awaiting fish.

Not a lot of wildlife spotted today – they're all at the park headquarters! We did see some lots of crabs – some with only one large claw, a copper coloured snake, a dung beetle and a green viper (pointed out by others).

Brian likes it here so much we've booked another night to stay :)

Day three was an easy day as our legs were beginning to feel a bit achy after 2 big days of trekking. A couple short walks were all that was in order today. Up to a look out, around the beach at low tide. I was quite sad as all the monkeys I had seen yesterday morning were not to be found today. I had hoped for a morning of taking photos. Despite this, I think today was our best wildlife viewing day yet!

We were talking to a guide about the viper we found last night and he was very interested to know about it (vipers after feeding barely move for something like a week while they digest, so they serve as great things to view on a tour and add to a 'wow' factor). He then invited us along to see the flying lemer he knew about. What a strange creature! Most of the time he looks just like a bump on the trunk of the tree, or like a hanging sack. We must have disturbed his sleep as he crept around with sloth-like speed and then looked right at us with those huge nocturnal eyes which was really sweet!

We said our hellos to our two viper friends every time we passed by, but I still missed the monkeys. Along our first walk we managed to see a skink and a snake that actually posed for photos!

On our 2nd hike we finally found the monkeys. There was a long procession of silver leafs along the raised boardwalk. It was a little concerned to be in such close proximity, but it was nice to see them again. Further along the trail, we saw 2 macaques. Later we found a group hunting
crabs so they were too preoccupied to bother with us.

Super large mud-skippers were in the low tide pools and baby pigs with their stripes still visible were on the beach and oh, so, cute. Also watched a pig digging for crabs in the sand.

The probiscus monkey family made their arrival on the beach and all the new people who arrived today flocked to see them. I went looking for the Mommy which no one cared about because her nose isn't as big as her husbands'. She was sitting so high up in the tree with her little one she was hard to photograph. With their pointy little faces I think of the Who's in Whoville...

Later back at our chalet we encountered the macaques again, but this time they were pigging out on some sort of berry. They seem to hae some sort of pouch under their chin where they can store mass amounts of food.  Sitting around with their jowls bulging with bumps they looked like diseased howler monkeys. Every few seconds they pushed at the berry bulge with their hands to kind-of regurgitate one to eat – lovely!  But even with their tummies and pouches full they were not in a photo kind of mood. Everytime I approached, they wither ran away or looked like the wanted to attack. I did watch one come at another photographer. I think they were  worried that we were going to steal their food – like they try to do with us. In the cafeteria today, there were 2 of them dropping like stealth ninjas from the roof the second a back was turned and back up again before you could even shout at them. One girl got quite a fright then one came from behind and stole a banana from out of her hand!

A very special place. We'll be lucky if we can top it on our trip through Sarawak's National Parks. Nice and quiet, outdoorsy guests, jungle PLUS ocean, lots of wildlife and daytime fading into evening with cotton candy soft pink clouds. We're sad to go, but at the same time eager to see what else we can find!

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