Chasing fireflies and warding off macaques in Bako

Trip Start Sep 29, 2010
Trip End Dec 23, 2011

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Where I stayed
Bako National Park Hostel

Flag of Malaysia  , Sarawak,
Saturday, April 2, 2011

To end off our stay around the Kuching area, Emily and I had booked for one night at Bako National Park to do some hiking and some nature-observing. We were really fortunate to have the manager of our hostel give us a ride to the jetty where we needed to catch a boat into the park – his name is Chris and he was an absolute champ the entire time we were in Kuching, it needs to be said! Unfortunately the tides were not right for the boats to leave in the morning, so we had to wait three hours until the water level was high enough to head out. We filled the time by tackling some New York Times crossword puzzles – Emily had a book of the Monday puzzles, the only day which we realistically had a chance at finishing even with two of us. Even then we usually had to look up a word to help us along as we got closer to the end, especially since they're pretty old puzzles and some of the words we have no hope of thinking of. They’re not easy!

When we finally left the jetty and hit the open sea towards Bako, the waves were really choppy and we caught air more than a few times. The medium-sized tin can we were in was getting knocked around a bit, but we had a pretty experienced boat driver who pulled had some pretty slick maneuvers for tackling the waves. When we got in, we were greeted to monkeys swinging in the mangroves near the boat landing and accommodation which had a real summer camp feel to it. We checked in and headed out for medium-length hike out to one of the beaches on the South China Sea side of the park. The park’s not really that far from Kuching but it feels worlds away. The hike was relaxing and enjoyable and the view of the sea from atop the cliffs surrounding the bay was stunningly gorgeous. The beach was a short descent down a cliffside trail, and while it was disappointingly cluttered with some garbage, it was nice to sit and watch the huge waves crashing in from the sea. Unfortunately Emily was unable to go in the water as the cut on her heel is still in recovery from her accident in the Perhentians, but I went in for a very careful dip. The waves were bigger than I was really comfortable venturing far out in – I hadn’t forgotten my experience of being sucked out to sea by the undertow on Long Beach in the Perhentians. I waded in up to my knees for a few minutes before deciding I’d had enough. We climbed back up the cliff and followed the path all the way back to camp to rest and grab some dinner.

When we had gotten back there, we found out that we had taken on a roommate. When Emily and I had booked, we thought were booking a double room to ourselves, but it turned out that we had actually booked a whole dorm room with four single beds instead. Whoops! We had told reception earlier in the day that if someone came looking for a bed, they could take one of the ones in our room and kick us back some of the cash we’d spent, allowing us to cut our costs a bit. Our new roommate was a middle-aged French man named Christian, an interesting character to say the least but very friendly. We chatted over some dinner and then all headed out for a little night walk to see what we could find along the boardwalks near the park HQ. We couldn’t make out much, but the fireflies were everywhere and the stars bright overhead – beautiful to admire under the moonlight. Exhausted from the day, we all headed to bed and slept very well.

The next day, Emily and I were far from ready to leave Bako. Even as we arrived the previous day we knew that we wanted to stay for one more night to enjoy the nature and the relaxed easy feel of the surroundings. Unfortunately, being a Saturday the park was completely booked for the night, so we had no choice but to leave. We still had a morning to kill before heading back out on the boat, but with Emily still feeling ill stomach effects, the activity level was limited. We did more crosswords while we watched some macaques playing in the trees outside our hostel building. They were anything but shy, and ventured up onto the balcony to see if just maybe they might be able to find an open door. I was as menacing as I could be to ward them off (which isn’t really very menacing at all!), so they moved down to a neighbouring building to look for a score. Nobody was there, so I headed there as well to shoo them away at least for a bit. I was fighting a losing battle though; whoever was staying there had left all their shoes and a bunch of clothes outside which were prime targets for the macaques, and I wasn’t playing hero for them for very long. One of the macaques got some bottle with who knows what in it and there was no way I was getting it back from him. I just let it go and went back to the crosswords with Emily.

Later on as I left the room to brush my teeth in the bathroom next door, I noticed a macaque jump up onto the balcony, eyeing our door. I had left it ajar, and he was definitely planning to venture in since nobody was there to stop him. I shut the door and again put on a tough face to scare him off, but he must have seen this movie before. Instead of being frightened, he challenged me by rushing towards me and locking his eyes on mine. I didn’t want to find out if he was bluffing and had no intention of ending my stay in Bako with a monkey bite, so I backpedaled into the bathroom and slammed the door on the crafty little bastard. I was definitely a bit spooked and stayed in the bathroom for a bit waiting for him to (hopefully) lose interest and go away. When I finally left he had gone, but boy did it ever feel funny to blink in the face of a tiny little monkey! Still, not worth getting the rest of his friends involved (and there were LOTS of them) or needing a rabies shot or worse from a monkey attack. Better to back down, as tough as it is!

Shortly after the macaque episode, we headed back out on the boat in much calmer water conditions and caught a local bus back to Kuching. Emily still wasn’t feeling great, so we decided to spend an extra night in Kuching to let her settle down and to get some laundry done before taking a long night bus to Niah Caves National Park on the other side of Sarawak province. These caves were supposed to be spectacular, and we might even be able to see some glow-in-the-dark moss and mushrooms once the sun went down!

Both loving the cool nature on Borneo!


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