Category: Malaysia

Bako National Park, Borneo, Malaysia

Bako National Park

Well I went to Bako National Park on Tuesday. With 3 types of monkeys, bearded pigs, monitors and more, it was sure to be a cool experience. I caught the local bus by the waterfront to the boat docks near Bako for 3RM ($1 USD). Had to pay a 10RM entry fee and share a boat with 4 Europeans which we paid a total of 50RM one way and arranged for him to pick us up at 4pm. 

Those damn Europeans, with their fancy cameras and “official guide books” and “park passes”, such snobs. But they didn’t get to experience the real Bako like I did. Such as finding out that while the Proboscis Monkey may have a face that looks like an inside out vagina, he actually doesn’t like you to treat it as such. And that even though the Bearded Pig may sound dangerous and threatening, they actually are not but the pit viper is the opposite and doesn’t live up to its seemingly gentle and sweet exterior, and btw theyre really good at Duck-Duck-Goose. 

Anyone reading this for info on the park, note that most tour packages sell for about 300RM. I have no idea why they think its worth it as you can hire a personal guide for 80RM a day. By my count, with the bus, boat, guide and a meal or two that’s not gunna cost you more than 150RM. Most tours will only take you to the closest beach, Telok Paku, which is only .8km of the over 30km of trails in Bako.



Because Im a professional jungle trekker I opted not to get a guide (read: there were none available and I was sure I was going to die). The boat dropped us on the beach in front of the park HQ where there are chalets and cabins for rent if you want to stay the night. I bought a map for 1.50RM and made my way to the trail head. The following is my log through out the day: 

8:35am Majority of the morning trekkers are more thrilled by the monkeys hanging around the canteen than the prospects of whats in the park. (little did I know this would be the only monkeys I would see all day) 

8:53am Made it to the top of the first 200 meters, took about 30 minutes. This trail would give Indian Jones and Laura Croft a heart attack. 45 degree muddy incline and rocks covered with moss and vines that Im fairly certain are alive cause they keep reaching out and tripping me. Love the Smoking Area at the very top. At least they know their audience (no, I didnt, in case you were wondering). 

tidak cukup kecil


9:05am First contact. Lots of tree branches rustling and monkey noises. Apparently crashing through the jungle toward the sound doesnt encourage social behavior. 

9:15am Heard a growl and some loud crashing noises about 10-20 meters off to my left. Think its the dick-nose monkey. Throwing rocks in that direction quickly shut him up. Total dick-nose. 

9:48am Officially lost at 1.2km marker. 

10:13am Arrived at Telok Pandan Kecil beach or at least 100 meters above it. No chance in hell Im climbing down there. 

11:02am Really starting to rethink the whole Extreme Jungle Trekker career change at marker 2.7km of the Tajor Trail, although Im getting great tracers off the moss.

Frenchies be damned, this was the best part of the hike

11:15am Amazing, I have cell phone service on top of one of the ridges. Googling what to do when stranded during cardiac arrest. 

11:43am Made it to the Tajor waterfall. The pool above the falls is perfectly ringed by mangroves and palm trees, fairly certain this is where they filmed “Bear Necessities” part of tthe Jungle Book. Water is brown, dick-nose probably uses it as a toilet. Fish bit my nipple, kinda turned me on. Damn French couple showed up and ruined it with their awkward look-Im-in-the-jungle-photo-shoot-but-Im-too-European-to-show-any-signs-that-I-might-be-having-fun.   

12:24pm Think I just hallucinated Baloo singing a refrain of “The Bear Necessities”.   

12:35pm Finally made it to Telok Paku trail. This is obviously the tour package trail, just had to wait for 20 Germans coughing and wheezing to come down a ladder.

Telok Paku, Bako National Park

12:42pm You have no idea how long .8km can be. Why am I going up and away from the ocean when Im trying to get to the beach!?   

12:53pm Ahhh Paradise ….. ok, its not Puerto Chino, but after 5 hours of brutal terrain its my dream come true.   

2:30pm Swam, slept, ate corn-lemon crackers (the only nourishment a true professional jungle explorer needs), swam, now back to the lodge.   

3:13pm Ahhh, Tiger beer. Something about buying beer from a 9 year old girl that speaks 3 languages really makes you feel like a genuinely bad person.   

3:35pm Nothing more satisfying than watching a macaques monkey (bastard monkeys of the jungle) jumping on a table and steel an entire box of cookies from a Dutch girl. Theres a metaphor there Im just not quite catching it.

NOTE:You can see all these pics in full res here. There were just so many good ones it was hard to choose a couple to post here.

Ummm yes, hello, i believe you have potato please, excuse me, pardon me, potato? excuse me, hello, someone said you had potato? excuse me...

So the last full day of our Kuala Lumpur trip we decided to go to the Elephant Sanctuary on our own (sans tour bus). We got up early and hired another taxi driver ($130 for the entire day) to take us to the Elephant Sanctuary in Kuala Gandah which is about a 1.5 hour drive (however on the way back expect 2-3 because youll be hitting rush hour traffic). They take in orphaned and injured Asian Elephants from Malaysia, India, Myanmar, Thailand and other ASEAN countries to rehabilitate them, train them to work as a pack and release them into the Krau Game Reserve and other reserves throughout South East Asia. Those that cant be rehabilitated, such as two young elephants who each lost part of a leg, one to a tiger attack and one to a poachers trap, which I decided should be named Stumpy and Eileen, stay in the park for their entire life. Im not certain but I get the feeling these are the elephants the public gets to see and interact with.

This is a very popular tourist attraction in KL. Almost every hotel, taxi driver and tour agency offers this. They charge about $100 USD per person, which is interesting (read: immoral and a rip off) since entry into the sanctuary is donation only and I read several places that the tour agencies give very little if any of that money to the sanctuary. They dont have a very good website set up and I had difficulty planning it (we got there 4 hours early because of lack of info) so Im posting the official brochure we got there that has times and information.

Lida arguing that the greatest literary accomplishment of Dostoyevsky was in fact not Crime and Punishment but The Idiot, ironically lost on this doe who just wanted a green pea

As I said, we got there early and the sanctuary is on the outskirts of the Krau Game Reserve so theres not much else to do except what amounts to a sad little petting zoo. Although I have to admit it was kinda fun but if you find this kind of thing, well, immoral and a rip off, then skip it. The deer were funny, they had obviously learned how to get attention and when they wanted more potatoes or beans they would pull on your shirt. Lida had on a perfect shirt which helped to highlight the 2 dozen places where the deer were nipping. The older males sat off in the corner of the park looking at the rest with what I interpreted as disapproving looks.

They had some interesting birds (African Greys, 4 or 5 species of Conures), Lida got to hold a Ball Python, but for sure the highlight and they knew it cause it was the last attraction, was the Sun Bear. I take it he got this name because hes lazy and just sits around sun bathing all day. Either that or the golden markings on his chest and snout. I think my first assumption is the more scientific one. Anyway, this is whats great about countries that have no OSHA counter part or silly regulations that say “the general public cannot get in a cage with a bear”. Or if they do have those regulations it doesnt say “the general public can be in a cage with a bear but it cant pet the bear”. Or if they do have that regulation they dont say “the general public can be in a cage with a bear and they can pet it but you cant feed the bear condensed milk out of your hand” cause that would just be dangerous. Well, if youre going to support the exploitation of animals you might as well get a picture of it right?

Meanwhile back at the elephant ranch, there are 2 activities that may seem unnatural, Im not going to vouch for it or decry it but they do allow for elephant rides. 4 of the larger elephants take 125 people at most per day once around a 10 meter circle. Again, 125 people at most are allowed to get on the elephant and ride with her into the stream where you then get to bathe the elephants. Note, this activity is bareback, no saddles or harness. It really lets you feel the power of this animal as you can feel the skin and muscle shift against your legs.

Of course the bathing was the best part. Its actually more playing than anything else. The babies love the attention, people standing around them splashing them, they would roll on to their sides spaying people with there trunks. I have to say that they seemed extremely happy. Its in no way a zoo. The elephants are only exposed to people for 2 hours a day from 2pm to 4pm. They only bring out 6 of the 20+ elephants, all of which seem very calm. Again, Im not going to speak to the morals of it but it did seem far more humane than anything Id seen at zoos in the states.

At any rate, feeding them was really fun. Before the rides and bathing we feed them peanuts and we brought some bananas. Other people had sugar cane which seemed very popular. After a while the babies got tired of taking the peanuts and fruit with their trunks and when someone would hold out some they would just open their mouth wide so they could deposit the offering directly into their “peanut hole”. After the rides and bathing they lined up the big girls (17 of the 20+ are female and I got the feeling they didnt bring the males out) and feed them a proper diner which consisted of a couple hundred pounds of bamboo, which they would step on to break into peices and then take the yummier slices and whack them on the ground to soften them up and desert was a few hundred pounds of some tropical fruit that looked like starfruit.

It was actually a really cool visit. Note that you will smell like Elephant crap for a minimum of 3 days despite taking multiple showers and baths, but it is well worth it. If you do go Id say be generous with your donation. They are trying to prove the effectiveness of their process to the government to get more funding but to do so they need to be able to radio tag the elephants they release to prove that the pack training is actually working. Either way, its a good bit of eco-tourism that I thoroughly enjoyed.