Monkeys jumping Bako National Park, Malaysia

Bako National Park, Malaysia – Travel Guide

Established in 1957, Bako National Park is the oldest national park in the Sarawak state of Malaysian Borneo. Located around an hour from Kuching, it’s easy to visit independently, making it a popular destination for those looking to spot some of Borneo’s endemic wildlife. 

Spanning an area of 27.27 square kilometres, Bako National Park comprises seven complete ecosystems, containing nearly every type of plant life found in Borneo! This variety of ecosystems provides a rich environment for wildlife to thrive. Those visiting Bako have the opportunity to spot silver leaf langurs, proboscis monkeys, green pit vipers, bearded pigs and crocodiles – to name a few! 

If Bako National Park is on your bucket list, listen up! This comprehensive guide, written by someone who survived a trip to Bako during monsoon season, details everything you need to know about visiting, from how to get there with or without a tour, booking accommodation and where to spot the most wildlife. 


Bako National Park Map & Resources

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Bako National Park, Malaysian Borneo – Backpacking Guide

Best Time to Visit Bako National Park 🌧️

The best time to visit Bako National Park is between March and October, during the dry season. The chances of seeing wildlife are greatly enhanced if it is not raining, however, wet days don’t necessarily mean you’ll see nothing. 

Monkey in Bako National Park, Malaysia
This photo was taken during monsoon season so there is hope!

If you have no choice but to visit during the monsoon season, try not to worry. While downpours can be very heavy, it rarely rains from sun up to sun down, meaning you should still get time to explore the park. Night hikes are more likely to be cancelled this time of year. 

“If you are visiting during the wet season, I recommend spending longer than one day in Bako. This means that if it rains on one day, at least you have another day in reserve!”

Sheree Hooker, Editor at South East Asia Backpacker
Hiking trails in Bako National Park
The trails can get pretty waterlogged after rain!

How Long Should You Spend in Bako National Park? 📅

Most people visit Bako National Park on a day trip from Kuching, however, it is better to stay overnight and spend two full days in the park if possible. 

If you only have time to visit Bako on a day trip, make sure you arrive early to get the most out of your day. The last boat leaves Bako at 15:00. 

Bako National Park Opening Times & Entry Fees

Bako National Park’s official opening hours are 8:00-17:00 but the boat terminal only operates from 9:00-15:00. You will be required to arrange your return boat transport when you arrive at park headquarters. 

Entry to the park costs 20MYR (approx. $4USD) for non-Malaysian adults and 7MYR (approx. $1.50USD) for children and has to be paid in cash at the park headquarters near the boat terminal. You will also need to register your details online when you arrive. Just scan the QR code near the entrance to the jetty. If you are staying overnight in a private room, you will also be required to pay the 10MYR (approx. $2USD) room tax. 

Bako National park vista
An overnight visit is recommended to get the most out of Bako.

An overnight visit, combined with two full days in the park, will allow you plenty of time to spot wildlife (something which can never be guaranteed) and afford you more flexibility in case of bad weather. When it rains in Bako, it really rains – trust me!

“I overnighted in the park and would definitely recommend it. Not only did I get to enjoy two full days hiking the trails and searching for wildlife, but an overnight visit meant that I could head out on a night walk. I saw so many animals – I would say it was one of the highlights of my time spent in Borneo!”

Sheree Hooker, Editor at South East Asia Backpacker
Bako National Park views
This photo was taken just before the storm started!

Accommodation in Bako National Park, Malaysia 🏨

There is limited accommodation in Bako National Park, all offered by the Sarawak Forestry Corporation. While there is a mix of dorm and private rooms available, all the accommodation offered is very basic – you’ll need to be willing to rough it for a few days! That said, the showers are hot and there are fans in the rooms. Keep your doors and windows locked whenever you’re not there or you may get more than you bargained for. The park’s resident macaques are very naughty and regularly try to enter visitor rooms! 

If you want to stay overnight in Bako National Park, you should book your accommodation ahead of time. As it is so easy to visit the park independently, accommodation gets booked up way in advance – start looking at least a month ahead. 

Chalet accommdoation at Bako National Park
My very rustic chalet at Bako National Park.

There is only one place where you can reserve accommodation in Bako National Park and that is online at the Sarawak Forestry e-booking website. Once you have selected your accommodation, you will be prompted to make a Sarakwak Forestry account. You can then officially reserve your accommodation. 

To put it politely, this platform is not particularly user-intuitive and can be quite confusing, so allow plenty of time to make your reservation/swear/throw your phone out of the window and make sure to screenshot any confirmations you get – as the email versions don’t always work. 

Surprisingly, when you consider that the Sarawak Forestry Corporation have a monopoly on accommodation, prices are pretty reasonable. The cheapest option for overnighting is camping which costs approx. 5MYR per night, around $1USD. However, we’re unsure how this works with the resident crocodiles…! The next cheapest option is the dorm beds which cost around 15MYR (approx. $3USD). When it comes to private options, you’ll find small chalets which are split into two rooms with ensuites, both catering to two people and larger lodges which sleep up to four in each room, ideal for families. 

Accommodation in Bako National Park
The dormitories at Bako National Park are great for budget travellers.

Is Bako National Park Good for Families? 👪

Yes, Bako National Park is very family-friendly. They offer family accommodation and kid-friendly western and local food in the cafeteria. There is a range of walking trails inside the park, with the shortest taking around 45 minutes. Children also love seeing the wildlife. Bear in mind that there are dangerous animals throughout the park – children should be told not to touch anything. If you are considering bringing your family to Bako National Park, please be considerate of other guests. There is nothing worse than heading out on a hike to spot animals and loud children scaring them away. Don’t let your kids ruin everyone else’s experience. 

It may be helpful to know that Sarawak Forestry Corporation no longer includes toiletries or towels in their room rate. They say this is to ‘go green’, however, you can still buy these things from the cafeteria. Make of this what you will. 


Things to Do in Bako National Park, Malaysia 🐊

1. Hike Some Trails 🥾

The number of trails open in Bako National Park frequently changes as old walks get closed down and new paths are created. When you arrive at Bako National Park, you will be given a map by one of the rangers who will talk you through which trails are accessible and how long they take.

Bako National Park hiking
Hiking in Bako National Park is sweaty work!

Trails vary in duration and highlight different attractions. For example, there are some which take you to popular hangouts used by local wildlife whereas others showcase coastal views. Before you take on any of the trails, you will be required to sign out using the ledger on the front desk. This is so that the rangers know where to look if someone doesn’t return from a hike. When you make it back to HQ, sign back in. 

Bear in mind that on the maps provided by the park ranger, all the marked times are one way from headquarters. You’ll need to double these estimations to work out the total time required to do the hike. 

Bako National Park map
Trail map provided by Bako HQ.

2. See the Remains of the Famous Serpent Sea Stack 🐍

The Serpent Sea Stack is an icon of Bako National Park, so called because it was said to resemble the head of a snake. It has long appeared on tour agency posters and leaflets all over Sarawak. Sadly, the sea stack collapsed in 2024 due to continued erosion and it is no longer available for tourists to view. Despite this, the cliff views out to the sea are phenomenal and still worth the hike. 

3. Enjoy the Beaches 🐚

Bako National Park is home to some truly beautiful sandy coves, many of which are accessible to visitors. However, as tempting as it may be, you mustn’t swim here, neither in the rivers nor the sea. Saltwater crocodiles, which can grow up to six metres, are regularly spotted. Eeek!

Crocodile warning sign, Bako National Park
Heading to one of Bako’s many beaches – not to swim!

4. Spot Some Wildlife 🐒

When it comes to places to spot wild animals in Sarawak, Bako National Park is undoubtedly one of the best. Home to a range of primates including the big-nosed proboscis monkey, Bako is a great place to see some of Borneo’s most unusual residents. 

As well as monkeys, it is also possible to see bearded pigs, crocodiles, flying lemurs, squirrels and many types of birds. While wildlife can be spotted anywhere, the area close to the cafeteria is often the best place to see them as the animals are drawn to the food that the visitors drop. 

Always remember that the animals in Bako National Park are wild. Some people get lucky and see lots of animals whereas others may see none. This is the reality of wildlife spotting. You should never try to coax animals out with food (it not only makes them reliant on humans but also encourages them to be territorial and aggressive around food). 

Proboscis Monkey
A female proboscis monkey hiding out in the trees.

Do I Need a Tour or Guide for Bako National Park? 🤔

You do not need to visit Bako on a tour as it’s easy to reach the park independently, particularly if you are staying in Kuching. However, if you have limited time in Bako National Park and want to spot as many animals as possible, it may be worth hiring a guide. If you are visiting the park independently, you can hire a guide at the park headquarters where you book the boat. Make sure you do this before you take the boat as the guide will need to come with you. Guide pricing varies for a day but when my boyfriend and I enquired, we were quoted 150MYR (approx. $32USD). Even with a full day of guiding, plus return transport, night walk and basic accommodation, you are still likely to spend less money on an independent visit than you would on a tour. However, if you want the ease of someone else arranging everything for you, an organised visit could be for you.

5. Go on a Night Hike 🕷️

If you are staying overnight at Bako National Park, you should definitely sign up for a night hike. These hikes take place every evening unless heavy rain forces the rangers to cancel. 

Insect on Bako National Park night walk
There is the chance of seeing some truly terrifying insects!

Night hikes cost around 15MYR (approx. $3USD) per person which will need to be paid in cash a couple of hours before the hike starts. Hikes usually take around a couple of hours and present the opportunity to spot nocturnal wildlife such as civet cats, tarantulas, pit vipers, stick insects and scorpions, to name a few! 


Food and Drink in Bako National Park 🍲

There is only one place to purchase food and drink in Bako National Park and that is the cafeteria. They offer buffet-style meals at breakfast, lunch and dinner. You pay per scoop and prices vary depending on the type of food. 

“Before I visited Bako, a lot of people had told me, locals included, that the food at Bako was ‘tourist prices’. A lot of travellers take snacks to the park for this reason. While I did take a few bits myself, I decided to eat in the park. The food was very basic and often cold, especially outside official mealtimes, but I didn’t think it was particularly bad value for money. You can expect to pay somewhere between 30-40MYR (approx. $6-9USD) for a plate of food and a drink.”

Sheree Hooker, Editor at South East Asia Backpacker
Buffet at Bako National Park, Malaysia
The buffet available at Bako National Park.

The most expensive thing to buy at Bako National Park is drinks. 1.5-litre bottles of water cost 5MYR (approx. $1USD) at Bako, considerably more expensive than we had paid anywhere else. You’ll also need a lot of water if you plan to go out hiking! The tap water in Bako is not the best quality, always running brown. While I love my filtered water bottle, I did not want to use it at Bako. The water quality was awful and it would have torn through the life of my filter. 

You are allowed to bring your own food and drink to Bako National Park, however, you are not technically allowed to consume it inside the cafeteria or on the associated veranda. Limited snacks are available to purchase inside the park. If you have bought noodles with you, you will be charged for the boiling water. 

“During my visit to Bako National Park, people were charged 50 sen (approx 0.10USD) for enough boiling water to make their noodle cups.”

Tim Ashdown, Writer at South East Asia Backpacker
Wild pigs at Bako
🎵 “My milkshake brings all the boars to the yard…” 🎵

Remember that food attracts wildlife. Bako’s resident macaques are particularly notorious when it comes to theft and regularly try to break into visitor rooms to steal food. Always make sure you lock your accommodation doors and windows and avoid walking around the park with food or drink in your hand. Food left in the rooms can attract insects too – don’t be surprised if you find your leftover noodles being devoured by an ant colony when you return. 


How to Get to Bako National Park, Malaysia 🚣

There are a couple of ways to get from Kuching to Bako National Park. The first is to take a Grab to the jetty before catching a boat to the park, however, this can be pretty costly as the journey takes around 45 minutes by car. 

Bako National Park HQ
Once you arrive at Bako, grab a map from HQ.

The cheapest way to get to Bako National Park is by public bus. From the city, take the red Asia Bus No. 1 to Bako which costs around 1MYR per person (approx. $0.20USD, cash only). It departs from the open market every hour, starting at 7:00. The bus makes several stops en route, taking around an hour and ten minutes to make the journey. Ask in your accommodation where your nearest stop is. 

While face masks are not compulsory, it is polite to wear them on public transport in Malaysia. Once the bus drops you off, you will need to walk down the road, past the streetside stalls and then turn left to the Bako office and pier. 

From here, you can register your arrival and pay your entrance fee. If you are staying overnight in the park, you will also need to pay the private room tax that applies everywhere in Malaysian Borneo. You’ll then need to book the half-hour boat ride to reach the park. 

Boat ride to Bako National Park
Getting the boat to Bako National Park in an intense downpour!

The boat costs 100MYR (approx. $20USD) one way and can hold up to five travellers. You also need to book your return boat journey before you set off. The boats hold a maximum of five people, plus the driver. As boat transport is expensive, it is best to split the cost with other travellers. Be aware that you will need to agree to return with the same group of people at the same time.  The boat ride offers an exhilarating journey through mangrove swampland to reach the isolated park. Keep your eyes peeled for crocs! 

Top Travel Tip! 💡

If you’re travelling to the park solo and haven’t yet found anyone to share boat costs with, it is best to arrive early in the morning as this is the most popular time to enter. If you arrive between 8:00-10:00, you’ll likely meet other travellers looking to share a boat at the Bako National Park office and jetty. 


What to Bring to Bako National Park 🎒

  • Mosquito repellent 
  • Drinking water (more than you think!)
  • Snacks
  • Cash
  • Sun hat
  • Sun cream
  • Trekking poles (useful if you have them)
  • Camera
  • Hiking clothes
  • Waterproof layer
  • Sturdy shoes (flip-flops are not good for hiking)
  • Headtorch (if staying overnight)
Spider web
Don’t forget your headtorch!

Where to Go Next: 

Kuching: The city of Kuching, also known as ‘Cat City’ is a wonderful jumping-off point for loads of adventures in Sarawak. Head to the Semenggoh Wildlife Centre to witness orangutans, see terrible taxidermy in the Cat Museum or catch the light show on the waterfront. 

Mulu: Take the quick flight to Gunung Mulu National Park to trek among the karst pinnacles and explore huge caves. The park was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2000.  

Sibu: Learn more about the Orang Ulu and Iban people with a visit to Sibu. See the traditional longhouses and get stuck into Sarawak’s culinary scene. 


Contributors: 

🙏 Staff at Marco Polo Hostel
🙏 Tim Ashdown | Writer at South East Asia Backpacker  
🙏 Deliah | Paradesa Borneo

Sheree Hooker | Editor @ South East Asia Backpacker + Winging The World

Sheree is the awkward British wanderluster behind Winging The World, a blog designed to show that even the most useless of us can travel. Follow Sheree’s adventures as she blunders around the globe, falling into squat toilets, getting into cars with machete men and running away from angry peacocks. In recent years, Sheree has also taken on the role of editor at South East Asia Backpacker.

Find her on: Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Pinterest

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