The trees bristle violently in the chill wind.
A large orange nose peers shyly from the tree tops. Wide-eyed with weary lines under its eyes, the proboscis scans the horizon.
Another tiny face peers from the leaves. It’s a tiny, baby proboscis, hanging tightly onto its furry mum.
Visitors are busily snapping away pictures of the rare, proboscis monkeys, numbering around 275, living in seclusion at the famed Bako National Park in Kuching, Sarawak.
The Bako National Park, home to the shy proboscis monkeys (Nasalis larvartus) or commonly known as ”Monyet Belanda “, is one of many homes in Borneo where the rare animals reside.
Living mostly in treetops, the male proboscis is larger, with a distinct reddish-orange nose and fat protruding belly, but the female is slightly smaller. Both are covered in reddish-brown fur with agile grey limbs and white, long tail.
They thrive on a diet of seeds, leaves and unripe fruit. Occasionally they do go down to the mangrove swamps during low tide in search of their favourite delicacy, mangrove shoots.
Hence, don’t be alarmed if you see them wandering about in the shallow shoreline, eating and jumping around, searching for young shoots, while tiny hermit crabs scurry about.
The proboscis monkeys are just one of many star attractions at the Bako National Park, located 37 kilometres from Kuching city centre.
A treasured secret, the park is teeming with wildlife, has a rich ecosystem, and covers 27 squares kilometres of land. The park is open to visitors from all walks of life.
One of the exciting things to do at Bako, is to walk the colour-coded trails. There are the different trails to follow such as:
Beach vegetation, cliff vegetation, Heath (Kerangas) forest, mangrove forest, mixed dipterocarp forest, grasslands (padang) vegetation and peat swam forest.
Go in a small group, and experience some of the best in nature, especially close by to the park headquarters at Telok Assam.
Start early in the morning, at the break of dawn, as the day is cooler and the forest is just starting to wake up. You’ll hear birds chirping wildly, greeting the morning sun, as the silence of the night evaporates into the cold, morning air.
You will need to be in position early, either at Telok Delima or Telok Paku, some of the best trails to catch a glimpse of the Proboscis.
There are other animals roaming around the park, such as the silver leaf monkey, Borneon Bearded Pig, the mangrove pit viper and many birds and insects.
Some of the other significant features surrounding the national park are the secluded coves, rugged rocky headlands and magnificent sea arches facing the vast South China Sea.
There are also massive sandstone formations for the budding geologists to discover on cliffs nearby. Waterfalls cascade, giving a cooling respite to weary travellers.
A day trip is possible to the park, but those wishing to explore further can opt to stay in accommodation provided at the park grounds. This consists of 3-bedroom Chalets, 2-bedroom Lodges, 4-bedroom Hostels and a camping ground. Barbecue pits are provided for visitors to prepare their own meals.
Bako National Park is a blend of unique ecosystem, and should not be missed on your next trip to Kuching.
Remember, take nothing but photographs, and leave nothing but footprints…
Petra Jaya Bus No.6 and regular minibuses go from Kuching to Kampung Bako, a picturesque fishing village. Alternatively, taxis do go to Kampung Bako.
From there (Kampung Bako) you have to charter a boat to the Park. The boat ride is an adventure in itself, with the skilled and experienced boatmen riding the surf at high speed, to the delight of most visitors.
There are mountain huts, public toilets and washrooms, a canteen, an information centre and video shows at the park. Application for permits and reservations for accommodation can be made at the Sarawak Forestry Corporation Corporate Office in Kuching at (6082) 3480. You could also contact Tourism Malaysia Sarawak Office at (6082) 246 575 / 775.
For more information, kindly surf Sarawak Forestry Corporation at http://www.sarawakforestry.com.