There were times today when I was on the very edge of my comfort zone and even John was struggling a bit. It wasn’t jungle trekking, it was jungle scrambling and climbing and we are now both exhausted. However, it was a “Highlight Day”! Having proudly survived it, we can now say it was one of the best experiences ever, because the scenery in the Bako National Park is sensational and furthermore, it is teeming with wildlife. The only way to get there is by boat and one can only get a permit to enter the park with a qualified guide. The whole area is an ecological education centre for scientists from across the globe, due to the rich diversity of distinct flora and fauna. In short, the Bako is pretty awesome! However, there are no nice wooden boardwalks and footpaths like one finds in some parks; it is wild pristine terrain.
We left our hotel at 8 a.m. and it was already hot and raining; last night’s thunder storm did little to clear the air. We made up a nice small group of four, ourselves and a younger couple David and Jenny, who live
Proboscis monkey in the mangroves
in Cairo (he is English, originally from Manchester and she is American from Texas). After an hour’s drive by minibus, we arrived at Bako Terminal on the coast, to board a small boat to take us a short distance, about twenty minutes, along the coast to the Bako. It had stopped raining. The water was low and we saw a croc on the bank a short distance from the terminal. After suffering our clicking cameras for a few minutes, he gracefully slid into the water.
Although this is the sea, not a river (they are salt water crocodiles) the water was opaque, so we couldn’t see what else was lurking beneath the surface. Since we had to climb out of the boat in low tide, up to our thighs when we got to the park beach, it was a little disconcerting, to wade ashore in croc-infested opaque water. We managed that OK and joined all the little crabs scurrying up the sands to the park entrance. Once registered, Harry, our young Malay guide, took us to see a green viper that he had spotted in the garden area of the Park H.Q. It was only small, 50 – 60
cm in length, but deadly.
Quite early on the trek we saw a Bornean Flying Lemur, asleep high up in a tall tree (they are nocturnal). They are quite rare, so this was a bonus siting. We also saw wild boar, both in the undergrowth and on the beach.
The trek was arduous, from one beach up and over a thickly forested headland to another beach, over slippery boulders, twisted mangrove and tree roots and some ridiculously wobbly thin bits of wood, which disappeared ladder-like way up out of sight and then along limestone outcrops and muddy ledges around the forested cliffs. At one point I simply said to John, myself, the gods and whoever else was listening, “I cannot do this!” and then before anyone else could respond, I had to tell myself that I had no choice. It was only a short stretch, but narrow and with a drop (made the canopy walk look tame)! Eventually, we reached the end of the trail and a beautiful beach where our small boat awaited, to take us around another headland to see the limestone outcrops that the park is famous for. After the trekking, the boat ride was
a luxury cruise; we still had to wade ashore at the end of it!
As we walked back up the beach we encountered a whole troupe of Silver Leaf monkeys, including a mother with a young baby, as well as several other little young ones as well. The baby was bright orange, the other little ones had already shed their orange baby coats and were now black and silver like the adults. This happens when they are about nine months old. The monkeys were busy feeding on mangrove leaves and didn’t pay us too much attention. For this reason, we managed to get some really close-up shots.
After eating some lunch and drinking gallons of water (by now it was midday and the heat and humidity were fearsome), Harry decided that we should trek back up into the deeper forest to see if we could see some shy Proboscis monkeys. He was really disappointed that we hadn’t met any earlier that morning. Despite itching to have the opportunity to see some of these rare creatures close up (they only live in Borneo) and those that we saw in the Kinabatangan were high in the canopy and these mangroves
were much lower, the thought of another strenuous trek was a bit daunting. David and Jenny had never seen Proboscis monkeys before, but they secretly didn’t fancy another big trek either. So, when Harry said “Let’s go!” all four of us said “Brilliant! Great! Lead on!” As you do!
Imagine our pleasure when a troupe of Proboscis monkeys suddenly appeared through the trees heading down to the beach. We didn’t have to trek to find the monkeys. They came and found us! What a result! We spent ages quietly watching and stalking them, cameras clicking away. Although they are shyer than most monkeys, they became so engrossed in scoffing the tender young mangrove leaves that like the Silver Leaf monkeys beforehand, after a while they didn’t bother about us too much. It was such a thrilling monkey encounter that shall forever remain special and unforgettable.
So, all the boxes had been ticked today. We wanted to see the limestone stacks, which we did. We wanted to hike in the Bako, which we survived. We hoped to see crocodile, snake, wild boar and monkeys and we did. The Flying Lemur was a bonus.
By the time we left
the Bako, the tide was in so we didn’t have to wade to our boat. Once back at Bako Terminal we found our minibus, thanked Harry for his guidance throughout the day and returned to Damai Beach starving hungry, hot and exhausted. It had been a superb day out!
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