Bako National Park: The screaming tour guide

It happened after lunch.

Lunch looked kinda cool but it was awful.

Lunch at Bako National Park

There’s a canteen in Bako National Park which serves a variety of rice, noodles and local dishes. For a few dollars, I think, you get a plate which you can heap with as much food as you want.

Lunch at Bako National Park

But the food was cold, hard and tasteless.

There’s like fish, and chicken and a few curry things, too, but I didn’t take any of them because they looked dodgy.

Or maybe I just wasn’t that hungry. I was hot and tired after a morning of climbing mountains and trudging through swamps, and sleepy after not having slept much for a few nights in a row.

But what happened after lunch woke me up.

Our two tour guides wanted to show us more creatures, such as cute monkeys.

Here’s a picture of Anastasia, our main guide:

Anastasia and Sheylara

I don’t have a picture of Alex, our secondary guide, which is just as well (and you will find out why, soon).

We were trekking around the chalet grounds. Yes, you can stay in Bako National Park. But I wouldn’t because it looks really creepy, the perfect setting for a horror movie.

Bako National Park

The view from inside the chalet:

Bako National Park

And you have scary neighbours, such as an exceptionally large sunbathing monitor lizard:

Monitor lizard

It trotted off after a while, probably realising that it had paparazzi on its tail:

Monitor lizard

I’m getting to the story.

Shortly after, we came upon a green tree pit viper. Alex found it first. I mean, it’s really amazing how our guides are able to spot camouflaged creatures a mile away.

Tree pit viper

Tree pit viper

We spent the next ten minutes furiously clicking our cameras at the viper, while Anastasia went off to look for monkeys.

We eventually got tired of gawking at the viper, which fortunately didn’t jump at us or anything like that. Alex said he’d take us to Anastasia, so we followed him down this walkway.

Bako National Park

Suddenly, Alex let out a bloodcurdling shriek, jumped backwards very violently and started racing towards us, yelling all the time, like, “AaaaaH AAAAAHHH AAAAIIIEEEEEE!!”

Shocked, we all jumped back. I almost died of fright. I thought that maybe a hungry man-eating carnivore had strolled out of the forest in front of Alex or something like that.

He continued screaming and yelling and jumping as if a swarm of bees were attacking him.

Nothing was attacking him. We stood rooted to the spot in fright, waiting.

Anastasia appeared from the other end of the walkway.

“What happened?” she shouted.

To which Alex replied, very emotionally, “It’s a snake!! Arrghh! I hate snakes I hate snakes!!”

At this point of time, I burst out laughing. I was instantly reminded of that silly cult hit from years ago, Badgerbadgerbadger.

By the time I saw the snake, I didn’t have much time to take a good shot of it before it disappeared under the walkway. It was really quick!

Bako National Park

Bako National Park

Actually, what I managed to take was a photo of Javad and Lili taking photos of the snake.

Bako National Park

To be honest, I didn’t dare to go too near.

After the snake disappeared and we all nervously sprinted past the spot where it was hiding under the walkway, we were able to have a leisurely laugh while Alex explained vehemently that he hated snakes and they gave him goosebumps and so on.

That was quite funny.

In the end, we didn’t get to see any monkeys. We heard them, though. But they kept running from us and we could never get near.

There are supposed to be silver leaf monkeys in that area. I found this photo in someone’s Flickr:

Silver Leaf Monkey

Cute, isn’t it?

Following this, just about five metres from the snake, we came across pretty red dragonflies.

Bako National Park

Bako National Park

Which was a nice finale to our Bako National Park outing.

No, wait.

Actually, the nice finale was finding out that high tide had ENTIRELY covered our dock, so there was NO DOCK from which we could take a boat back to the mainland.

That meant we had to walk through a beach and then wade out to a part of the sea deep enough for boats to moor.

Bako National Park

The beach was very nice. We kinda hung out there to camwhore for a bit.

Bako National Park
From left: Juraida, Lili, Sheylara, Nicholas, Wai Kit, Soh, Javad.

Nicholas wanted to do some jumping shots.

Bako National Park

And then someone got the bright idea to do a group jumping shot!

We only did one take because we had to rush off to our next location.

Here’s the shot, taken by Javad!

Bako National Park

The journey out to the boats was actually quite fun. We had to remove our shoes.

And everyone had to stop for a while because Nicholas and Lili wanted to camwhore in the water.

Bako National Park

Deeper and deeper.

Bako National Park

And deeper.

Bako National Park

I tried to take a photo of my legs half submerged in the water, but it didn’t work very well.

Bako National Park

Lili’s parting shot:

Bako National Park

I have no idea what her expression meant. Maybe she was having a premonition of what was to come.

Because, a minute after this shot was taken, she fell into the water while trying to get into her boat.

LOL.

Well, she didn’t hurt herself, just got drenched. Hehe.

I didn’t actually witness her accident because I was at that time trying to get into my boat. I only found out when we arrived at the mainland and saw her dripping wet. Haha.

The journey back was quite uneventful. No crocodiles this time. Just a few playful dolphins too quick to photograph.

And that concludes my three-part Bako National Park report.

I wouldn’t have gone there on my own because parks are not normally my thing. But I was glad to have been made to go. It was truly an experience!

If you’re interested in paying a visit, more info can be found here.

Bako National Park: Being a Jungle Jane

I was quite the monkey when I was younger, catching bugs for fun, crawling through mud, attempting to climb trees (but failing because it’s hard to find climbable trees in Singapore when you’re not an actual monkey).

Orang Utan climbing a tree

When I grew older, the female hormones in me decided to revolt. They wanted a say in my daily activities. They lobbied, for instance, for knitting lessons.

Calling a mutiny, they quite succeeded in driving out the males, consequently usurping the terrority for themselves.

Battle of the sexes

So it was that I found myself turned from monkey to cat.

I developed a dislike for bugs, water and dirt. I liked sitting in air-conditioned rooms, safe and protected from the harsh elements of the outdoors. And I learnt how to knit.

Cat

Last month, when I received an invitation to gallivant in a faraway jungle and visit with bugs, my female hormones obviously received the news with a lot of joy.

As the story goes, the male hormones in me didn’t all get banished in the last uprising. Some of the more enterprising ones hid in fat cells, where they knew the females would be loath to go near, and bided their time.

One day, they told themselves, they would overthrow the tyranny and reclaim their territory!

Reclamation

My trip to Bako National Park in Kuching, Sarawak, where I was invited to explore as part of a media familiarisation trip, seemed like the perfect opportunity for the male hormones to carry out a forceful takeover.

Bako National Park

Thanks to my inner insurgents, I actually enjoyed being Jungle Jane very much.

I think the two sides are now at full-on war. The males are now demanding for me to take them somewhere a) rugged, b) dangerous, c) dirty, or d) all of the above.

The females are retaliating by growing a pimple.

While I leave them to fight, I’m starting my account with our arrival by boat at Bako National Park, on the way to which we had encountered a sunbathing crocodile.

Bako National Park

Everything I saw in Bako National Park, the oldest national park in Sarawak, was a delight. Paving our way to the jetty were mangrove plantations, a rather strange sight for a city girl.

Mangroves

Oh, during our boat ride, we encountered this handsome ang moh who turned to our boat and sort of smiled at us. He looked like some National Geographic celebrity, with his trekking gear and sunglasses.

Foreigner

We later bumped into him again at the park, where he had set up his camera and was waiting to photograph monkeys in the mangroves.

I didn’t dare to talk to him because he seemed a little pissed off with our group for going into the mangrove swamp and scaring the monkeys away, although it wasn’t our fault because our tour guide wanted to show us stuff in there.

Foreigner

This is where the monkeys will come out from the adjoining jungle to play at if there aren’t any tourists walking about. So, obviously we didn’t see monkeys that day because we were playing in their playground.

We did see one proboscis monkey on one very high treetop at the edge of the jungle. But it was very far away.

Proboscis Monkey

Here’s the best I could do with my camera zoom:

Proboscis Monkey

The big fleshy reddish-beige thing in the middle of its face is its nose, which is what proboscis monkeys are famous for.

The mangrove trail was awesome. Besides making our shoes awfully wet and muddy, it served as a great backdrop for photography and also turned up some really cool wildlife.

Such as a woodpecker.

Woodpecker

Can you spot the woodpecker? I never would have. Our tour guide Anastasia saw it and pointed it out to us. Anastasia is truly an amazing guide.

Here’s a zoom-in on the woodpecker:

Woodpecker

It was hard to photograph it because it was very high up in a tree, and when we tried to get closer, it disappeared entirely.

But we saw it pecking at the tree industriously a few times before it went into hiding. It was so cute!

We also saw a hermit crab, which Juraida very bravely held out to let us photograph.

Hermit crab

One part of the ground swarmed with fiddler crabs. The male ones have one giant claw which is bigger than their shells, making them look very funny.

Fiddler crab

They’re very tiny, about 1 or 2 inches in length.

I actually jumped the gun. We had started with a jungle hike before going into the mangroves. We actually climbed a mountain! I think we got up to about 200 metres above sea level or a little over that.

The climb was really fun because we had to navigate steep and trecherous rocks and sometimes climb on tree roots. It was like going through an obstacle course, which is something that very greatly appealed to me when I was a monkey girl.

Bako National Park

That’s Anastasia climbing up the trail, which had been cut out by park authorities for trekking purposes.

Basically, we just climbed and climbed while Anastasia stopped occasionally to point out items of interest.

Bako National Park

For instance, here’s a cinnammon plant, from which you get cinnammon spice:

Cinnammon plant

What a good workout that was. We were also constantly harrassed by mosquitoes. Our insect repellent totally did not work.

Mosquito bite

There are many different trails you can explore in the park. The mangrove swamp I described earlier was one. The jungle trek is another.

Bako National Park

Bako National Park

Some of the “steps” are easy to climb, such as this:

Bako National Park

Others are really tough, especially when going downhill, requiring you to hold on to neighbouring mouldy vegetation for support or risk falling to your demise.

I don’t have photos of the tough ones because I was too busy trying to stay alive during those times.

Well, okay, it’s not as bad as I just described. I kinda survived without a scratch on me, if you don’t count the mosquito bites.

Here’s a rest stop where people can take a break and have a smoke:

Bako National Park

You’re not allowed to smoke outside of this little rest area.

After an hour or so, we reached the plateau, which was sort of a flat rocky base with sandy craters.

Bako National Park

It was hot! And I forgot to bring sunblock. So I got quite tanned after the trip.

Sheylara

At the plateau, we were introduced to a variety of carnivorous pitcher plants, which eat insects.

Here’s one:

Pitcher plant

Here’s another:

Pitcher plant

And a giant lounging one:

Pitcher plant

I really wouldn’t mind going mountain or jungle trekking again. But I must say that having a good tour guide helps. It’s fun to have someone there to point out interesting plants and animals, and tell you stories.

For instance, I would have just walked past this plant and ignored it as being just a stupid common plant:

Fern

But Anastasia made it interesting for us by describing how her grandmother used to harvest these ferns and process them into cures for a host of ailments.

Well, you know what, I’m only halfway through my Bako National Park report, although that’s the end of our mountain trekking. Please come back again for part two!

Sheylara

Next stop: Monitor lizards and snakes and a screaming tour guide.

A close encounter with a wild crocodile

We didn’t set out to see crocodiles, really. We only wanted to cross a lake.

Q: Why did the people cross the lake?

A: To get to the other side (preferably without an incident of crocodile molestation).

Certainly, crocodiles posed a threat to our safety, as advertised by a prominent sign at the jetty.

Crocodile warning sign

That warning is enthusiastically supported by another sign, at the docking station, reminding us to not feed the crocodiles our hands.

Safety sign

We were at Bako Village in Kuching, waiting to be taken by boat to Bako National Park, Sarawak’s oldest national park.

Bako Village boat terminal

The village is basically a ferry terminal on one side and village residence on the other side. Crocodiles in between.

The villagers themselves operate the terminal and the boats.

A boat cometh

After our tour guide finished with the paperwork, we got into our lifejackets and onto a boat.

Lili and Sheylara

Poor Lili (left) had an accident on our return trip but that’s another story.

Here’s Javad not heeding the safety sign:

Half of Javad's back

Nicholas and Javad had front-row seats. Awesome. All the better to serve as meat shields for us ladies. (From the spray of sea water as the boat speeds along, that is.)

Nicholas and Javad

The other half of our party on another boat:

A boat in the distance

The boat ride was really fun. I used to be terrified of being in small vessels because they bob about crazily. I had gotten into a bumboat once and the rocking motion just about killed me.

I must have outgrown that. I totally loved this ride, especially feeling the wind on my face, sweeping my hair back, and a bit of sea spray giving me a free mineral facial.

The view from a boat

And the clouds being some kind of wonderful.

Clouds

And then things got a little exciting.

Our tour guide, Anastasia, suddenly hushed everyone and got the boatman to stop the engine.

Our boat drifted towards a big rubber tube thing floating on the water.

Rubber tube

“Shh!” whispered Anastasia, “A crocodile!”

We couldn’t see it at first because it was lying still and flat on the rubber tube. But when we saw it, the cameras all came out.

Crocodile

It was frightening and fascinating at the same time. I’ve never been so near a wild crocodile. Would it lunge off the rubber tube and pounce at us?

Wait. Can crocodiles pounce?

Crocodile

It hardly moved the whole time it was sitting there, sunbathing on the rubber tube.

Wait, wait. Is it “sit” or “lie”? Poor crocodiles can only be in one position their whole lives. Their sit = stand = lie. Haha.

Crocodile

Its eyes are marble white!

Crocodile

And its tail is kinda cool with that serrated edge.

Crocodile

No one talked. We didn’t want to alert the crocodile to our presence. We just clicked our cameras nonstop.

It knew, anyway. After a minute or two, apparently sensing a change in its idyllic scenary, the crocodile suddenly slipped off the rubber tube and cut into the water, swift and silent.

“You’re all very lucky,” said Anastasia. “It’s not often that tourists get to see a crocodile out in the open.”

We were more than lucky, in fact.

On our way back, we came across a school of dolphins but they were too quick for us to catch with our cameras.

“You are so lucky!” Anastasia couldn’t stop beaming.

Aww.

The boat ride to Bako National Park took somewhere between 20 and 30 minutes, during which time Anastasia pointed out various interesting sights, such as the numerous seastacks on the coastline, featuring interesting patterns created by wave erosion and iron deposits.

Seastack

It was an awesome experience, watching and learning.

And this was only the beginning.

To be continued…