as published in Virtual Malaysia Magazine [September / October 2006]

Contrary to what you see on television, all forests are not the same. Anyone who tells you that they are evidently has not been to Bako National Park. Majidah Hashim brings you through some of the most fascinating geological formations that makes Bako one of a kind. (in more ways than one!)

A forest is more than just an overgrown garden of trees and weeds. The true joy in venturing into a forest is to discover its singularity – what makes it different from all other forests.

Formerly known as Muara Tebas Forest Reserve, the 2,727 hectare Bako National Park was established in May 1957, making it the oldest (and smallest!) National Park in the country.

The location of the park’s headquarters used to be a landing pad for aerial vehicles during the Japanese Occupation in Borneo. The park encompasses the greater part of the Tebas Peninsular, and there are no access land routes here.

Therefore, in order to get to Bako National Park, you’ll need to take a boat from Kampung Bako. Bako is named after the rhizoph ora mangrove forest – also known as bakau in the Malay language.

Mangrove nevertheless, is just one of the variety of types of vegetation that can be found in Bako. You would also to find the unique Cliff Vegetation here, as well as a Beach Forest, Karangas or Heath Forest, Mixed Dipterocarp Forest, Peat Swamp Forest and breathtaking Grassland Vegetation here. Among what makes Bako special are its geological formations, which are so distinct, one is able to track the movement of the earth as Borneo rose from the bottom of the ocean millions of years ago. Bako’s land is completely covered by a plateau of sandstone and is the site of some of the most spectacular geological erosions in the country.

Perhaps Bako’s most popular icon is the sea stack, a true testament to the power of nature in constant duel with the fortitude of the earth. The sea stack is often compared to the Twelve Apostles in Australia, for its similar geological treatment.

Up to 213 proboscis monkeys call Bako home. Endemic to only Borneo, you won’t be able to find them anywhere else in the world. Proboscis monkeys are often spotted among the highest branches of trees when you embark on the trails here. If you have the patience to wait however, you would be able to get much nearer to the monkeys as they go about their daily play.

If patience fails you, not to worry! There are plenty of silver leaf langurs mischievously waiting about the cafeteria areas for a share of your lunch. Besides that, be on the lookout for common monitor lizards, platain squirrels, the infamous wild bearded boars and over 150 species of birds while you are on your treks.

There are 18 well-marked and colour coded jungle treks in Bako, with different levels of difficulty and duration. Although most visitors to the park attempt the shorter trails of Bako on their own, it is advisable to bring a guide with you if you plan on going for longer treks, or plan to camp in the forest. Chalets, lodges and hostels with attached bathrooms are available, as well as camping grounds with washroom facilities and picnic shelters.

For its unique vegetation composition, there is always something new to discover in Bako. The forests are alive, or so I am told. This is a place where you will be able to see the forces of nature coming together, converging in an awesome negotiation of survival – and in order to survive, the forest acts as one. The mangrove is alive.

So is the Karangas.

And the cliffs. And the swamps…

The writer with friends at the karangas forest of Bako National Park (July 2006)

3 Responses to “BAKO ROCKS!”

  1. 1 flooded forest « the wysard of oz
  2. 2 r-e-a-c-h— « the wysard of oz
  3. 3 the old man and the sea II « the wysard of oz

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