Bako is probably the best place in Sarawak for wildlife experiences. The park has been a protected area since 1957, so the animals are less wary of humans. Visitors, especially those who stay overnight, will have countless opportunities to observe and photograph various types of wildlife.

The best times for seeing wildlife at Bako are just after dawn and just before dusk, when the animals are at their most active. You are more likely to see animals on the trails if you go in small groups, walk slowly, keep as quiet as possible, and listen out for sounds and movements in the forest. For example, you are likely to hear a strange grunting sound or the crash of leaves long before you actually see a Proboscis monkey.

Telok Assam, the area around the HQ, is a great place for seeing wildlife. Long-tailed macaques, silvered leaf-monkeys, common water monitors, plantain squirrels, wild boar and mouse deer are all found here. Watch out for the macaques as they are possibly the most fearless monkeys on earth. They will raid dustbins and kitchens in the rest houses, or scamper into the canteen to steal food or an unguarded bag. Keep all doors locked and never encourage them by offering food. In contrast to the unruly macaques, the silvered leaf-monkey or silvered langur is a docile and attractive creature. Adults have silver-grey fur and a spiky crest of head hair, whilst the infants are covered in bright orange fur.

Bako is also home to approximately 150 rare proboscis monkeys, found only in Borneo. The male is an odd looking creature, with a huge pendulous nose and a large pot belly, weighing in excess of 20 kg. Both male and female are covered in reddish-brown fur with grey limbs and a white tail. They are mostly arboreal (tree-dwelling), moving about the forest or mangroves in small groups and feeding on young leaves, shoots, sour fruits and seeds. Although it requires some patience, a jungle encounter with a group of proboscis is likely to be highlight of your trip to Bako. The best times are early in morning or in the hours before dusk. You will need to be in position by 6 am or 5 pm. Telok Delima and Telok Paku are the best trails for viewing the proboscis.

Otters are delightful creatures to watch, and two species are found at Bako – the Oriental Small-Clawed Otter and the Hairy-Nosed Otter. They spend most of their time in the water, feeding on fish, frogs and other small animals. Oriental small-clawed otters are occasionally seen at Sungai Assam, swimming in the river or running across the mud searching for food. Hairy-nosed otters are sometimes seen early in the morning around the mangroves at Telok Assam.

The largest mammal found at Bako is the Bornean Bearded Pig. As its name implies, it is distinguished from other wild pigs by prominent bristles either side of its snout. Bearded pigs are often found around the park HQ scavenging for food or wallowing in mud.

A number of lizards are found at Bako. The largest is the common water monitor, olive green in colour and reaching the length of 2 metres. Young monitors are green with yellow spots and therefore easier to see. They are strong swimmers and can stay submerged for a considerable length of time. Monitors are scavengers, feeding on carrion and occasional live prey. They are often found near the accommodation area or near the boat jetty, scavenging for scraps of food. You may also see their tracks at the park’s beaches.

The small, brownish grey, Skink or Sun Lizard is often seen basking on rocks at the beach or scurrying away from the paths. The attractive Green Crested Lizard, common throughout the park, is usually bright green but is capable of changing colour if alarmed. Flying lizards are occasionally seen launching themselves from tree trunks and gliding through the air.

Bako is home to a number of snakes, most of which are harmless. They are well camouflaged, and usually slide off into the undergrowth at the first sign of danger. The Grass Green Whip snake is easily recognized by its bright colour, pencil-thin body and long snout. The Paradise Tree Snakes’s black upper body is marked with green spots whilst its underside is yellowy-green with red spots. The only poisonous snake that is occasionally seen is the Wagler’s Pit Viper, which, like all Pit Vipers, has a board, flat, triangular head.

Bako is fascinating place for bird watching, as over 150 species have been recorded here. Although many of these can be seen around the rest houses, you need to hit the trails to appreciate the full variety of Bako’s bird life. The mangroves at Telok Assam are an excellent place to start. Serious bird watchers should take a good pair of binoculars and the Pocket Guide to the Birds of Borneo, which is widely available in Kuching.

Rock pools and mangroves are good places to search for small animals such as mudskippers and crabs, especially sky-blue fiddler crabs and shell-dwelling hermit crabs. Bako also has its fair share of insects. Watch ours for them on the forest floor and hear them everywhere.  

Bako’s nocturnal creatures include the flying lemur, pangolin, mouse deer, various bats, tarsier, slow loris and palm civet. If you take a night walk through the forest near the park HQ you may catch sight of some these creatures, and you will certainly hear crickets, frogs, and maybe owls. The beach by the park HQ is also a great place for a night walk. If the tide is out you may see crabs, prawns, anemones, starfish, annelid worms and young shrimp in the small pools.

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