Bako National Park in Sarawak was a surprise to me, in more ways than one. Considered as one of the smallest but oldest national park in Kuching, Bako National Park is equally as popular as the Mulu National Park in Miri, Sarawak. Covering an area of about 28 square kilometers, the Park’s main attraction is its interesting and wide array of tropical plants and wildlife.
This morning, my friend and I took a 45-minute motorized boat ride from Bako village jetty to Bako National Park. The journey was uneventful and pleasant enough, although I did not really dare to move too much on the narrow boat filled with people. My overseas friend, whose idea it was to take a trip to Bako National Park to check out its myriad of flora and fauna, was soaking in this novel experience much more than me, I could tell.
We arrived without any incident at the quaint jetty of Bako National Park. However, disembarking from a boat, particularly one that had a moving mind of its own had always been a rather harrowing experience for me, and I was glad to be on solid ground. The first impression I had of Bako National Park was lots of green. Nature just slapped me in the face.
Then I came face-to-face or snout-to-snout with a wild boar, or so I thought. Even though it was calmly munching away at some grass in a corner of the Park centre, my heart picked up speed and I was ready to run in the opposite direction when the guide clarified that it was the resident bearded pig, quite harmless unless I made it upset, then who knows.
Another awakening I had was to become an unexpected witness to a burglary, in broad daylight. The victims were two overseas tourists who had unwittingly left their backpacks on a table at the cafeteria. The culprit was a monkey – a long-tailed macaque to be exact – who with great speed and agility grabbed one of the backpacks, jumped up a nearby tree and nonchalantly sat on the branch to unzip the backpack and investigate the booty inside, keeping the stuff it wanted and throwing away the rest. I was a fast learner and kept my overnight bag close to me, like it was my twin sister before birth.
The first thing I checked was the windows in my room at the Forest Lodge, just to make sure no monkey business could be conducted in my absence or when I was asleep. The sturdy window shutters with mosquito netting were reassuring. I was ready to retire for the night after a simple dinner, but my friend wanted a leisure walk around the Park. I reluctantly agreed as I was not looking forward to more friendly encounters with the four-legged residents of the Park.
It was a balmy evening with a slight breeze in the air. I was starting to relax and enjoy the walk in the dark, slowly making my way in the dimly lit pathway and finding comfort in the presence of my bigger-sized friend, when a small dark shape swiftly flew over my head to land on a tree a few feet away in front of me. I nearly screamed and I think I lost 10 years of my life at that moment. I could not absorb what my friend was trying to tell me in that first couple of minutes. My heart was pounding and there was a rushing noise in my ears.
That was a flying lemur (flying squirrel), said my friend. I said, thank goodness, silently. I like squirrels. They are furry and cute. And a flying one is special. I spent the next few minutes trying my hardness to see if I could have a clearer sight of the flying lemur, even approaching the tree it landed on, but to no avail. However, I had a peaceful sleep that night, knowing that we, me and some of the furry residents of the Park, have checked each other out to our satisfaction.
The first experience of encountering wildlife in their natural setting at Bako National Park had been unforgettable, as unforgettable as the jungle trail I went on the very next day, which turned out to be not only a discovery of the treasures of Bako National Park but also a journey of self-discovery.
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