National Parks Near The Kebun
Bako National Park
Bako National Park is a popular destinations for visitors as it is only 45 minutes by car to the main jetty plus another 20 minutes boat journey to the park. Many go for a day trip only but there are chalets in the park for those wanting to stay for a night or longer.
Go early in the morning before the heat of the day might become too much for you. You must register at the reception of the jetty terminal where an entrance fee is levied. The warden then directs you to the jetty where designated outboard motor boats wait.
The trip begin’s along the river where picturesque Kampung Bako stands on stilts and soon the boat is out to the sea and the coastline of Mount Santubong can be seen. Along the way there are unusual rock formations are seen and often rocky cliffs rise vertically hundreds of feet high. Beautiful sandstone formation featuring pink and iron patterns on cliff faces can be seen along most of the coastline. The iconic sea stacks of Bako National Park can only be seen up close if one takes an optional trip by boat from the park jetty to the Telok Pandan Kecil.
Please check the tide schedule as if the tide is low, the boat will have to land a few hundred meters away from the park jetty. The muddy trek toward the landing point in sometimes ankle-deep water is really sucks is not that enjoyable.
When you arrive at the jetty, a short walk will take you to the Park HQ, where you can pick up a map of the various trails and information for your visit. There is a storage place for putting your baggage, but no lockers.
There are 16 trails well maintained of which some pass through waterfall and streams, others end in beaches or cliffs with panoramic views and range from a half hour trek to one that can give you a heart attack takes 8 hours.
Encounter with wildlife are higher in the early morning and dusk and the laziest way easiest of all to watch is from the park’s chalet and canteen. There are troops of macaques come out to steal forage for food. Leaving your personal belongings unguarded is inviting them to be dragged off by these naughty monkeys. The more well behaved silver leaf langurs keep their distance, while the proboscis monkey are equally shy. There are bearded pigs and monitor lizards hanging around the compound too if are lucky. Bird lovers will get more use than usual be glued to their binoculars as there are on record 150 species of local and mirgratory birds in the park. On the mud flats are mudskippers, fiddlers crab, hermit crabs and many others.
The longer jungle walking trails are quite strenuous and unless you are fit, these should not be attempted. Some parts of the trails may require one to clamber like a dog on fours but no real climbing is required. The rocks can be treacherously slippery on rainy days so chances of twisting an ankle is high. You will need a pair of good walking shoes.
An overnight stay is highly recommended as a day trip really does not do justice to the many attractions that Bako National Park has to offer. The only drawback is the spartan canteen’s lousy food but there seems to be a new operator as the food quality has improved much better. Pack lots of water before beginning a trek as you will be sweating like a pig buckets. Wear sport shorts instead of long pants as the humidity of the jungle will make you want to get naked! There seems to be not too many mosquitos but do bring your repellent just in case. Sun block is an absolute must if your skin is sensitive to sunlight as is a hat or cap.
Wind Cave & Fairy Cave
These two caves are actually kilometres apart and unless one is interested in groping in the dark, a visit to either one will usually be enough for a half day trip. The Wind Caves has an added attraction of being located near a shallow river with pebble banks and rest areas, making a picnic an excellent idea.
What Fairy Caves lacks in swimming facilities, it makes up by being a much larger cave system than its nearby rival. These caves are so called because of the stalagmite formations inside which resemble ancient Chinese figurines of robed fairies. As the entrance to the caves is high up on the hill face, access is via a flight of concrete steps rising to about the height of a five-storey building. Then a series of almost vertical wooden stairs winding through cool but dark interior will take the climbers to a large cavern with a natural hole in the roof acting somewhat like an air well. Daylight of the sky shines through and illuminate the whole cavern, which otherwise would be engulfed in darkness.
There are more steps in this main cavern, and an exploration to the myriad openings of the place shows up many interesting stalagmites and stalactites, some of which form grotesque figurines and statues. It is humid in the interior of this limestone outcrop, and the climbing of the steps and stairways will drench you in sweat. You will need a certain level of fitness is required to complete the climb to the top.
The Wind Caves is a slightly different proposal altogether but unfortunately there is not much to see inside this caves except dark dank interiors. But the cool wind gently rustling your leisurely walk is totally refreshing compared to the humidity of Fairy Caves. A powerful torchlight is an absolute must as the trekkers would be blind as bats in the total darkness all along the war. What Wind Caves offers is the experience in trekking in breezy total darkness in the heart of limestone hills, and perhaps a chance for you to tell your friends you have “been there, done that” as far as cave exploration is concerned.
Emerging from the other end of the tunnel of this cave, one can take the return trip to the car park by the same dark hollow, or take a bright sunny walk of about two hundred metres along the road leading to the cave entrance. Nearby the car park is a shallow river and depending on the weather, the current varies from a lazy flow with crystal clear water where the pebbles are visible in the river bed to raging torrent of murky silt-filled water.
There is a viewing platform on the river bank with splendid view of the flowing river below where picnickers gather. Barbecue pits are also provided for those taking the trouble to lug even more food for their enjoyment. Wash rooms with showers are also provided.
If the current is too swift, common sense would suggest avoiding swimming to the middle of the river. In any case, the pebbled lined river bed with clear water near the edge with knee deep water should be a safer environment to enjoy this pleasure of nature. Huge trees and the rock wall of the limestone hills provide the much needed shade on sunny days doing away the need to bring tents and umbrellas.
Gunung Gading National Park
Gunung Gading National Park is located 120 km away from Kuching in a vast mountainous range that consists of several peaks, the highest at 906 meters. This National Park is a beautiful expanse of mountainous rainforest only two hours away from Kuching and is located near Lundu, a pleasant little town in south-west Sarawak.
Initially, the park was a closed conservation zone for the spectacular Rafflesia, the largest flower in the world that can grow up to one meter in diameter. However, after extensive environmental impact studies, the Sarawak National Parks Department decided that Gunung Gading is a treasure that should be shared with the public.
The highlight of the visit is to look out for the Rafflesia, the world’s largest flower at sometimes 1 meter in diameter when in full bloom. A plank walk has been built close to where the Rafflesia is commonly found, making viewing possible when the plant is in bloom. November to January are the peak blooming months for the Rafflesia. However most times the flower is found in the jungle requiring one of the park wardens to guide you to it.
Jungle trails lead to streams, cascading waterfalls and the mountains, with one path not worth taking trekkers to the summit of Gunung Gading (906m). The rugged mountains within the Park provide a scenic backdrop to the nearby town of Lundu, and the beaches at Pandan and Siar.
Tanjung Datu National Park
This National Park is located in the Kuching Division, at the westernmost tip of Sarawak, near the Indonesian border. Gazetted in 1994, it is Sarawak’s latest addition to its string of national Parks and also the smallest, covering an area of only 1,379 hectares. Situated in a mountainous region, the area features swift-flowing rivers of crystal and clear waters. Its shoreline comprises some of Sarawak’s most beautiful beaches with sparkling sand and seas of aquamarine glittering in the sun. The existence of a coral shore also sets it apart from the other coastal areas in Sarawak.
North of Teluk Labuan Gadong, the beach is rocky with scattered granite boulders. Pasir Antu and Pasir Berunput are narrow beaches with a scenic view of the mountains in the background. During mornings, you can hear the call of gibbons.
At Tanjung Labuan Gadong, the main cliff reaches a height of 80 meters. It is possible to reach a view point at the top of the cliff from where you can get a panoramic view of the entire coastline from Teluk Upas to the north to Teluk Jin Siong to the south as well as the village at Teluk Melano.
Kubah National Park
Approximately 20 kilometers west of Kuching is the Kubah National Park. It is dominated by sandstone plateau and covers an area of 2,230 hectares. The Matang Range formed a scenic backdrop at the park which includes three mountains-Mount Serapi, Mount Selang and Mount Sendok that can be seen clearly from Kuching. The Park is a Mixed Dipterocarp forest and has one of Borneo’s widest selections of palms and orchids. Situated on a small sandstone plateau, this is a relatively small park that is about 2,230 hectares only. Despite the small grounds, Kubah National Park is able to boast of refreshingly clean and crystal clear streams. It also has a number of small waterfalls and clean bathing pools. Just like Lambir Hills National Park, Kubah National Park is a mixed Dipterocarp forest and has one of Borneo’s widest selections of palms and orchids as well as a range of interesting wildlife such as the mouse deer, black hornbill, bearded pig and other amphibians and reptiles. However, if your main purpose is to check out the wildlife, then you might be disappointed, as the animals here tend to hide deep in the forest. Kubah National Park is mainly well known for its lovely scenery and flora found in that area.
For those looking for a fun time trekking through the jungle, Kubah National Park offers four jungle trails and one of them leads to the peak of Gunung Serapi. The trip would take about 5 to 6 hours, both ways. Along the way, you will see wooden shelters. There are also wooden shelters on other trails. You might want to check out the main trail – a trail that passes through the forest and enjoins other trails in the park. The first part of the trail is known as Palmarium. Taking hints from the name, you can expect to see lots of palms on the Palmarium route. The Selang trail is a lovely one as it offers you a great view of Matang and the Santubong peninsula. The trail takes about 45 minutes from the HQ and after half an hour, you will come to a steep section where you will have to use the ropes to climb. Once there, you will be able to sit on the provided chairs on a wooden platform to enjoy the breathtaking view. Pretty though Selang Trail may be, yet it is not the most popular one amongst the visitors to Kubah National Park. The Waterfall Trail is everybody’s favorite as it passes through the forest and brings you through a number of sections that you will have to cross using plank walkways. You will cross through streams and swamp land. To reach the waterfall, be prepared to spend about 2 hours.
Then, there is also the Ulu Rayu Trail. This trail takes visitors from the park’s headquarters to the Matang Wildlife Center. The route to Matang Wildlife Center takes about 3 to 4 hours one-way and is a rather interesting trip. You will go from the main trail and be given the opportunity to admire the scenic rainforest where you will be awed by the huge trees and other beautiful flora. Towards the end of the walk, you will come to a swamp area that emerges into a clear stream and a picnic area at the Wildlife Center. Alternatively, you may take the Waterfall and Ulu Rayu route to reach to your destination.
Visitors to Kubah National Park will have the chance to see the plant life of Borneo as the forest area dominating the park is rich in palms trees and orchids which include species like licuala, Rattans, Pantu, Pinanga, Appendicula, Dipodium and Eria. The park is also a haven for a wide variety of butterflies.
The dipterocarp forest, interspersed with patches of scrub and kerangas, is also home to a variety of wildlife which include bearded pigs, mouse deer, squirrels, black hornbill, amphibians and reptiles. Chances of seeing the animals are quite slim here as compared to Bako National Park, as the animals tend to hide deep in the forest.
As not to disappoint visitors to the National Parks, there is the Matang Wildlife Centre as an alternative, which is very much a part of Kubah National Park. The centre houses the endangered wildlife such as Sambar Deer, Crocodiles, Sun Bears, Civets and Bear Cats. The major attraction are the Orang utans, which are orphaned or rescued from captivity. The animals are kept in large enclosures. There are also three aviaries for Hornbills, Sea Eagles and a host of other indigenous birds. The best time to visit the centre is during it’s feeding time.
There are four trails at Matang Widlife Centre. The Sungai Rayu trail will lead to Kubah National Park. Visitors who want to go to the waterfalls can try the Sungai Senduk or Sungai Buluh trail. Along the Pitcher Trail, visitors will be able to spot pitcher plants scattered all over the forest floor.
At the center, you can go for a riverside picnic or go on (another) four jungle trails. Try the Pitcher Trail where you will get to spot pitcher plants scattered all over the forest floor. There is also the interesting Sungai Rayu trail that will bring you back to the Kubah Park headquarters. If you want to check out more waterfalls, then go on the Sungai Senduk or Sungai Buluh trails. The Sungai Senduk trail is shorter though.
All the jungle trails meander through the cool forest and provide opportunities to observe the rich variety of plant life. The picturesque waterfalls provide perfect spots for picnics and cool refreshing dips after the energetic walks through the forest.