Bako National Park sits on a tiny peninsula of Borneo, north of Kuching. To get there we caught a speedboat at the riverside jetty of the nearby village. We skimmed down the river, past mangrove forests into the confluence of the Sungai Tabo and the South China Sea. Fishermen were out for the morning catch — some with nets and others perched on wooden frames jutting out of the water.
Following the length of the peninsula, we turned right toward a long, flat beach where we stepped out of the boat and waded to shore. We’d been told that sometimes the Proboscis monkeys come down to the trees along the shoreline. Proboscis monkeys are endemic to Borneo and not found anywhere else in the world. We slowly approached the trees while looking up into the branches. I moved deeper into the forest and spotted one monkey, then realized I was standing right below several of them. Powerful and muscular, with round chests, they looked almost human with their distinct faces.
After looking through all my photos I’m pretty sure this was a group of males, indicated by their size and long noses that hung below their lips. Their beautiful rusty brown fur faded to a creamy white along their arms and legs, with solid black elongated hands and feet. Their lean bodies showed all the strength and flexibility required to leap and jump through the treetops.
The monkeys moved deeper into the jungle so we set out to explore the park. Hiking the six kilometer loop to the hilltop, we found carnivorous pitcher plants along the trail — a miraculously constructed plant that drowns its prey (insects) when it falls inside, then dissolves and digests the body.
The jungle thinned out and the sunlight baked the arid mountaintop, chasing us down the trail and back into the cooler jungle. We finished the loop and stopped for lunch near the beach, then hired a boat to take us along the rocky coast to see the cobra head sea stack. Several beautiful beaches dot the coastline of Bako so we stopped for a quick swim, then caught another boat back to the main village.
Overall, it was an amazing day in Borneo with a once-in-a-lifetime chance to see Proboscis monkeys in their native habitat.