Telok Limau

Difficulty
9/10 (long, hot and tough)
Distance
Approx. 10 km one-way
Scenic value
7/10
Walking Time
8-9 hours one-way
Flora & Fauna
7/10
Trail Markings
Lintang Trail – Red
Tajor – Red&White
Limau – Blue&Red
Summary

This is one of the longest and toughest walks within Bako National Park, leading along the Muara Tebas peninsula to Telok Limau, on the far end of the Park from the HQ.Telok Limau is a pretty golden sandy beach, in a bay walled by low sandstone. There’s a pleasant bush-camping site just back from the beach (but no other facilities). The cove faces Pulau Lakei, a small, forested island that’s part of the National Park, and beyond that, out to the South China Sea. There’s a ranger station on Pulau Lakei, and the channel in between is frequented by traditional Chinese fishing boats. (Arranging a boat is a good option for getting either to or from Telok Limau, and walking in the other direction.) The sea here is usually clearer here than at park HQ, which is surrounded by mangroves.

The Telok Limau trail is tough, and parts of the trail are very remote. It can be very hot (unless its raining), there’s lots of up and down, as well as some scrambling, and it is a long day of walking. You don’t see a lot of animals once you leave the Park HQ area, but the remoter parts of this trail have some amazing pitcher plants (the best in Bako), and wonderful stands of the rare crocodile-tail palm. If you’re not a serious hiker, these plants and pretty beach at the end of a long day may not justify the slog to get there.

We strongly recommend you read the trail description in full before trying this one – to ensure you get the most out of it, and don’t get into difficulties.

 

Trekking Options

There are 3 ways to do the Telok Limau Trail, depending on what time and energy you have available:

1. From Park HQ, walking to Telok Limau, and catching a boat back.

You’ll need to plan this carefully around tide times – you may need to take camping gear and spend the night, to be picked up the next day. Walking to Telok Limau is harder than the walk back. The final 2-3 hours to get to the beach is a series of arduous ups and downs – basically climbing on and off the sandstone plateau. It’s quite tiring at the end of an already long day.

2. Catching a boat to Telok Limau and walking from Telok Limau to Park HQ.

This is perhaps the ideal way to do it – take your camping gear and food for 1-2 nights, get dropped off by a boat, and spend a day or more exploring the area, and eating your food, and so lightening your pack. As far as walking back to the Park HQ – the first few hours are hard, but the home straight along the sandstone plateau is easy, and back at HQ, someone will cook for you at the end of the day (the canteen).

If you are planning to walk back to park HQ the same day, an early start is essential, but that depends partly on tides. If you are planning to camp at Telok Limau, and you’re not in a hurry, you may want to get value for money from the boatman – and incorporate a visit to Pulau Lakei as well.

3.Walking to Telok Limau and back.

As it is impossible for mere mortals to walk to Telok Limau and back to park HQ in the same day you will need to carry food and camping equipment and stay overnight, at least. But we recommend spending more than one night at Telok Limau so that you have a day to recover and spend some time exploring the beach and the vicinity. (If you walk back the day after walking there, you’ll only have a few hours of daylight in which to relax before you have to head back to the Park HQ. This is physically exhausting.)

For the purposes of this trail description, the second option is described (the walk from Telok Limau to Park HQ)


Trail Description

The boat ride to Telok Limau takes approximately 30 minutes and passes some beautiful coastline – including the much photographed sea stack off Telok Pandan Kecil said to resemble a rearing cobra.

By boat, Telok Limau is reached through the channel separating Pulau Lakei from the Bako (Muara Tebas) Peninsula. It’s a pretty beach, set deep in a cove lined by low walls of sandstone. The campsite if set back from the middle of the beach; it’s a small clearing large enough for 2 tents, surrounded by shady beach vegetation. There’s some mangroves just behind.

Apparently, there is a freshwater bore down one end of the beach. Otherwise, the nearest freshwater is a few minutes along the trail (see below). Failing that, there’s usually water about 50 minutes along the trail back to park HQ; in addition, park staff say there’s always water on the Telok Kruin Trail.

The trail commences behind the campsite in beach vegetation, which is thick with rhu (casuarina), then starts climbing gently into transitional forest, where there’s lots of moss covered, slippery sandstone boulders. Five minutes from the campsite there’s a small stream – flow is dependent on recent rainfall, and the water at the point where the trail crosses may be brackish if tides are particularly high.

The trail continues upwards, past mossy rock walls and through a ‘tunnel’ formed by a massive toppled sandstone boulder. From here it’s a steep climb up to a ridgetop, with abundant wild sago palms (pantu – Eugeissonia sp) lining the trail.

Nepenthes ampullaria
Nepenthes ampullaria

Over the next 25 minutes the trail is quite flat and easy along the plateau. It passes initially through drier kerangas forest, with lots of globular Nepenthes ampullaria pitcher plants on the ground, followed by patches of transitional kerengas/dipterocarp forest (note by the masses of ‘crinkle-cut’ leaves on the forest floor – these are from keruing trees – Dipterocarpus sp). Eventually, it reaches a junction marked with signs and a trail map. This is the turnoff to Telok Kruin (this point is 45 minutes to 1 hour from Telok Limau).

The beach at Telok Kruin is an hour or so down the side-trail from here. It is reputedly very pretty, has freshwater, and a pleasant camping site. There are 3 short turnoffs along the Telok Kruin trail to viewpoints, and the second turnoff (on the right) leads to a rockpool.

Continuing along the Telok Limau Trail, there’s a steep descent and a small flowing creek 5 minutes downhill from the junction. The trail undulates through casuarina forest, and past stunning palms with large diamond shaped leaves (scientific name Johannesteijsmannia altifrons; or ekor buaya in Malay meaning “crocodile tail”). These rare palms are perfect for sheltering under if it’s raining . There’s also a lot of wild sago palms, with their long spiny fronds. Over the next 20 minutes, there’s another steep descent and some walking at beach level through swamp forest before heading back uphill, where a neatly eroded ‘cave’ in the sandstone rock on the left hand side of the trail can accommodate a couple of people in the event of a downpour (quite a frequent occurrence).

The trail continues, alternating between swamp forest, crossing small creeks and climbing steeply on 2 more occasions. About 1 ¼ -1 ½ hrs from the turnoff to Telok Kruin, there’s a large sandstone overhang sheltering an elevated flat rock. This is perhaps large enough to accommodate 1-2 people if you happen to get caught out at night. There’s also permanent creek about 100m on from here.

Nepenthes rafflesiana
Nepenthes rafflesiana

The trail descends from here through wild sago palms and casuarina forest with lots of pitcher plants. spectacular, vividly-red spotted Nepenthes rafflesiana pitcher plants grow throughout this area. Some of these grow to be very large.

The trail then crosses another permanent creek before ascending steeply onto a ridgetop. From here, there’s some scrambling around large mossy boulders. The trail continues undulating, passing slopes covered with ‘croc-tail’ palms, and fenced by thickets of pitcher plants in some parts. The trail crosses another creek and weaves up past some sandstone outcrops.

Soon the trail veers downhill again, into a valley, where there’s a confluence of 2 creeks along the trail – both of which are hard to see at first because of the mass of small pandanus plants growing in them. The smaller creek is crossed first; it then flows into a larger stream lined with mossy rocks. The trail crosses this stream, requiring some rock-hopping (and possibly wet feet). It takes approximately 2 ½ hrs to get to this point from the Telok Kruin turnoff (3 ¼ to 3 ½ hours from Telok Limau). It’s a pretty spot – a small lush green valley, and a good place to fill up water bottles. Unless there has been rain, there are no more permanent creeks for the next 45 minutes to 1 hr of walking.

Nepenthes albomarginata
Nepenthes albomarginata

From the creek confluence, the trail gradually climbs uphill onto the sandstone plateau. There are more stands of crocodile-tail palms, interspersed with kerangas forest as the trail undulates. There are numerous sizes and several varieties of pitcher plants through here as well. Look out for the delicate Nepenthes albomarginata, a small pitcher with a white rim and elongated leaves, and for the bright green, medium sized, hairy pitchers of Nepenthes hirsuta.

The trail now continues mostly along the sandstone plateau, with mercifully fewer ups and downs than previously. The remainder of the trail back to Park HQ continues similarly, with occasional dips but no major climbs.

About an hour from the creek confluence noted previously, the trail climbs up some sandstone crags, onto a plateau where sparse ‘fire padang’ vegetation is a noticeable change from the forest environment. The trail passes a sign on the right indicating the turnoff to Telok Sibur, the longest beach in the park (and not a quick or easy detour, if you happen to be tempted).

Shortly beyond the turnoff, the trail descends to a pleasant clear watercourse. This is the Sungai Nipah. With exposed sandstone on one side and kerangas forest with shady sago palms on the other, it’s a pleasant spot to cool off. There’s a small flat shallow pool under a sandstone slab which is just big enough to wallow in. Small freshwater prawns nibble (harmlessly) at unsuspecting feet. Walking time from Telok Limau to this point is about 5 hours (the sign stating 4 hours to Telok Limau is inaccurate). From here, it takes between 2-2 ½ hours to get back to Park HQ. On the other side of the creek, there’s a trail map and the trail continues; a junction on the left hand side is the trail which heads out towards Bukit Keruing and Bukit Gondol (both of these destinations are full day walks in themselves, not shortcuts).

From Sungai Nipah, it takes about ½ hr to reach Tajor Waterfall. This is also a pleasant place to cool off – though some people find the dark, tannin-tinged, sudsy water somewhat off-putting. The pools at the base of the waterfall and beside the changing rooms (!) are large and shaded.

From Tajor Waterfall, the trail undulates through transitional forest then back up onto the sandstone plateau. From here, before the trail becomes boardwalk, there are some good views on the right hand side back towards Pulau Lakei and the side arm of the cove of Telok Limau. It looks a long way off.

The trail climbs steeply for a few minutes through some kerangas forest to join with the Telok Pandan Besar and Kecil trails on the top of the sandstone plateau (1-1 ½ hours from Tajor Waterfall). There are great views from this relatively elevated point out to sea and across to Santubong and Gunung Serapi – there’s a pondok on the right hand side to take advantage of this.

The trail soon intersects with the Lintang Loop, and continues for 10 minutes to the edge of the plateau, before descending through cliff vegetation back down to the mangrove boardwalk (about 15 minutes) and then back to the Park HQ. In the evening, proboscis monkeys may be moving down towards (or coming back up from) the mangroves. Walk quietly through this area and listen for low grunting calls or loud crashes in the tree tops.


Special Considerations – Important!

Water – Carrying all the water that you need for a long 1-2 days of trekking in humid jungle is impossible – you need to have a way of boiling, purifying or filtering water collected along the way. After rain, water which can be purified is readily available at numerous points along the trail. Without rain, some careful planning is required. Refer to the trail map and the description above for locations of water sources.

Trekking Times – One-way walking times in the Bako National Park pamphlet can be misleading – although accurate for short and medium length trails, the times given for longer walks, especially Telok Limau, are significantly underestimated. This is at least an 8-9 hour trek (one-way), particularly if you are carrying packs. It is a difficult trail, recommended for physically fit people only.

Remoteness – You should also be aware that Bako National Park, despite its proximity to Kuching, may be inaccessible for 3 hours or more at a time, because of tides. This means that if you need help in the event of an emergency, it may be a long time coming.

Because of its length, remoteness and difficulty, please notify the Park HQ if you are planning to walk to Telok Limau.

We also recommend that you read through our Preparation and Safety section before undertaking long walks like this one.