Telok Pandan Besar & Telok Pandan Kecil

 

Difficulty
6/10 (some hot and exposed sections)
Distance
Telok Pandan Besar – 1.75 kmTelok Pandan Kecil – 2.5 km
Scenic value
8/10
Walking Time
TPB – 1 hour (one way)
TPK – 1.5 hours (one way)
(Half-day return trip.)
Flora & Fauna
8/10
Trail Markings
Lintang Trail – Red
TPB – Yellow
TPK – Fluorescent Yellow
Summary

This half-day walk to Bako’s prettiest swimming beach follows the initial arm of the Lintang trail Loop, before branching off through the fire padang vegetation on the sandstone plateau. It dips in and out of tall kerangas forest, with lots of pitcher plants and fan palms, along the way.The beautiful beach at Pandan Besar is not accessible, but can be viewed from the cliff above. The trail to Pandan Kecil descends onto a broad exposed sandstone rockface overlooking the beach – there are great views out to Santubong, and to the sea-eroded sandstone formations across the beach below. A steep trail down through cool forest leads to the delightful shallow, sandy beach. It’s a lovely picnic and swimming spot, but consider wearing sandals in the water – one of the authors stepped on a venomous fish here.

 

Trail Description

The trail to Telok Pandan Besar and Pandan Kecil (‘Big and Small Pandan Bay’ in Malay, respectively – the “c” in Kecil is pronounced “ch”, just like in Italian) initially follows the Lintang Trail clockwise from park HQ.

The Lintang Trail passes through the mangrove boardwalk (looking out for animal life – proboscis monkeys, monitor lizards, crabs and kingfishers are common sights, and otters have been seen here infrequently). The trail then climbs up through cliff vegetation, to the sandstone plateau (about 25-30mins from HQ). From here it’s about 10 minutes walking through dry fire padang vegetation and past lots of pitcher plants, to the junction where the Lintang Trail branches off to the right. Instead, continue ahead following the trail markers to Telok Pandan Besar and Pandan Kecil.

A few minutes walk on wooden boardwalk through scrubby fire padang vegetation will bring you to another junction. There’s a pondok (shelter) here with a view seawards, and hopefully a breeze. At this point, two trails for the Park’s longer treks (leading to Tajor Waterfall, and then on to the Telok Limau and Telok Kruin Trail, and the Bukit Gondol Trail) branch off to the right. Continue on the left, on the trail to Telok Pandan Besar and Kecil, along a wooden boardwalk which descends, followed by a set of steep stairs. The trail then veers right into kerangas forest (follow the yellow marks on the trees – the alternative route directly ahead is an old trail which has been closed because of the damage and erosion inadvertently caused by hikers).

Nepenthes ampullariaThe kerangas forest (kerengas is an Iban term relating to inability of land to grow rice) here has many interesting features – a large ‘crocodile tail’ palm can be seen to the right hand side, there are lots of rattans, wild sago palms, casuarinas, conifers, and orchids. A couple of wooden planks span a tiny mossy creek. The walk continues through the same type of vegetation and over another small creek. Look out for globular clusters of Nepenthes ampullaria pitcher plants on the ground to the right of the trail.

As the trail emerges from the forest, follow the blazes on the trees to the right – although a wide trail continues directly ahead, this is again best avoided because it is very eroded. The yellow-marked trail goes up and over a small rise with very open fire padang vegetation. About 20 minutes after the last signboard, you’ll come to the point where the trails to Pandan Besar and Kecil branch.

 

Telok Pandan Besar Viewpoint

The trail to Pandan Besar viewpoint takes about 5 minutes. It’s mostly downhill along boardwalk over a swampy creek bed to a rocky cliff. This is a large sandstone overhang which has some shady trees, a bench and (hopefully) a nice ocean breeze. It overlooks a pristine sweep of beach below (the photo at the top of this trail description shows the view). It’s a beautiful view, but unfortunately the beach itself is not accessible by foot (you can always hire a boat if you really want to go there!). Some trees in the vicinity are labelled with botanical names – see our tree list for more information about them.

 

Telok Pandan Kecil

To get to the Pandan Kecil beach, continue downhill from the turnoff, in the eroded creek bed, and onto boardwalk through dry vegetation. After ten minutes walk, the trail will cross a flat slab of exposed sandstone. Continue along the trail down to an even larger sandstone expanse which overlooks the beach of Pandan Kecil. This drops away precipitously over the beach – but provides great views out to the “Serpent’s Head” sea stack, Gunung Santubong and the South China Sea. Erosion on this rocky slab has created some interesting rock formations.

The trail continues down the wooden stairs in the forested gully on the right – in contrast to the harsh exposure and heat of the sandstone cliff, this area is delightfully shady and cool. It’s less than 10 minutes descent to the beach through here. Telok Pandan Kecil is a beautiful beach – clean, often empty, narrow, and nestled deeply between the sandstone cliffs. These cliffs bordering the beach are beautifully sculpted by wind and water, and the steepness with which these rise out of the sea adds to the feeling of seclusion in the bay. The beach itself is quite shallow, the water almost always a pleasant temperature. The sea here, unfortunately, is seldom perfectly clear, because of its proximity to the river mouth.

The only other cautionary word (personal experience talking here) is that this is a habitat for a type catfish with venomous spines. One of these in the sole of your foot is enough to take the smile off your face (see special considerations below).

There is a pondok at Pandan Kecil, built back behind the beach, but no other facilities. There is usually some shade on the verges of the beach, even at midday, but there is no fresh water, so take plenty with you. Typical beach vegetation occurs here, including large beach pandanus (screw-pines), after which the bay is named, as well as casuarinas. Long-tailed macaques are said to misbehave here, and scavenging monitor lizards are a common sight – so don’t leave your food unattended for too long!


Special Considerations

As with any of the walks along the plateau, this walk is very hot and exposed in sections. Try to do it earlier in the day and bring adequate water and sun protection with you. Some sections of the trail are permanently wet and slippery. Stick to trails to avoid contributing to erosion along the already stressed sandstone plateau.

Marine fish envenomations have occurred at this beach – wear sandals when swimming. Fish envenomations are excruciatingly painful, but are quite easily treated by immersing the affected site in hot water for an hour or so – as hot as the victim can tolerate (test temperature first on normal limb). See also our Preparation and Safety pages.

Finally, note that Bako, despite its proximity to Kuching is remote – depending on tides it may be inaccessible for 3 or more hours at a time – so if you need help in the event of an emergency, it may be a long time coming.