Taman Negara — Off the beaten track

The adventure started the minute we were off the Tembeling jetty and on to the boat!


Irfan Moeen Khan January 06, 2011

For many of us, Malaysia’s major attractions generally include Langkawi, Genting, Penang, Malaka and Kuala Lumpur. These are the places where you see lots of South Asians and Arabs — mostly interested in shopping and eating.

My family was no different, until I gave them the option of visiting the Taman Negara rainforest; Malaysia’s largest national park, spread over 4,343 square kilometres and including three Malaysian states; the Pahang, Terengganu and Kelantan. It is the world’s oldest and most well-protected rainforest. It is believed that it is even older than the Amazon and is estimated to be over 130 million years old.

Getting to Taman Negara

A three-hour bus ride from Kuala Lampur, the small town of Kuala Tembeling is situated in the province of Pahang, along the River Tembeling. We left Kuala Lumpur at 9.00am and were at the Kuala Tembeling jetty by noon, from where we had another three hour boat ride upstream.

The adventure started the minute we were off the Tembeling jetty and on to the boat. As the boat propelled through the river, the verdant dense rainforest unfolded its beauty. Jungle skyscrapers, the Tualang trees, the tallest in the forest, were a spectacular sight. Both sides of the river are covered with thick jungle. It is advised that one should travel light and carry an extra pair of lightweight clothes with sports sandals or trekking boots.

Accommodation

The forest has some very good resorts offering excellent facilities. Visitors have a variety of options to choose from, depending on their pocket and facilities. However, the one that we opted for had no telephones, internet or TV in the room. And believe me, it is extremely relaxing when you are out in the wilderness with no contact with the outside world. Our resort was expansively spread with independent rooms opening into the forest.

The resorts and accommodation are designed in a way that majority of the visitors are kept close to the river banks. If you want to get the real feel of the forest and the wilderness, it’s best to hire a local guide who could take you on a nine-day trip into the dense foliage. However, that requires a certain level of endurance and fitness.

Almost all resorts and accommodation facilities offer good food but the ideal option is to eat at the floating restaurants at Kuala Tahan village, which offer authentic Malay and Oriental cuisine at excellent rates.

Activities

The forest offers activities galore that one can undertake. These include:

Canopy Walk: Personally my experience of canopy walk was a bit scary. We had to walk on a rope bridge suspended from the trees, which was approximately 530 metres long and 50 metres high. The bridge is tied to the trees and not a single nail or bolt is used, simply to save the trees. To be among tall trees at 50 metres above the ground was awesome. It is an ideal choice of activity for nature lovers.

Lata Berkoh Rapids: From Kuala Tahan it is a one hour exotic boat ride through the scenic river beauty. To reach the cascading rapids, we had to hike through a track, which was built to give visitors the feeling of being in a real dense jungle but at all times we were close to the river and the guide never lost sight of us.

Rapid Shooting: The boat took us upstream to the river and when it bashed into the rapids, everybody was soaking wet. On the way back we stopped at a point where the river water was crystal clear, to take a dip in the cool water.

Jungle Trekking: There are lots of jungle treks for the visitors to explore, depending on the endurance level of the individual. If one is travelling with family, try not to trek away from civilisation and never start hiking close to sunset as the forest gets dark. One can also take a guided night jungle trek and explore the jungle life in the night.

Malaysians are proud of Taman Negara, a national asset and they really take care of it. The locals make it a point to emphasise that littering and damaging the original habitat is a crime which can lead to imprisonment. It is really commendable that they have been able to preserve it the way it is now. And they say “take nothing but photographs and leave nothing but footsteps”.

A fantastic journey became a very satisfying one when my daughter whispered to me on the plane, “Dad, great choice — thanks!”

Published in The Express Tribune, January 2nd, 2011.

COMMENTS (2)

Danny | 11 years ago | Reply An absolutely superb article; simply takes us through the entire journey live! It could have been slightly more elaborate...but anyway...great work!
prasad | 11 years ago | Reply Completely agree. I enjoyed this ancient forest as much as you seemed to have done. The rapids, the treks, the night walks etc. But what struck me most was the cleanliness of the place. The locals are poor but the standard of hygiene not just near the river but also in the villages was impressive. We walked right in front of the toilets and there was no foul smell at all. What this told me was the sense of pride that the local people had in their surroundings. The govt can legislate but it is up to the locals to ensure that there is no trash. We in south asia, especially in India, are completely wanting in this area. We have no sense of community living. Thank you for reviving great holiday memories!
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