‘Taman Negara’ which lietrally means National Park in Malay. It has flourished since the land rose from the sea during the Jurassic era, around 130 million years ago and even ice ages haven’t affected the forest. The oldness of the area is due to its southerly location which left it untouched by the ice ages and glaciers.
Within the park boundaries there are tigers, Malayan tapirs, elephants, wild boar, various species of deer, leopards, sun bears, civets and wild ox, to name just a few.
Add to this between 200-300 species of birds and thousands of insects making their lives on the jungle floor. Taman Negara has one of the richest ecologies on earth, protected both by its impenetrability and Malaysian law. Prior to the Jurassic period, the entire Malay peninsula was submerged underwater. As a result, sedimentary rock and limestone make up the fertile base of Taman Negara and its interesting cave system. Most of Malaysia’s fossils have also been discovered within the limestone of this national park.
Choosing Tour agency:
Easy way to experience this beautiful forest is to book a tour with agencies. The package can be chosen depending on appetite for adventure. There are various agencies and they keep cropping up. However, its best to stick to more reviewed and visited agent. Adventoro, Taman Negara Travels, NKS, Taman Negara Asia, and Tour HQ to name a few. We chose NKS as they had most number of reviews and looked decent with quiet some felxibility (will talk about it in package section).
The catch is, that there are multiple websites offering tours, however, there are only 4 agencies who will officially take you inside the forest. I am guessing these are the only government certified agencies and hence most of the website that we see are like agents who make a commission on tourists brought the key agencies.
Variety of packages differs basis level of adventure, number of days and type of stay. Most packages have easy activities that most people to perform. For extreme adventure of trek in deep forest, there are specific local guides whom you can connect with through tour operator when you reach to Jerantut before confirming package and collecting travel voucher. Unfortunately i found very little information about such guides and hence I did’nt take any chance as there were no reviews.
We choose 3 days 2 night package which was perfect amount of time to be spent in the forest since we are easy going on adventure front.
Canopy walking: This is almost an hour long walk and real fun way to see depth and height of the forest. This was quiet fascinating adventure and ideal for most age group. However, people with acrophobia need to be cautious. But its definitely a once in lifetime experience.
Jungle night walk: This was most exciting thing to do in this package. You are armed with just a guide and each person with torch light. The guide will take you on a pathway so the walk is bit easy but be ready to see insects and mammals which you would only see in wildlife books. We spotted antilope, jungle spider, scorpion, varieties of snakes, wild bore, exotic leopard cat, etc.
Next day, we took a night walk by ourselves and we happen to spot deers and leopards (leap). It was the best thing to do with bunch of travelers from across globe.
Meet Buket Tribe: Perhaps the most notable aspect of visiting Taman Negara is visiting the Orang Asli, or “original people.” The indigenous people of this area actually refer to themselves as the Batek. Although their population numbers are low– just a few thousand– they are very much present along the banks of Tremeling River. The Batek are a nomadic tribe who still largely survive by hunting and gathering. Their diet consists of fruits from the jungle, yams, fish and small animals such as monkeys and squirrels, which they hunt with blowpipes and poison darts. The Batek are a peaceful people. Their palm-thatch hut villages are arranged both roughshod (reflecting their nomadic nature) and communally (with a shelter and table to share whatever food is foraged). Food is distributed equally, with portions reflecting the numbers of each household.
The freshness in the air was unmatched to the purest place I have experienced till date.
Rapid Shooting: The highlight of the tour came when we were allowed to attempt using the blowpipe, which they use to hunt monkeys and other small animals. The Batek are skilled enough to take down moving animals from 50 yards away. But of course everyone in our group struggled to get a dart to stick into a stationary target just a few feet away.
Cave Tour: There are many interesting caves in the park other than Gua Telinga. These have mostly been scupltured by underground rivers flowing through limestone outcrops. The caves are located in isolated area of the park, 2.5 hours boat ride form Kuala Tahan then proceed for 3-5 hours trekking. Among the popular caves are Gua Telinga, Gua Kepayang Kecil, Kepayang Besar, Gua Luas, Gua Landak, Gua Tumpat, Gua Siput, Gua Cemara, and Gua Peningat. Unfortunately during our visit the caves were shut by government for preservation.
Flora & Fauna: Being one of the oldest forest, the flora & fauna has a unique charm. Most of the trees are extremely tall and some of them are so huge that humans are tiny speck standing in front of these gigantic beauties. To put things into perspective, this national park boasts 10,000 species of plants; an astounding 150,000 varieties of insects; 100 types of slithering serpents; 1,000 types of butterflies; and hundreds of other animals including tapirs, elephants, rhinoceros, pigs, leopards and more!
Undoubtedly a treasure trove of flora and fauna, the National Park also has an abundance of epiphytes; more than 3,000 over plant species as well as 246 species of ferns found across the land. There are also numerous endemic plants such as the Tahan Serdang Palms and Tahan Bertam, to name a few. Intriguingly, there are also wild grapes and rare species of orchids just waiting for you to discover. However, the jewel in Taman Negara’s crown is definitely the notorious Rafflesia flower, said to be the largest in the world! The flower is rare; it takes six to nine months to bloom but only lasts three to four days.
Floating Boat Restaurant: They are really good to eat local cuisines served in the simplest plastic bowl and smile and warmth. I loved the prawn soup and ate them many times. You get amazing malay meals for breakfast, lunch and dinner. We stuck to local malay cuisines and that happened to be the best bet. There are couple of cafes for some coffee.
The stay will always be part of the tour package so we don’t need to go there and search for one. There are variety of options to select from. There are lush resorts, homestays and hostels. We chose a homestay called Rainbow and it was a clean and hygienic place. The tour agents tie up with local people who let out their homes for tourists and it works perfect. Our room had a lovely river view (we had insisted the tour agent when we started our journey) and equipped with air-conditioner (which we didn’t need at all). They had lovely lounging area outside the room with decent book collection left by travelers.
Tip: We created our Malaysia itinerary in such a way that after Taman Negara we had to visit Cameron Highland. The tour agents usually provide a pick up and drop from hotel for some extra cost which is perfect and ended up being cheaper.
Here’s a little virtual tour of our trip:
Such pretty ferns
View from our room
Akhil enjoying some alone time
Was talking to an older buddy
Ratan tree (our beloved ratan furniture is made from this)
Just to give a perspective of how tall the trees are at this forest
Thatched roof house of Batek tribe
Humble life of the tribe
I love this capture. Those eyes, the frail body, beautiful curly hair and our peek-a-boo
Beautiful hand carved box of poisonous darts used for hunting. Collectible items
This was definitely one of the most memorable trip
Check out Malaysia trip post for complete itinerary.