Taman Negara | Travel Guide

‘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 TravelsNKS, 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.

Package:

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.

DO

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.

EAT

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.

STAY

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:

Canopy walking

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

Batek tribe

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.

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Travel guide for Cameron Highlands, Malaysia

 

Cameron Highland is a high estate located just about 200 km from Kuala Lumpur. Being one of the highest region in Malaysia, this place has cool weather and charming tea estates. The bungalows, gardens, and golf course are the reminiscence of the British colonisers who would come to the highland for relaxation. Check further post for things to do in Cameron Highlands which can be wrapped up in about 2-3 days if you are on a roll.

SEE

Gunung Brinchang: Ideal way to start morning at Cameron is with hike to Gunung Brinchang, which is mainly a road walk and is not very tiring due to the lovely weather. The panoramic view at the peak which is at 6666ft and is worth every step. I had the opportunity to be among the clouds and aah that feeling of mist on my cheeks. You may hike up on your own or opt for an guide which is more recommendable.

Mossy Forest: After the hike at Gunung Brinchang, Mossy forest was our next destination.  Every plant and branch is covered with moss. The forest gives us the feeling of jungles from King Kong movie – dense, mossy all over and creepers everywhere. But there were no reptiles or insects and I presume its mainly because of the therapeutic plants which grow in abundance here (the Cajeput tree from which famous Tiger balm is made, grows here).  One can also spot Pitcher plants in abundance here, but do not touch them as some variety of this plant are carnivorous. You will be lucky to spot Giant Rafflesia, an endangered flower which claims to be the largest flower in world, in this forest. Make sure to go only with a local guide or you may get lost in the forest.

Tea Plantation: Cameron highland has excellent weather for tea plantations here and ‘Boh‘ at Sungai Palas is an ideal estate to breathe in some tea vibes here (also it is the biggest). I find tea estates very romantic as there is vastness of the estate which is so green and the chill in the air makes my bare shoulder tinkle. At Boh tea plantation we took a tour of the tea factory and then got ourselves comfortable  to sip some lovely tea with sumptuous little cakes. Make sure to buy little tea boxes for yourself and friends and family.

Starwberry farm: Raju’s strawberry farm seems to be pretty famous as it was confirmed by a local person and various portals in my research – and since its strawberries it couldn’t go wrong for us in anyway. Go around and pick strawberries with your lovelies and then enjoy the joys of your pluck. Though I found this to be a bit expensive activity which costed 35RMs (for 1/2kg I guess). But I think the price is more for the experience than for the strawberries. You can find quite some local fresh fruits and vegetables shops very close to Raju’s strawberry farm.

Bee farm/ reptile farm: There are many farms that breed bees and other reptiles as well. Its a good place to look at gorgeous butterflies and vibrant snakes and hedgehogs at such farms. Its a fun activity for a reptile lover or to show the kids around.

Cactus Valley: Walk along the lovely terraces to see the varieties of flowers and vegetables and off course cactus. They are all in abundance and will stimulate all your sensory organs. I went little crazy at the site of cactus varieties.

Robinson Waterfalls: Jungle trail number 9 leads to Robinson Waterfalls – a serene place to relax and soak in the air. These are impressive falls especially in rain time (September to January) and its an off beat trail as well.

Kea Farm Market: Take a walk at this farmer’s market and buy yourself some fresh fruits. If you are in strawberry season, then you’ll find them everywhere while they will be cheaper at such farmer’s market.

Tip: For about 40RMs/ 8 hours there are motorcycles available to go around the city and relax at our own pace. Though I wouldn’t recommend taking them when going to any uphill areas. The engines might not be powerful enough to take you through high elevations.

EAT

Steamboat cuisine: Best way to enjoy this dish would be to go brunching with friends and family – because its like potluck. You wont regret trying this dish. This dish has variations in various Asian countries such as Hot Pot in China. You may try this at Cameron Organic Produce Steamboat Restaurant and Ok Tuck Restaurant.

Steamed corns and sweet potatoes: How awesome are these to just keep nibbling while roaming in streets of Cameron and that chilly weather. I was amazed to see the amount of sweet potatoes sold and consumed here.

Ye Olde Smokehouse: If you are craving for some smoked food, then this place is right for you as it serves some good meat.

Curry House: Malaysia is a home to many Indians (mainly Tamilians) hence Indian Masala Chai was need of the hour to let my taste buds feels closer to home. This is also a good place to try some kebabs and other nibblers.

Uncle Chow’s Kopitam: Cool hangout place to snack and sip coffee among the locals visiting this place.

Fruits: I love trying local fruits while I am visiting the country. It gives me good insight of the vegetation and natures’ delight in form of fruits. Must try fruits at Cameron highlands are strawberries, langsat, red and white guavas (jambu batu), rose apple (jambu merah), and love fruit which I shopped at the Kea farm market

SLEEP

There are tons of budget hotels and BnBs in Tanha Rata, Cameron Highlands. Just take a walk in the area and try your luck at multiple inexpensive stays. As most of these places either shut or change names so its difficult to keep track of them by their names. For stay options on a little expensive side (which isn’t really very expensive either) try Copthorne Hotel, Century Pines Resort, and Lakehouse Hotel. I really liked some Airbnb options such as this, this, and this.

We stayed in Farm View apartment which is hosted by Dennis Hong and I must say it was a delight staying at this Airbnb. The house is really amazing with lovely farm view. The house had all possible things available for tourist to live in comfortably. Dennis has a really interesting way of handing over the keys to its customer and I stop at that for you to experience it yourself, if you happen to stay here.

Tip: While selecting the stay options you either choose hotels in Tanha rata area which is like the main area to hang out and spend evenings or hotels in Brinchang area which is closer to tea estates and peaks and really quiet area. As the distance between the two is almost about 5kms, both areas give a little different feel.

Best season: Since Cameron Highlands is mountainous, its really cool for most of the season. To enjoy cool breezy weather January to April is a good time and to enjoy sunny weather May to July is a good time. Spetember onwards there are heavy rainfall making the temperature dip even below 10C during night – having said that flora and fauna is at its best during this time.

Here’s a little virtual tour of our trip along with the tourist map:

Hat, simple sandal and map is all I need

Elevated roads and green all around

Beautiful cacti

Akhil being silly at the cactus farm

A table for two

Lavender farm

View of Boh Tea Plantation – till your eyes can see

Vibrant butterfly

View from Gunung Brinchang peak at 6666ft – those are clouds

Waiting for clouds to touch my face

Mossy forest

Enjoying footpath golf outside a cafe

Street food at Kea farm market

Strawberry farm just took it all literally

Check out other posts on our Malaysia tour.