Taman Negara - One of the World's Oldest Tropical Rainforest

Prehistoric Rainforest in Pahang’s Taman Negara

 

The epitome of a grand adventure, Taman Negara is a treasure trove of flora and fauna waiting to be uncovered. Strap on your trekking boots and explore the rich history of Taman Negara as one of the world's oldest tropical rainforest—older even than the Amazon!

World's Oldest Deciduous Rainforest

Cruising along Tembeling River surrounded by greenery
Cruising Tembeling River

Get in tune with nature and slip on a pair of good hiking shoes, as the wonders of Taman Negara beckons a visit. Taman Negara is one of Malaysia’s most impressive national parks (among the 30 national parks), with a vast area of rainforests, dating back nearly 130 million years (Check out Nat-Geo's Taman Negara: The 130-Million-Year-Old Rainforest). The park presents the perfect refuge for those seeking to escape the hectic quotidian trappings of the city which, as we all know, can be suffocating at times. The distance from Kuala Lumpur to Taman Negara is just three hours away., This rich ecosystem is located at the Titiwangsa Range and was gazetted sometime in 1938-1939 as the King George V National Park before it was renamed post-independence.

The best time to visit the National Park would be between March and September (during the dry season). As it is during the breeding season, you’re more likely to spot birds, fishes, and various other wildlife. Speaking of wildlife, many may not know about Taman Negara’s role as a sanctuary for rare mammals such as the Crab-eating Macaque, Malayan Gaur, Malayan Tiger and Indian Elephant, to name a few. As one of the 12th mega biodiversity areas in the world, Taman Negara is a boon to nature lover as it is one of the most complex and lavish ecosystems on the globe.

If you are planning a trip here soon, remember to get your permits from the Department of Wildlife’s office at Kuala Tembeling before proceeding to any activities in Taman Negara as those without, will not be led into the park. And before you consider exploring Taman Negara on your own, you might want to read The Star: Trekking in Malaysian Jungle Without a Guide Is Not the Brightest Thing I've Ever Done. Luckily, Adventoro has got you covered with our Taman Negara adventure tours, inclusive of an English-speaking guide.

Getting to Taman Negara from Kuala Lumpur

Your journey to Taman Negara is certainly not devoid of fun. With four different entrances to the park itself, it involves embarking on a river boat and travelling by land. “How to go to Taman Negara Pahang, you may find yourself asking. Note that there are four entry points: Kuala Tahan, Sungai Relau, Kuala Koh and Tanjung Mentong; scattered across the states of Pahang, Kelantan and Terengganu.

If your main purpose of the visit is to hike Mount Tahan, you’d best take the west entrance (Sungai Relau – Merapoh). The south entrance (Kuala Tahan – Jerantut), is perhaps the most popular entry point to Taman Negara; you can either take a relaxing perahu (a wooden riverboat) ride via the Tembeling River or drive on countryside roads to the Kuala Tahan Village. Food and accommodation options are abundant as you will very well notice if you travel this way. To make the journey more memorable if you are driving to Taman Negara, opt for the East entrance (Tanjung Mentong – Tasik Kenyir) as you will pass by the scenic Tasik Kenyir—the largest man-made lake in Southeast Asia!

Meeting the Natives - Batek Tribe

Native Batek lady holding her child
Greeting Batek natives

Taman Negara is also a cradle of early civilisation, which adds more colour to the history of Taman Negara. Home to one of five nomadic aboriginal groups, Taman Negara provides enough resources to sustain the Batek people. Just like other Orang Asli (translated as “Original People”), the Batek people learned to hunt game with blowpipes and darts tipped in ara bertih tree sap. The Batek people are generally gentle people living a nomadic lifestyle. Short in stature with dark curly hair, they are dark-skinned and depend largely on forest produce to survive.

Donning on simple clothing, the Batek people love and respect nature; adhering to the philosophy “take little from nature that nature alone cannot heal.” It is possible for you to pay these friendly people a visit on an Orang Asli Settlement tour; this will give you valuable insights about their way of living and culture. They are more than willing to share their intimate and honed skills and knowledge on jungle survival with you if you are willing to spend some time to observe and listen. The Cultural Survival: The Taman Negara Batek - A People in Transition further expounds on the Batek natives.

Journey Deep into the Bowels of Gua Telinga

Gua Telinga with wonderful rock formations
Gua Telinga/Ear Cave - likely the living room of early humans

Gua Telinga—literally translated as Ear Cave in the Malay language—derived its name from its peculiar rock formation, somewhat akin to the shape of an ear. Venturing into the cave would spell wet clothing, and crawling in damp, dark underground passages. Accessible via Tenor Trail, it is merely 2.6km away—a 2-hour trek—from the Wildlife HQ. At first sight, its large caverns may seem disarming but you would soon discover that the paths narrow into absurdly tiny apertures that would require you to get down and dirty.

Before you get all excited about delving into the bowels of Gua Telinga, note—with dismay—that the cave was cordoned off due to a collapse. Fret not, however, as there are other caves to explore! Gua Kepayang and Gua Daun Menari are equally exciting and best of all, available to the public. These caves are definitely worth exploring; its superb limestone outcrops boasts a rich speleological ecosystem—a boon to all spelunkers and nature lovers!

Stand in Awe of the Majestic Gunung Tahan

The view from Mount Tahan
Peak of Mount Tahan

Requiring a four to seven days of an onerous hike, Gunung Tahan is no walk in the park. Touted as the highest mountain in Peninsular Malaysia, it stands at an imposing 2,187m tall, vastly shadowing the expanse that lay before it. Any attempt to summit the mountain should—and it goes without saying—be shepherded by an experienced guide. Make certain that you planned this ahead of time and prepare yourself mentally and physically.

Gunung Tahan is also reputable for being harder than the famous Mount Kinabalu and also Malaysia’s most challenging trek, requiring three days—either way—to reach civilisation. In order to enjoy the sight of sparse montane vegetation and the tough trek, you’d best clock in at least three months worth of endurance training. Remember to check your boots every morning to avoid nasty surprises and check for leeches often while trekking!

Brave Intimidating Heights - Longest Canopy Walkway in the World

High above the canopies on a canopy walkway
At dizzying heights

Often mentioned on travel sites, Taman Negara manages to maintain its essence—unspoiled and undefiled—despite being a tourist hotspot. One of the most popular attraction of Taman Negara is none other than the canopy walk; high in the treetops and living up to the title of being the longest in the world. Not for the faint-hearted, the view from the canopy walkway is breathtaking and rest assured, perfectly safe. Be in awe of the wide range of flora and fauna which are part of a healthy and thriving ecosystem, allowing photo enthusiasts to have a field day and nature lovers to be drunk with happiness.

Embrace Nature & It's Tranquillity

You can take in the Malaysian rainforest from the ground up by embarking on one of the many trails winding through the park. It is best to refer to the map of Taman Negara, for a park covering up to 4,343 square kilometres! Home to countless animals and exotic plants, Taman Negara is seriously the place to be where you shutterbugs will be able to get “National Geographic-like” photographs! Also, the Tualang trees (kompassia excelsea), known as the tallest tree in Southeast Asia, is certainly a sight that cannot be missed.

After working up a sweat, you could always choose to swim at Lubok Simpon, a popular spot for a quick rejuvenating session. Sights of wondrous cascades resembling desktop wallpapers coming to life make the experience even more enriching. Heading deeper into the forest, it does feel safer when you are part of a tour as you can place your trust in one of the local guides but hiking through the park without one is still safe so long as you remain on the path—no less of an adventure, mind you!

Hiking up Bukit Teresek

Monkey resting on buttress roots
Sights en route to Teresek Hill

If you’re thirsty for a light challenge, Bukit Teresek or Teresek Hill would be just right. At only 334m high, it provides a quick adventure; one that is no short of fun! There are two routes—to the east, a sturdy boardwalk along the river offers an easy path; and to the west, a muddy, leech-infested path that requires you to engage your upper body as well, in order to navigate steep climbs.

Along the way, you would come by some Seranti trees, noticeable by the smell in the air. Go ahead and have a taste of the sap as it will surprise you! Once at the top, the view would certainly be worth it—the vast expanse of the National Park provides quite the sight. En route, you may spot rare birds, scorpions and sometimes, wild boars.

Experience the Lata Berkoh Cascade & Rapid Shooting

Appreciating nature on Tembeling River boat cruise
Sit back and enjoy the scenery at the Tembeling River

Aside from land-based adventures, the cooling waters of Latah Berkoh cascade coupled with the exhilarating rapid shooting through seven, thrilling rapids along the Tembeling River makes for a fun-filled, wet adventure. The jewel of Taman Negara, the Lata Berkoh waterfall, is the embodiment of nature’s beauty; a silvery stream bordering the dense rainforest that serves to enchant all travellers who signed up for a river cruise. Taking the longboat for about an hour seems to be the most popular attraction and option as the 8.5 km trek seems uninviting to most. If you are not content with just that, head on over to the Kuala Tahan jetty and partake in the rapid shooting activity to get drenched from head to toe.

An Abundance of Flora & Fauna

The world's largest flower, the Rafflesia
The largest flower in the world - the Rafflesia

In retrospect, Taman Negara is in a league of its own. Its position on the globe spared it the merciless blight of an icy wasteland tens of thousands of years ago; when the rest of the world was covered in immense glaciers during the Ice Ages. Favourable conditions allowed it to sprout into a dense rainforest that it is today—millions of years older than the Amazon rainforest of South America. 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.

Exotic Leopard cat
The exotic Leopard Cat

Check out the rare Leopard Cat can be one of the activities in Taman Negara to be included in your list as it can be found here. Although this small wild feline beauty is native to the South, Southeast and East Asia regions, deforestation and rampant hunting have threatened their existence. Most of them hunt at night and many of them are arboreal—living in trees—and typically feed on smaller prey such as rats, lizards, insects and birds. If you manage to catch one in sight, count yourself lucky as sightings of this rare Leopard Cat is not guaranteed!

Colourful Kingfisher with specks of blue
A vividly coloured Kingfisher

Home to an approximate 350 species of birds, it is no wonder the park is also frequented by avid birdwatchers. The lesser known Merapoh—called the ‘secret entrance’ of Taman Negara—is a haven for two special birds, the Garnet Pitta and Large Frogmouth. The best time to visit Taman Negara would be during the mating season in March as birds would be easily spotted, discernible by their loud mating calls. Some birds to look out for include the gorgeous Rhinoceros Hornbill said to frequent the areas close to the village; the Great Argus, whose mating rituals provide quite the spectacle; Black and Red Broadbill, the rare Malayan Peacock-pheasant and many others.

a shoal of Malaysian mahseer (ikan kelah)
Malaysian Mahseer/Kelah fishes - King of the Malaysian rivers

For keen anglers, Keniam River and Lata Berkoh would certainly delight. Visit anytime in February, March, July and August, and you’d be blessed with an abundance of kelah fishes—Malaysian Mahseer—and ideal river and weather conditions that are perfect for fishing. Get your gears and prepare to engage in battle with the agile kelah fish that can weigh up to 9kg! Your fishing escapades will certainly fill your time at the Park with jubilance and excitement.

Aside from that, sightings of Long Tail Macaques, Dusky Langurs and Sun Bears going about their business. Observing them in their natural habitat is truly a blessing; you will get to enjoy a true jungle experience unlike any other!

The Night Beckons; A Nocturnal Jungle Expedition

For those gifted with an adventurous soul—and most importantly, unafraid of the dark—you may want to experience the jungle walk at night. Certainly a stark contrast to the day adventures, the night is endowed with an ambience that is absent during the day. As you stroll the dark rainforest, scents and sounds become more prominent, filled with the cacophony of nocturnal creatures; intricate sounds that seem to ride the chilly air of the night. For about an hour and a half, you’d be transported to a different realm, one that would keep your eyes darting about and body tensed with vigilance. Do wear long-sleeved tops and pants; remember to put on mosquito repellent to spare yourself the incessant bugging by...well, bugs. No doubt, after the walk, you’d be satisfied enough to turn in for the night at your resort.

Things To Do At Taman Negara

If you’d like to take a shot at being a Nat Geo wildlife photographer, Bumbun Tahan and Bumbun Kumbang—among numerous other—will not disappoint. Just a 15-minute hike away, these hides are perfect for observing animals, from a safe distance within the walls of an observation structure. Facing a salt lick, it is common to see animals, especially deer, wild boars and monitor lizards coming to the lake to get their daily requirement of minerals—somewhat like a clinic for animals!

A trip to Bumbun Tahan is often coupled with the night walk activity as these animals venture under the cover of darkness to minimise risk. Although Bumbun Tahan is not conducive to stay overnight, Bumbun Kumbang, on the hand, comes equipped with a bathroom and can accommodate up to 8 people a night. It is an 11km trek via Sg Tembeling Trail from Kuala Tahan or you can get there quicker by hopping on a boat bound for Kuala Trenggan before trekking for 1.5 hours to Bumbun Kumbang.

After an adventure-filled day, you must be hoping to chow down to some good and comforting food to replenish your used up energy. Malaysian’s passion for food is not limited to just the big cities as the whole country is filled with good food. Lucky for you, deciding on places to eat in Taman Negara should be the last in your list to be worried about. The restaurant menu offers a rich mix of local cuisines, with an affordable price that ranges from RM 2 to RM 30. Although there are four floating restaurants altogether in Kuala Tahan, the Tripadvisor best recommends the Family Restaurant and Taman Negara Floating Restaurant. Expect to be indulged in an unforgettable delicious moments with the scenic view of the jungle and river as the backdrop!

Where To Stay At Taman Negara

To truly explore the park, it is recommended that you spend a few nights here in the hotel or resort in Taman Negara. Catering to even the most finicky traveller, Mutiara Taman Negara Resort offers a range of accommodations from hostels, guest houses and chalets to chalet suites and bungalows catered to your preference. Providing a comfortable and pleasant stay, Mutiara Taman Negara Resort comes equipped with air conditioning, enough to keep the bugs out. Embrace a total digital detox as the resort is sequestered deep within the rainforest; far from the reach of any wifi connection. If you're all about the outdoors, consider camping at the numerous campsites available at the resort for you to fully immerse yourself. However, it is advisable to bring mosquito repellant if you're camping out—there is no harm being extra cautious.

Mutiara Taman Negara // Add: Kuala Tahan, Jerantut, Pahang, Malaysia // Opening Hours: Daily 24 Hours // Contact No: +60 9-266 2200 // Website: http://www.mutiaratamannegara.com/about-us/virtual-tour.htm

In a Nutshell

Your experiences at Taman Negara is truly an enriching one. If you do not have the time to explore other rainforests, this is perhaps the crème de la crème of rainforests. Shutterbugs and nature lovers would definitely get their fill of amazing shots and invigorating greeneries to last awhile! Tormenting your peace of mind and proving to be more annoying than menacing, leeches would certainly be the bane of all the jungle trekking activities. Fortunately, there are leech sprays for you to use but you'd sooner get used to them than having to apply the spray every now and then.

Here’s a checklist of what to bring before you embark on this exhilarating adventure:

  1. Remember to bring a first aid kit with your personal medicine
  2. Carry mosquito repellent, headlamp or flashlight; an umbrella, raincoat or poncho
  3. Do wear anti-leech socks to avoid being beleaguered by slimy gits
  4. Do bring a tripod for your camera to capture images in low light conditions

    If the lure of adventure proves too hard to resist, check out Adventoro’s 4D3N or 3D2N Taman Negara Jungle Experience adventure packages, ensuring you get to enjoy all that Taman Negara has to offer within a limited time frame.

    LEAVE A COMMENT

    Please note, comments must be approved before they are published