Taman Negara: the oldest primary rainforest in the world

We were picked up by the Eco Cameron minibus at 8am and made our way winding through the roads to the boat dock at Kuala Tembelling 3 hours later with a toilet break in there too. Our ticket included both the minivan and the boat trip to Taman Negara for 75RM (from the Cameron Highlands). When we arrived at 11.30am we first had to check in for the boat and fill in forms for permits (entrance to the park and for each camera you plan to use in the park). We then had to take these to the national park permits office across the street to pay and get our actual permits (5RM per camera for a photographic license and 1RM park entrance fee per person). Once this was complete all we had to do was wait for the boats which left at 1.30pm. To pass the time and fill our hunger we ate at the restaurant conveniently placed next to the boat office having mediocre rice and chicken (6RM).

Then at 1.30pm, we all made our way down to the small boat dock which looked out onto the vast rainforest river. We took our seats on cushions in the longtail boats with our luggage piled at the front and back of the boats. The 3-hour cruise down the river was incredibly peaceful and scenic and we are glad we got to do it even though it was a slightly more expensive option. Taman Negara national park is the oldest rainforest in the world and is considered to be 130million years old. It is incredibly vast and is home to Malaysian gaur or seladang, sambar deer, barking deer, wild pigs, tapir, elephants, tigers, leopards, sun bears, and the Sumatran rhinoceros. Due to the size of it these large animals are not disturbed by the presence of humans visiting and are very rarely seen. It was fun to look out to the miles of the forest we were passing through and think about what might be hiding in the trees. During our trip though we did spot monkeys, a kingfisher, and water buffalos.

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We arrived in Kuala Tahan, the small village on the opposite side of the river to Taman Negara national park around 4pm. There is an abundance of accommodation here at varying prices for budgets but it is all quite basic. We slogged our way up the steep set of stairs from the jetty to the top of the village, walking down a small back alley where we found Mahsheer bungalows. We had planned to stay in dorms here as they were about 25RM each, however, they were dark, dingy, had only a fan and the main sticking point was that they had no lockers. We could have looked around for better deals but we were so hot from the high humidity we didn’t bother. Instead at Mahsheer, we got our own private bungalow with aircon and a bathroom with a hot shower for 70RM a night between us. Plus we got free breakfast with this. This was useful as there wasn’t much in the town itself for breakfast.

We spent the rest of the day looking around town, this took all of twenty minutes and chilled out. In the town, there were a few minimarts to purchase snacks for whilst people are on treks, places to stay, transport and tour companies offering treks of 1 night or more to different locations in the forest and on the riverfront about 5 restaurants all serving the same sorts of food. In the evening we made our way to one of this floating restaurants where we had basic noodle dishes (6RM). We also bumped into John and Rebecca who we had met on the Cameron Highlands tour and spent some time talking to them about other destinations they had been. We finished off our Captain America film fest in the evening with the latest one.

In the morning we had a very eclectic free breakfast – eggs and chicken noodle dishes set out buffet style, toast with jams, bad coffee that had been boiling away for too long and juice. But it set us up for the day and we didn’t have to think about it. We did not have the money to do a tour as they were expensive even for 1 night. Even with a larger tour it is unlikely that we would have seen any big wildlife anyway. Instead, we planned to explore the forest on our own a bit as there are a few treks at the beginning of the forest suitable for this. Further afield it is recommended to get a guide as the jungle is so large and other tracks are not signposted clearly.

For 1RM we got a small boat across the river to the other side where the entrance to the national park and the start of the treks is. We made our way through the boardwalk to the canopy walkway. This took about 40minutes but it was great to be in a jungle. The trees gave shade however it was still incredibly humid making the stairs up to the start of the canopy walkway hard work for me at least (I don’t like uphill especially not when it’s hot and humid). It was hard to be quiet enough to see small wildlife due to the wooden boardwalk too. However, on our way there we did manage to see macaques and a flying lizard which zoomed straight passed me onto another tree.

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The canopy walkway is the longest in the world. With this title, we were expecting it to be quite good. We paid our 5RM entrance fee and made our way up to the start. It is several bridges netted by rope that go through the tree canopy. Guides man the walkway in places to make sure that there are a good few meters between people as it gets busy. Overall it took about 20-30mins. Despite it not being too busy there were enough people behind us that you did not feel able to really stop to look out over the jungle much. Most of what you could see though was dense jungle canopy rather than anything to really see. You are unlikely to see animals here as it is so noisy due to people talking and the noise of people walking on it. I am glad we didn’t pay any more for it.

As this didn’t take too long we decide to do one of the other treks to Bukit Tereksah viewpoint. This meant heading back up all the stairs to the start of the canopy walkway again as the closest path for it continued from here. After stopping for water and to get air back in my lungs we continued on the path to the viewpoint. This meant ALOT more stairs, – practically the whole way for about 45minutes. We got to a viewpoint (thinking we had made it) where to sat down, caught our breath, ate some snacks and then took some very hot pictures with the viewpoint. We chatted briefly to some other people that had stopped where we realised we had actually not made it to that viewpoint! Another 10-15minutes trek through the jungle and we made it. Our plan had been to do a loop (as it looked like the path went round in one), so we would head down a different way and end up back towards the park entrance. However after talking to some people that had tried to go that way the path was really difficult and they had had to return the other way. So after a few more pictures at this viewpoint, we headed back down the way we had come and then the half hour along the front path to the entrance. By the end we were shattered. We went straight back to our, thankfully, air conditioned bungalow where we had some lunch. After putting out some public trips on Couchsurfing, washing our clothes, sorting out tax and skyping people we went for dinner at the riverside again. This time we went to Mama Chop where we had Kuey Teuw a local noodle dish where flat noodles are in a gravy like sauce. There’s not much to do in th jungle so we watched another movie before trying to go to sleep. This didn’t happen for a while though due to a group of inconsiderate French people drinking, screaming, shouting and running between the bungalows until we went out to ask them to keep it down at about 3am. 

After another mishmash breakfast we took the boat back over to Taman Negara where we did the short 30min trek on another boardwalk to Lubon Simpson which was marked as a swimming spot. When we got there however the water was flowing very fast and it is supposed to have strong currents. It also didn’t look like the most pleasant place to swim so we thought better of it. Instead we saw on maps.me that there looked like there was a path going away from here and then joining one that headed back to the entrance a different way. After about 20-30mins the boardwalk then disappeared and we were on a jungle track having apparently gone past the other path to take us back to the entrance. We walked a bit further and found the leeches! One of them took a liking to the inside of Dave’s shoe and he had to get a stick to try to flick it out. After another 10-15minutes we gave up on the path existing and headed back the way we came as we had no idea how long the path we were on would take or where it went too. We had a good 2 1/2 hour walk in the end as we had to backtrack. We crossed the river and headed straight to one of the restaurants for food. In the afternoon we watched a few bits, figured out how to get to our next location and booked accommodation there. We also worked a bit on blogs whilst there was a heavy rainstorm outside. In lighter rain we made our way to a restaurant for food before packing and watching another movie.

In the morning we had our final breakfast sticking mainly to toast, jam and juice at this point, finished packing and made our way to where the minimarts were. We picked up some snacks before boarding the local bus (now just filled with Backpackers) to Jeranut at 10am for 7RM each (the bus also goes 7:30am, 3pm and 7pm). It took about 1 1/2 hours arriving at 11.30am. This dropped us right at the long distance bus in Jeranut for which there were several destinations you could get too, booking your tickets at the office there. Instead of most people that were heading to Kuala Lumpur we were heading to Kuantan. The next bus to Kuantan wasn’t until 2.30pm as we had just missed one (17.60RM with transnational). So we grabbed lunch at the KFC nearby and chilled out in the bus station until our coach arrived for the 3hour bus ride.

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Alex

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