Taman Negara – A nature lover’s paradise

If you are a nature lover Taman Negara is a must stop for you in Malaysia. It is often reputed to be the oldest rainforest on earth, dating back about 130 million years, and enormous covering 4343 square kilometers. It actually spans three states in Peninsula Malaysia- Kelantan, Terengganu and Pahang. In the local language (Bahasa Malaysia) Taman Negara simply means national park. It was declared a protected reserve in 1939.

You can reach Taman Negara by booking with a tour operator or by using public transport from Kuala Lumpur. From Jerantut in Pahang the Kuala Tembling Jetty is just 10 km away and where you pay for park permits, camera permits and even angling. It’s also the starting point for access to the national park which is undertaken by boat.

Entrance of the Taman Negara National Park, Malaysia.

Entrance of the Taman Negara National Park, Malaysia. Pic: Eigenes Werk, Wikimedia Commons.

There is some accommodation available inside the park but there are more options across theTembelingRiver that range right from budget through to luxury. If you choose to stay in this area you will need to take water taxis to get you inside the park. Lots of eating places can be found on this side of the river including small floating restaurants and night markets.

The jungle is host to many species. Expect to see plenty of wild boar, sambar deer, stick insects, snakes and scorpions. The big game includes Indochinese tigers, Asian elephant, gaurs and rhinoceros. If you have been to a national park before you will know about the patience required for big game sightings. Animals don’t operate on a schedule to please tourists and you will need persistence and some luck so factor in a few days and a variety of experiences for best results. Taman Negara is also a bird watcher’s paradise. Hornbills, woodpeckers and babblers are commonly found here among many other rare species.

There are numerous activities available inside the park to suit every kind of adventure level. The boat rides that take you into the park are interesting in themselves, but you can also take a ride to Lata Berkoh Cascades along theTahanRiver. If you take a camera remember that they don’t mix well with water so make sure your camera gear is well protected. The boat ride is very scenic and you can even take a dip in the pools. Here the undercurrent can be quite strong in places so exercise caution at all times and heed your guide/boatman’s advice.

If you love to walk, like me, Taman Negara is the place for you. The canopy walks are a unique way to experience the rainforest from suspended bridges built 40m above the ground. The walks are popular and there is a limit to the number of people allowed on the bridge at one time so you may have to wait your turn. The forest guides also ask you maintain a reasonable distance from the next person – for this reason photography is not easy.

Canopy Walkway in the Taman Negara National Park.

Canopy Walkway in the Taman Negara National Park. Pic: Eigenes Werk, Wikimedia Commons.

Night walks in the jungle is also possible and starts from the main entrance so if you are staying across the river you need to take a water taxi. The walk is ideal for observing nocturnal creatures and their behavior at night. It is also quite thrilling to walk in the jungle at night.

Another really good trek is the one up to Bukit Teresek (334m) or Teresek Hill where you can get fantastic panoramic views of the park. If you have trekked in the Alps or the Himalayasthe trek might not feel that high, but it can still prove to be a little tougher than imagined because of the high temperatures and humidity inside the forest. The scenery along the way will help you keep your mind away from the leeches too – you might see wild pigs and numerous birds along the way.

One of the more adventurous treks in Taman Negara; the river crossing near Kuala Juram on the way to Gunung Tahan.

One of the more adventurous treks in Taman Negara; the river crossing near Kuala Juram on the way to Gunung Tahan. Pic: Shaiful Azman Bin Abdul Rahim, Wikimedia Commons.

Those that like to get their pulses racing should try the caving opportunities inside Taman Negara. To do this take a river ride along the TembelingRiverand take the jungle path to the caves at Gua Telinga (EarCave). This cave is carved out of a limestone outcrop in the shape of an ear. Inside are ancient drawings, round leaf bats and plenty of damp, dark corners.

Those that don’t mind overnighting in the jungle can also inquire about staying in one of the jungle hides where you can spend the night in safety and hopefully glimpse some wild animals. One of the most popular is at Bumbun Tabing.

Finally a trip to Taman Negara should also include a visit to the Orang Asli settlement, where the native peoples of Malay live. You do need a guide to enter the settlements but it’s fascinating to see how these nomadic groups sustain themselves and live off the jungle.

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