Taman Negara, Malaysia - The world's oldest rainforest.
The Taman Negara Forest is probably one of the world's oldest troical rainforests, estimated to be about 130 million years old. Located in Peninsula Malaysia, it straddles the borders of the states of Kelantan, Pahang and Trengganu, covering a total area of 4,343 square kilometres.
Dating back to 1925, the tropical jungle was designated by legislation as the Gunung Tahan Game Reserve. In 1939, the three sultans of the above-mentioned states jointly declared the Game Reserve a national park and renamed it the King George V National Park. Following Malaysia's independence from the British in 1957, the park was officially named Taman Negara.
FLORA AND FAUNA
Imagine a pair of Pied Hornbills flying pass in front of you during your breakfast! No kidding, that was what I had experienced during one of my stays there.
Over 350 bird species are found in Taman Negara - Crested Fireback Pheasant, Black-caped Kingfisher, and Bronzed Drongo, just to name a few.
Mammals like Barking Deer, Wild Boar, Long-tailed Macaques, Sambar Deer, and also reptile like the over one metre long Water Monitor, are what I had witnessed.
The rich forest and riverine vegetation fill the National Park with green. Pterocymbium Javanicum is also known as Mata Lembu, which in Malay means cow eyes, because the bark resembles the eyes of a cow. Tualang Koompassia excelsa is the tallest tree in Asia with a maximum height of 85 metres when fully grown. The Tualang is supported by huge buttress roots. The juice of the Damar Tree can be refined into latex and used for repairing boats and furniture. The list continues .....
For beginners for bird watching, this handy bird guide is worth considered: "A Photographic Guide to Birds of Penninsular Malaysia and Singapore", written by G.W.H. Davison and Chew Yen Fook and published by New Holland (Publishers) Ltd. (ISBN 1 85368 513 5). I am lucky to receive my copy as a gift from Dr. Davison, one of the authors!
The Park Management and the Official Resort together provide comprehensive facilities for different kinds of visitors - from young school kids to serious hikers and birdwatchers.
You will walk most of the time. But to save your time between sites, "long-boats" will be your main and only transport. For traveling on the main Tembling River, you will take a 14-seater long-boat. For surfing along the narrower and shallower branch rivers, a 4-seater long-boat will be most suitable. Both types are equipped with engines. Larger boats have a built-in sun-proof shelter.
The Taman Negara Resort (often called the Headquarters) is the main official resort of the National Park. It provides over 100 rooms in three categories (hostel, guesthouse, and chalets), many campsites, a cafeteria, a restaurant-and-bar, a mini-store, an information center, a library, conference rooms, and a stage for special performance! It is also where you can find licensed tour guides to lead your adventures. Most activities start off from the Headquarters.
Nusa Camp is another facility, which contains 16 rooms and 10 hostels.
Along the main Tembling River, you may also find locals offering accommodations. The major pro is the lower cost, but the con is the distance to the Headquarters.
Eating is cheap and convenient. A buffet dinner at the Resort restaurant costs about RM50. A plate of fired noodle at the cafeteria costs less than RM10. There are floating-restaurants run by the local people and offering typical simple Malaysian dishes, which are definitely worth a try. The last resort is to get your snacks, instance noodles, drinks and ice-bars from the mini-store.
For general visitors, a two-night trip will allow a fair view to the National Park. Some 'must-go' sites include:
The longest canopy walkway in Asia. With twenty-five meters above the ground, you will be almost riding on top of the forest.
Among the many hiking trails going up the slopes, Bukit Terasek is one of the excellent stopping points to view the spectacle of the Tahan River.
THE BAT CAVE
Gua Telinga, also called the Ear Cave, is one of the many caves in Taman Negara, which is only 20 minutes boat ride, plus 20 minutes walk from the Headquarters. Inside the cave it is dark and slippy, and live with hundreds of Large-nosed Fruit Bats.. Not necessary a nimble climber, but you will need a torch and your gut! With luck, you may see cave racers and some huge frog. Surely you will regret if this site is missed.
Suggest to leave it as the last spot where you can enjoy a relax swim on the natural swimming pools and let the water falls to do you a massage. A place to wash your sweat and mud, and emboss the final memorials onto your travel album.
Stay quietly at one of the observation hides during the dawn and the dusk, you may see batches of animals coming for fresh water on the plain.
NIGHT JUNGLE WALK
An experienced and licensed guide will take you to the jungle in the late evening. With patient, you may find grow-warms, grow-plants, spiders, scorpions and others.
HOW TO GO
Until year 2000, the only route for general visitors to reach Taman Negara Resort is to take a 3-hour long-boat ride from the Jerantut jetty. There are long-boats departing both sides at 9:00am and 2:00pm daily. DON'T FORGET to book your return transportant in advance.
It is not difficult to find local travel agencies or arrangements from the hotels to take you from Kuala Lumpur to the Jerantut jetty by road. The journey takes 3 to 4 hours. So, either depart KL in the morning to catch the afternoon long-boat, or stay overnight at Jerantut and catch the morning long-boat. Jerantut is a nice small town and the major stopover for Taman Negara travellers.
Strongly recommend to book your accommodations in advance. A group of school kids may occupy half of the rooms at the Headquarters.
Visit the official website of Taman Negara Resort or contact Nusa Camp (Tel: (09) 266 2369 Fax: (09) 266 4369) for further information.
ONE LAST WORD
I have been several times to Taman Negara. For every time the place was the same, fortunately, but the feeling was different - more grasps to everything. I can never forget the moment during one of the trips when we were going downstream along the Tahan River:
It was the end of the day. The boatman switched off the engine, allowed the long-boat to float freely down the stream. We laid down on the boat, watching the backward moving trees, and listing to the bird calls. Occasionally, there were kingfishers dripped into the water for their fishes, and Water Monitors raised their head for curiosity. What a harmony!
Back to the place we live, I wonder how rude human has been to our counterparts in the nature!
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