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THE BACKPACKSTERS

Visiting the Oldest Rainforest in the World

Its always been our dream to visit the Amazon in South America - after all its the largest rainforests in the world and is home to some serious wildlife! But when we live on the other side of the world, its becomes a very expensive dream! But thats when we found this:

 

The Taman Negara National Park, Malaysia

 

 

The Rainforest of Taman Negara National Park is the OLDEST in the world at 130 million years - so it predates the Amazon which is only about 55 million years old! Amazing right? Walking inside the forest, even if its just a couple of hundred feet, clearly becomes overwhelming - it is that powerful and magnanimous! Exploring it can become difficult if you don't go well prepared for how much you may need to walk and climb! But fret not - we've got pointers on how you can explore it and what to expect!

 

 

The sheer quantum of greenery is overwhelming!

 

 

Located in the centre of Peninsular Malaysia, the National Park is about 250 km from Kuala Lampur. The Forest is home to an incredible number of plants and animals, some of which are quite rare: the Malayan Tiger, Peacock-peasant, Asian Elephants, etc.In fact, the park is also home to the Gunung Pahan mountain, the tallest peak in the peninsula. Here, campers can consider scaling it, over a multi-day trek!

 

 

The first rays of sunshine through the forest canopy, after the mist had subsided

 

 

It also helps that everything here is incredibly cheap - thanks to the Malay government keeping a good watch on preserving the rainforest, whilst promoting it as a Ecotourism destination. Besides, the number of visitors here, are far lower than what you'd expect to see! So if you're considering a trip to Malaysia, why not add this amazing rainforest to the itinerary?

 

Activities in Taman Negara:

  • The park entry tickets are very fairly priced:
    Entry: MYR 2 (INR 38 or USD 0.6)
    Camera tickets: MYR 5 (INR 95 or USD 1.4)
     

 

Exploring the rainforest from another perspective - the Canopy Walk!

 

 

  • There are many activities (paid and free) that you can do inside Taman Negara, like:
    • Canopy Walk (must-do)
    • Trek to Teresek Hill (takes 1 hour to get there on foot, from the Park centre)
    • Explore the Swamp Loop and the Forest Loop
    • Speed boating on the Tahan river (there are rapids further up stream to enjoy)
    • Swimming in Lubuk Simpon (the most easily accessible watering hole in the forest)
    • Night safaris (check with your hotel/local agencies in Kuala Tahan for timings)
    • Wildlife spotting and bird watching
    • Visiting the Orang Asli village
    • Multi-day treks in the forest (with experienced guides) and trekking Gunung Pahan (highest peak)
    • Cave explorations and so much more!


       

Somewhere in the path to Teresek Hill

 

 

  • Although it is quite strenuous to walk inside the forest in the heat and humidity, we felt that's very important to experiencing what a real tropical rainforest is like! 
    It is possible to take ferry rides along the river to the Canopy Walk and Lubuk Simpon too, in case you don't want to walk about the trails.
     
  • Our suggestion:
    This was the path we chose and we're so thankful that we did not do it the other way around:
    Park centre - Swamp Loop - Tahan Hide - Canopy walk (30 minutes activity) - Teresek Hill - Tabing Hide** - Lubuk Simpon - Forest Loop - Park centre
    (and then take the boat further up to the rapids/other waterholes)

    **The path from Teresek Hill to Tabing Hide may look challenging; it is a harder route indeed as the forest boardwalks are only built to the Canopy walkway and to some extent, to Teresek Hill. Yet, there is a charm in taking the path less travelled - it's exciting, calm and feels like you are heading deep into the forest. It's not uncommon to spot some animals or even some carnivorous plants on this trail and beyond (ask your guide in Kuala Tahan). If you go deeper into the forest, you can even chance upon a Rafflesia in full bloom, the largest flower known to the world!

 

 

The map of Taman Negara at the Park's main entrance

 

 

Here are a few other pointers to keep in mind while exploring Taman Negara:

 

Getting to Taman Negara (Kuala Tahan):

  • Kuala Tahan is a small village on the southern banks of the Tahan river.
    All visitors to the park enter from a gate at the river crossing there - the ferry ride to cross the river costs MYR 2 (INR 38 or USD 0.6)

     

Misty mornings at the Kuala Tahan-Taman Negara crossing

 

  • From Kuala Lampur, there are multiple options to get to Kuala Tahan:
     
    • By car:
      This is by far the easiest, even if you are renting a car from the airport.
      Google maps works well, and the roads are super smooth all the way to Kuala Tahan.
      It takes about 4 hours to make this journey and there are multiple rest stops and restaurants on the highways.
      The most ideal route is to drive eastward to Temerloh, and then turn northwards to Jerantut; from Jerantut, its all country side roads (which are still pretty good) for one hour.
       
    • By Train:
      From KL, there are a number of intercity trains (including one express train) to Jerantut railway station. 
      Jerantut to Kuala Tahan can be done by taxi (MYR 70) or public bus (MYR 7) or see Ferry below

       
    • By Bus:
      Buses ply to Kuala Tahan (direct, private) from KL - in fact, some hotels in Kuala Tahan even provide this with a room reservation, as an add-on 
      Another alternative is to take a public bus to Temerloh or Jerantut - about 3 hours of ride time
      Then take the one-hour public bus for MYR 7 as suggested above.
       
    • By Ferry: 
      From Kuala Tembeling, hire a boat to get to Kuala Tahan, which is further up stream on the Tahan river
      The 2.5 hour ride costs about MYR 40
      It passes through the riverine villages that dot the banks and is an activity in itself!
       

 

The Jerantut-Kuala Tahan stretch: palm plantations on either side!

 

 

  • Our suggestion is to just rent a car and head out to Kuala Tahan - make a fun road trip out of it! 

 

 

Where to stay in Kuala Tahan / Taman Negara:

  • There are very few hotels and hostels in Kuala Tahan, but that's okay - you wouldn't see too many visitors there compared to other tourist spots in the country
  • We stayed at the Fatehah Inn (also called Tahan Guest House) and spent only one night there.
    Parking was available for our rental car too.
    We woke up at 6:30 to get ready and cross in to the Forest by 7:30 am, the opening hour.
    Look up these hostels here, and score a friendly Backpacksters discount!
  • A private room costs about MYR 70 (about INR 1,350 or USD 20) 
  • If you are looking for something more exclusive, book yourself a stay at the Mutiara resort (here)

 

 

The cabins at Mutiara, inside Taman Negara

 

 

What to eat in Kuala Tahan / Taman Negara:

  • There are a number of cafes and restaurants that offer Malay, Chinese, Indian, Western cuisines.
  • Vegetarian food is not too hard to find, and the food is actually incredibly cheap!
    We feasted on a full serving of Fried Rice for MYR 5 (INR 85) only - and street food here is not unsafe.
  • There are a few stores in the neighborhood where you can buy snacks and drinks. 

 

 

Aboard one of the many Boat Cafes at Kuala Tahan; the other bank is the entry point to the Park

 

 

Have any more questions? We'd love to answer them!

 

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