Taman Negara, The World’s Oldest Rainforest
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 amazing place which is also conveniently cheaper to visit, to explore and its also even more older.
In this blog post, you’ll find everything you need to know to plan a trip to Taman Negara, the world’s oldest rainforest! Full details on where to stay in Kuala Tahan, what to eat, the best time to visit Taman Negara and most importantly, the options in transport to Taman Negara from Kuala Lampur. Use this as a base to plan your day trips or camping experience in the Malaysian rainforest!
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? In fact, walking inside the forest almost puts you back to that era. There is something there cannot be expressed by words alone.
The Taman Negara rainforest is located in the centre of Peninsular Malaysia. It is about 250 km or 4 hours away from Kuala Lampur. The Forest is home to an incredible number of plants and animals, some of which are quite rare. These include the Malayan Tiger, Peacock-peasant, Asian Elephants, etc.
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! Exploring it can become difficult if you don’t go well prepared. It can get tiring because of the heat, the humidity and the distances. But fret not – we’ve got pointers on how you can explore it and what to expect.
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Activities in Taman Negara Rainforest
To enter Taman Negara forest, these are the fees that you have to pay:
- Entry fees: MYR 2 (INR 38 or USD 0.6)
- Camera fees: MYR 5 (INR 95 or USD 1.4)
There are many paid and free activities 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 in Malaysia)
- Cave explorations and so much more!
Tip: Carry your own food and water inside the forest and bring back the trash. Watch out for leeches near the river!
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! Take ferry rides along the river to the Canopy Walk and Lubuk Simpon if you don’t want to walk on the trails.
Our experience and suggestions
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 as the forest boardwalks are only built till the Canopy walkway and partly, to Teresek Hill. Yet, the forest trail is fascinating, calming and you can feel your animal instinct come alive.
It’s not uncommon to spot some animals or even carnivorous plants on this trail and beyond. Ask your guide in Kuala Tahan. However, if you go deeper into the forest, you can even chance upon a Rafflesia in full bloom. It is the largest flower known to the world!
It also helps that everything here is incredibly cheap – thanks to the Malay government keeping a good watch on preserving the rainforest and promoting it as an 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, make sure to add this to your itinerary.
Tip: Make sure to visit the Canopy walk as early as possible. Check timings with the ticket office. The queues get longer through the day at the starting point of the walk.
How to get to Taman Negara
Kuala Tahan is a small village on the southern banks of the Tahan river. The forest begins on the northern bank. All visitors to the national park enter from a gate at the river crossing at Kuala Tahan. The ferry ride to cross the river costs MYR 2 (INR 38 or USD 0.6).
From Kuala Lampur, there are multiple ways to get to Kuala Tahan.
1. 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. The drive is 4 hours and there are multiple rest stops and restaurants on the highways. The best route is to drive east to Temerloh and then turn north to Jerantut. Enjoy the countryside road from Jerantut to Kuala Tahan.
2. By Train: There are many intercity trains (including one express train) from Kuala Lampur to Jerantut railway station. Take a taxi (MYR 70) or public bus (MYR 7) from Jerantut to Kuala Tahan. See Ferry below for another option.
3. By Bus: Take a bus from Kuala Lampur to Kuala Tahan (direct/private). Some hotels in Kuala Tahan provide transfers from Kuala Lampur with a room reservation if you book ahead. Another alternative is to take a public bus to Temerloh or Jerantut – about 3 hours of ride time – and then take the one-hour public bus for MYR 7. Find tickets here.
4. By Ferry: Hire a boat from From Kuala Tembeling to Kuala Tahan. The 2.5 hour ride costs about MYR 40 and takes you upstream to the forest. It passes through many riverine villages that dot the banks.
Where to stay in Kuala Tahan / Taman Negara
There are very few hotels and hostels in Kuala Tahan. A bed at a hostel costs MYR 15 (USD 4 or INR 270) per night while private rooms are available from MYR 40 (USD 9 or INR 700) per night.
We stayed at the Fatehah Inn (also called Tahan Guest House) and spent one night there. Parking was available for our rental car too. It was a five minute walk to the river crossing. We entered the forest 7:30 am. Stay at the Mutiara resort inside the forest if your budget allows.
Check out all accommodations in Kuala Tahan here
Where to eat in Kuala Tahan
There are many cafes and restaurants that offer Malay, Chinese, Indian and Western cuisines. Vegetarian food is easily available. Although the food is cheap the street food stalls are perfectly safe to eat at. We feasted on a full serving of vegetarian Fried Rice for MYR 5 (USD 1.1 or INR 85). There are two shops to buy snacks and water.
Tip: After the forest hike, chill out on one of the Boat Cafes at Kuala Tahan. The fresh fruit juices are really good!
Best time to visit Taman Negara
Visit between April to August, which are the months with lesser rainfall. We visited in early September and enjoyed the wet and humid weather of this wild forest. In fact, we experienced our scariest thunderstorm that night as the roof shook!
How many days to spend in the forest / Kuala Tahan
Spend at least one night in Kuala Tahan so that you can get the best of the rainforest experience. You can do an evening walk or a night safari on the first evening and do the full trail the next day. If you want to camp in the forest, the official itineraries are available with tour organisers in Kuala Tahan. You can camp for 1 night to 14 nights depending on your comfort, experience and budget as these are guided tours only.
Read more about camping in Taman Negara here.
From Taman Negara, you can either head back to Kuala Lampur or drive on to the Perhentian Islands on the east coast. Many operators offer shared and private transfers to Perhentian Islands. Towards the west, you can visit the valleys of Cameron Highlands! This is the coolest region of Malaysia with sweater weather in an otherwise tropical country. Cameron Highlands has a forest too, except its nothing like this one. Check out this post on Cameron Highlands and the Mossy Forest.
If you want to visit a similar forest in Vietnam, consider visiting the Tra Su Forest in the Mekong Delta.
If you have more questions or want to explore a destination with us, write to us!
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Shishira & Navneeth