As one of the oldest rainforests in the world, there is plenty to see and do in Taman Negara. The wealth of wildlife on show includes monkeys, monitor lizards, elephants, leopards and tapir, whilst there are waterfalls and canopy walkways as well. For your best chance of seeing some of the really rare large animals you are best off staying in an overnight hide, which is an experience in itself.
There are also opportunities to take three or four-day boat expeditions deep into the thick jungle. But many people are content simply to do some mild trekking and soak up the atmosphere of the rainforest for a while.
Jungle treks of different lengths are available with some lasting up to nine days. Of course, these require considerable preparation and a basic level of physical fitness. Although an intensely challenging activity in Taman Negara, these provide the most authentic jungle experience. But remember that guides must be taken for all overnight treks.
Travelling upstream on the Sungai Tembeling from Kuala Tahan is great fun as seven sets of rapids must be negotiated, ensuring everyone on board gets thoroughly soaked. There are also videos on indigenous wildlife put on at the rangers camp.
Recommended Taman Negara sightseeing
Lata Berkoh Waterfall
A lovely spot for swimming in a deep pool of cool, clear water below a cascading waterfall. There are also bulbul birds, eagles, kingfishers and monitor lizards in the surrounds. Lata Berkoh can be reached by boat from Kuala Tahan for RM80 each way for a boat of four people. But it is perfectly easy to walk there and arrange for a boat to pick you up later in the day.
The trail starts at the campsite and leads for eight kilometres past Lubok Lesong campsite and over steep ridges until you reach the river. After crossing you must travel up the opposite bank until reaching the waterfall. The ride back is itself a unique experience as your boatman can turn off the engine and just drift back down listening to the deafening silence of the jungle and watching out for wildlife.
Kelah Fish Sanctuary
The Kelah fish is traditional foodstuff of local people and an absolutely delicious one at that. Particularly delicious when lightly steamed, it is possible to feed these fish with food purchased from the rangers. Visitors can stand in pools and feel them nibbling at their feet. (Half way from Kuala Tahan to Lata Berkoh)
Although staying in a hide does not guarantee sightings of leopards, lizards, tapir, elephants, wild ox or deer, even if you do not encounter any the sound of the jungle is sure to be experience enough. Hides are extremely basic with bunk beds but raised from the ground so you won’t get any nasty insects biting in the night. There are no cooking or washing facilities or electricity to prepare yourself well and bring everything required including water and a torch.
This trek is relatively easy until you reach the foot of the hill when it suddenly becomes a moderate scramble with tree roots and ropes. But there are great opportunities to spot all manner of creatures including wild hog, scorpions and rare birds.
Sample the sap of the native Seranti tree that tastes similar to cola. The views at the top are worth the effort as you can see most of the stunning national park laid out before you. (website: www.tamannegara.asia)
This is the longest suspension bridge in the world measuring 530m and at a height of 25-40m from the jungle floor. The aluminium walkway is a thrilling experience and a real adrenalin rush with different monkey species swinging freely through the canopy before your eyes. It takes half-an-hour to cross during which you can observe rich and diverse flora and fauna from the summit of the forest.
Orang Asli Settlements
The name Orang Asli means ‘original people’ in Malay and these nomadic communities have inhabited the jungles of Taman Negara for centuries. Their settlements are are real eye-opener into the life of Southeast Asian indigenous tribes. Some settlements are only accessible by boat and best reached with guides, so ask at the forest headquarters for more information. But it is fascinating to learn how to shoot darts from a blowpipe and harvest the goodness of exotic fruits.
View nocturnal animals through either a night walking or four-wheel-drive safari. Most leave from the Ranger’s headquaters and take around an hour. See flowers which bloom only at night plus water dragons, snakes, fungi that glows in the dark as well as other weird and wonderful creatures. If you only brave the midnight hour for large animals then consider a driven tour. These go through the forest catching glimpses of owls, leopards, otters, lizards, snakes and birds such as kingfishers and hornbills.
Conservative figures say there are around 300 different species of fish in the rivers of Taman Negara and if you want to try to catch some you are best off arriving in the drier months of February to April or June to August. Visitors can only fish in the waters of Sungai Keniam below Kuala Keniam Kecil or Sungai Tahan below Lata Berkoh. Make sure to go with an experienced guide and pay for a permit at the park office which costs RM10.
Gua Teliga or ‘ear cave’ has rock formations that resemble an ear whilst Gua Kepayang and Gua Daun Menari (dancing leaves cave) have limestone outcrops that can be explored plus plenty of creepy crawlies and animals that live within. Gua Telinga or ‘bat cave’ can be reached by crossing the river at KT Restoran and following a three kilometre trail north. Here there are hundreds of small roundleaf and fruit bats plus whip spiders and poisonous toads. Wear sensible shoes and old clothes and bring plenty of water with you.