Taman Negara, the oldest rainforest in the world, provides an opportunity to see a protected rainforest in Malaysia not far from the city of Kuala Lumpur. Use this guide to feel prepared on how to get there, what to bring, where to stay, some activities to do, my trip highlights and what you can expect from jungle trekking in the deep rainforest of Taman Negara.
Hiking Taman Negara was a last-minute decision through a Facebook post from a company advertising their 2 day / 1 night trekking trip through the jungle. I have done lots of hiking around Malaysia but what appealed to me most was the overnight stay in a cave and bringing everything we needed in and leaving nothing behind! Four of us booked the trip that was part of a larger group of 12 hikers and 1 guide. It was a great experience and I would say it is a not to be missed chance to see the oldest rainforest in the world!
Taman Negara National Park is situated in Peninsular Malaysia about 230km from the city center of Kuala Lumpur. It is a vast park that boasts being 130 million years old! This protected national park in Malaysia is North East of Kuala Lumpur spans 3 states including Pahang, Kelantan & Terengganu.
Taman Negara is home to some very interesting animals including the Malayan Tiger and the Indian Elephant. Although it is difficult to see these animals as there are not many of them and the park is so vast, you will more than likely see their evidence including footprints and dung. Other animals include the crab-eating Macaque and the Malayan gaur (which is also called an Indian Bison). Of course, you will find many other living species too many to list including various species of insects, birds and fish.
In addition to the park being the main attraction, there are some geological and biological attractions in the park that include Gunung Tahan which is the highest point of the Malay Peninsula. This mountain can be climbed via Kuala Tahan, the main entrance to the rainforest.
HOW TO GET THERE
Arriving to Kuala Tahan by car is probably the most direct and easiest way to find yourself at the national park entrance. From Kuala Lumpur it is about a 3 and a quarter-hour drive if you take the toll highway, Otherwise, you are looking at a much longer trip of over 4 hours. It would be advisable to leave Kuala Lumpur early in the morning, around 4am to arrive at a reasonable time to get breakfast and begin your activities at a time of day that is not so hot. Alternatively, you could drive up the night before and stay in one of the guest houses or hotels nearby.
Arriving by bus is another popular option. The closest town to Kuala Tahan is Jerantut and this is where you would take the bus to if coming from Kuala Lumpur. From Jerantut you can get a mini bus that will take you directly to Kuala Tahan or you can get a bus to Kuala Tembeling and then a boat to Kuala Tahan. The ferry takes about 3 hours from Tembeling.
After arriving in Jerantut
WHERE TO STAY
There is ample accommodation in the town of Kuala Tahan and you can find good prices for your few days, depending on how long you are staying. All you need to do is walk down to the jetty / floating restaurants and you can get a boat for 1 rm (around 25c) that will take you across to the entrance of Taman Negara National Park. Altogether there are less than 30 properties with everything from a resort to a dormitory.
Jerantut Homestay – If you are looking for basic accommodation, then consider Jerantut Homestay. It is a 5 bedroom house that is clean and comfortable and even has air-conditioning. You can get a room here for around 60rm ($13usd) and you will feel like you are at home away from home.
Hana Guest House – A great option with really strong reviews across hotel search engines and Tripadvisor. Hana Guest House is known for its comfort and location. The owner, Razali is very friendly and they have fast wifi and free coffee & tea! You can get a room for about 138rm ($32usd) but they have other options and prices will depend on the season.
Balai Serama Guest House – This is a higher-end option and provides some additional comforts. The downside is that it is a little bit outside the town but there is a driver that can bring you in. Also, dinner is included and the reviews say that it is worth staying there just for the food!
WHAT TO DO
Taman Negara National Park offers visitors a multitude of things to do. There are a couple of ways to visit the rainforest and enjoy the surroundings. Many people come and stay in Kuala Tahan and do day trips and local activities around the jetty town. The more adventurous hikers will book longer trekking trips into the jungle with many staying overnight in various kinds of shelters and accommodations. Don’t expect the inside of Taman Negara to have a hotel – when I saw accommodation, I mean caves, tents and raised bungalows with very basic facilities.
Here are some of the highlights regardless of how you decide to visit Taman Negara National Park:
1. Taman Negara Canopy Walk
Probably the most popular thing to do near to Kuala Tahan is the Canopy Walk. Be sure that you are prepared for potentially long lines as if it is a weekend there will undoubtedly be many people waiting to walk the canopy. This canopy walk sets another world record as the longest canopy walk in the world! At 45m high and 510m in length, the canopy has some fantastic views of the flora and fauna below and you will not be disappointed if you love being in nature and having great views of the oldest rainforest in the world.
Opening Hours: Saturday – Thursday: 11am – 3pm, Friday: 9am – 12pm (this is probably due to Friday prayers)
Prices: Adults 5rm ($1usd), Children 3rm ($0.75usd)
2. Jungle Trekking
Why else did you come to Taman Negara National Park? There are many kinds of jungle treks and you can book your tour & guide with one of the many tour operators in Kuala Tahan. You can trek for a few hours or you can trek for up to 9 days. Longer treks obviously take more preparation. Walking through such an old and preserved jungle is an incredible experience. One thing that people often forget to do when trekking is to stop and take a moment to listen to the sounds, appreciate the colors and light coming through the canopy and consider the beauty that you are walking through. This rainforest is special and something to be remembered, not only through photos.
Trekking through the Taman Negara Rainforest is the highlight of being in the National Park. You will cross rivers, climb over fallen trees, crawl under branches and tree trunks and use all those leg muscles to maneuver your way through unstable terrain full of rocks, natural streams and mud (depending on the season and amount of rainfall!). Trails have been crossed for many years and so you will not have great difficulty climbing around and finding your way. There are a few crossroads and this is where your guide will come in handy to point you in the right direction.
Along the trail you can see a variety of flora and plant life. Ask your guide to point out things of interest or names of trees and birds if that is something you are interested in. While walking, pay attention to the footprints of the some of the rainforests larger animals such as the tiger and the elephant. You may even see mud on the side of the tree trunks from when elephants have crossed and rubbed their bodies against them. To think that you are walking through such a diverse ecosystem that is full of life is quite amazing!
Remember to bring lots of water with you, but you can always fill up on one of the clear streams that you pass as the water is drinkable.INTERESTING FACT! : If you spot a water strider on the surface of the water, you can be sure that the water is drinkable for humans!
3. Cave Exploration
Cave Exploration is an interesting thing to do if you are interested in caves. Gua Telinga (Ear Cave) is a cave in the formation of an ear and located about 2.6 km from the national park HQ. It is believed to be currently closed for an indefinite amount of time for safety reasons at the time of this published article. Alternatively, you can overnight in Gua Kepayang Besar which is a few hours trek away and will not disappoint. This cave is a popular cave for spending the night and trekking back on the following day.
The cave is home to a few different animals including fruit bats, porcupines & jungle frogs – don’t leave your food out or one of those creatures will be sure to eat it while you are sleeping. The cave temperature drops at night and can get quite cool so make sure to bring a set of warmer clothes like a sweater. Your guide will light a fire and you will all help to cook the food for the evening and it will be delicious as you have burned a lot of calories to get there!
In the quiet of the night, you will fall asleep to the sounds of silence with water dropping, fire crackling, wild animal noises (if you’re lucky) and insects chirping! Once awake in the morning, you will be able to enjoy the morning sun rays beaming in from outside – get your camera ready! One packed up, you will begin your 2nd day of trekking making sure to leave nothing behind ready for the next group that evening. The cave was the absolute highlight of my trip into the Taman Negara Rainforest.
4. Orang Asli Settlements
Orang Asli in Malay means “original people”. These are the first people, the aboriginals and the people who live off of the land in many areas of Malaysia. There are 2 groups of Orang Asli in this area, the Batek & the Semokberi people. They live in their own way and are nomadic, meaning that they move from place to place within Taman Negara. Their movements might be dependent on the season, rainfall, food sources and even if there have been many illnesses as they believe that the land could be contaminated.
You can get up and close and personal with many different groups of Orang Asli people who live in the Taman Negara Rainforest. The younger generation has caused these nomadic people to move closer to the main towns but you can still find them scattered along the river. They are curious about new things and by living closer to the towns they are exposed to a different way of living but they still manage to preserve their way of life and nomadic lifestyle.
Their food sources come from the jungle and they find their protein sources by hunting. Their main instrument for hunting is a bamboo blowpipe and they will demonstrate how to use it and even give you a try at hitting a target! If you visit an Orang Asli visit you will be able to buy small trinkets that they have made and they will show you how to make a fire in a very primitive way. They are kind and curious and enjoy visitors, especially since it is a large source of their income these days.
5. Boat Drive
The boat drive along the Sungai Tembeling river was a fun way to see a vast area of the dense rainforest while relaxing on a covered boat. You can hire one of these drivers at the jetty if you are just interested in a day trip to the jungle but if you are hiking overnight, you will need to take this 2-hour boat drive journey to the start of your trekking. You will encounter fast-moving rapids at various points where it’s highly likely that you will get wet and you can enjoy the wind blowing in your face as you enjoy the scenery in front of you. This is a great way to spend your afternoon or morning before trekking!
I am writing in detail about the main activities that I enjoyed while on this trip. Other possible activities that you could do include:
- Night safari walk
- Climb Bukit Teresek
- Night 4WD Safaris
- Bird Watching
This is only a suggested itinerary and the times are very rough and flexible. How you decide to do this will depend on whether or not you come up the night before or start out early in the morning. There are many possibilities and you will just have to decide what is right for you. I felt that this was a perfect way to spend the weekend without feeling like it was not enough or too much.
WHAT TO PACK
Packing for a trek in Taman Negara National Park is something that you should definitely start considering prior to the night before! If you have forgotten something there are lots of little convenient style shops that sell various items like toiletries and insect repellent. Here is my list of what to bring on a Taman Negara Hike:
Some of these items could be considered optional. This list is also for an overnight trip in the cave, as per my suggested itinerary. Less is more on a trip like this. Take the basics of what you will need and leave enough room for food (if you are spending the night). If you are going with a good company, they will give you a similar packing list with recommendations for what size bag to bring as you will need to bring in shared rations to cover your meals for the 2 days. Also, water is a must, of course, and you will want to bring at least 2-3 Litres once you set out from Kuala Tahan.
SOME HELPFUL TIPS
Here is a list of a few tips from my experience that may help you before you begin this great adventure into the Taman Negara National Park:
This is a dense and wet jungle and there are lots of leeches! Leeches are part of nature and they will most defintely be a part of your hiking experience. Leeches are small slug-like creatures that crawl onto your shoes very quickly looking for blood to suck! I know, gross! Basically they will latch on while you are walking even if you think you are being careful and they will find a way to your skin. You may not even feel it latch on, but when it does, do not try to pull it off. Just let it slowly suck your blood and eventually within a couple of hours it will fall off leaving a small mark but no pain. Either you hate them or you are not bothered but I want to highlight some tips and things to know about leeches.
- You can wear an anti-leech sock which is just basically an oversized sock that goes over your regular sock and long pants. By wearing this, you can spot the leech right away and get it off the sock before it penetrates and bites you!
- Some say the person in the front gets bitten less but in reality, everyone has an equal chance!
- Try to use mosquito repellent on your socks and shoe area as this may help to keep them off of you.
- Bring small packets of salt (From McDonalds) as this and things like tobacco will kill them quicker.
2. Expect rain
It is a rainforest and it will more than likely rain. Expect it to rain and be prepared and if it doesn’t then you are lucky. At least you will be prepared. To prepare for rain, make sure you bring coverings and cases for your valuable items like a phone, or camera. Also, make sure that your hiking bag has some sort of covering for it since this will help to protect against water. Finally, bring an additional raincoat to wear over your clothes as this will help to keep you dry.
3. Pack light
You know the expression “Less is More”? Well, this trip is one of those times when you should really consider taking less than you think you need. Pay attention to the packing list and then try to minimize what you think is needed. Certainly take the required things but you can definitely get away with less clothes and toiletries as you are only going for 1 night! If you are doing day trips then, of course, your day bag will be light and your hike will feel a bit easier since you will not have as much weight on your back to carry around.
4. Bring a good attitude
As with any adventure trip, it is always important to expect the unexpected and be able to “roll with the punches” so to speak. Inevitably there will be issues that arise that were unexpected. Perhaps, someone forgot something important or plans had to change due to heavy rain or unstable terrain. Your guide may not be all that you expected or your group may not all gel well together. It is important to be flexible, bring your best attitude and focus on the positive experiences that you will have as part of this great adventure!
Taman Negara National Park offers travelers an opportunity to experience nature at its best. Not only is this the oldest rainforest in the world but its rich and diverse ecosystem is an unfortunate rarity in today’s day and age with deforestation practices and modernization.
If you are traveling in Malaysia and enjoy being active while on holiday, then Taman Negara National Park will be an unforgettable experience that you should not miss. This would be a great trip to do after spending a few days in Kuala Lumpur and then heading on towards the East or West coast after the hike. Perhaps you will go and visit the beautiful beaches of the Perhentian Islands or you will go and enjoy the historical and cultural city of Penang while enjoying the most delicious food that this wonderful country has to offer.
If you’re like me, and have lived here for several years, visiting Taman Negara will be an experience I will never forget and one that I am very glad that I did before leaving this country.
If you enjoy hiking, you might like to read my post on Hiking Kinabalu Mountain in Malaysia where I show you how to prepare for and what to expect from another incredible hike in Malaysia.
OTHER GREAT ARTICLES ABOUT HIKING IN THE TAMAN NEGARA RAINFOREST
1. Taman Negara National Park, Malaysia by From Here to Nowhere
2. Trekking in Taman Negara by See Her Travel
3. Taman Negara: Visiting Orang Asli, “The Original People” by Green Global Travel
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As always, please leave a comment if you have something to add to this content. Have you ever done jungle trekking before? Have you visited Taman Negara National Park? What did you think?