Imagine having the opportunity to visit the world’s oldest tropical rainforest. Taman Negara is Malaysia’s largest protected national park, and we were quite excited as we made the trip 60km upriver by longboat to reach the park. For 2 1/2 hours we buzzed along the big river, occassionally spotting birds, more often their nests, and cattle taking an afternoon dip. When we reached the village of Kuala Tahan, we struggled up the hill in the torid afternoon heat to find our guesthouse. We were a bit disappointed when we saw the two lane road. We weren’t as isolated as expected, but we were clearly in the jungle as beads of sweat poured down our backs and mosquitoes buzzed around our heads. Our first two nights, we stayed in a cute little bungalow surrounded by banana trees and tons of tropical flowers, in Kuala Tahan, the village across the river from the park entrance. To get to the entrance, we paid 50 sen (about 10 cents) for a boat to shuttle us across the river, which we would catch from one of the floating restaurants.
Our first day in the park, we set out with a small group (Marcus from Austria, Claudio from Switzerland and Tyrone from England) to do the canopy walk. The canopy walk was a series of 10 rope bridges, connected by 9 wooden platforms, strung between 50-100 feet above the forest floor. We cautiously made our way from bridge to bridge, climbing higher and higher. Rope-walking is definitely and adrenaline sport. When we finished, we did a short, but steep hike, up to a couple of viewpoints,to see the surrounding hills. We were all dripping in sweat by the time we were halfway up, but the views were worth it, and we took an alternative route for the return, which proved to be an obstacle course of it’s own, as we climbed up and down, over tree trunks and across streams. I was exhausted after 4 hours of walking in the heat, so after a big lunch of fried noodles, and a cold shower, I caught an afternoon nap before our “night safari.” We actually had enough time before the sunset, to visit one of the hides (a watchtower built by the park service where you could watch animals in a clearing- they put an artifical salt lick there to attract them.) We went, fully armed with zoom lens, monocular, etc, to watch for animals. In the end, we only saw a couple of wild boars and various birds (including our favorite, the Kingfisher,) but the sounds were amazing. After dinner, we got ready for our night safari at 9pm. 8 of us piled into the back of 4-wheel drive truck, our guide perched herself on the roof with a spotlight, and we headed for a palm plantation. The sensation of being in the middle of this plantation at night was quite cool, but our efforts were not fruitful. Our spottings for the evening included, one leopard cat (about the size of a domestic cat), an owl, a couple of sleeping robins, the backside of another cat and a wicket spider. After 2 hours, our buts were numb and we were completely exhausted, happy to have a cozy bed to return too.
For our 3rd night, we decided to sleep in a hide inside of the park. There we would have a better chance for animal sighting, and we’d actually be sleeping in the jungle. We rented sleeping pads from the camping office, and took our sleep sheets and toothbrushes as well as a picnic dinner. It took us about 2 1/2 hours to get from the park headquarters to BunBun Blau (our hide) and we made a couple of interesting stops along the way. The first was at an Orang Asli village (Orang Aslis are the aboriginal people of Malaysia; there are small tribes,all over the country.) There wasn’t much going on when we arrived, but we later crossed paths with a man who was carrying a spear for hunting and surveying the treetops for dinner. The tip of the spear is covered in a natural poison. I’m glad we didn’t look too tasty. We also visited a cave. From the entrance of the cave, we could hear the thunderous echo of the croaking frogs. We made our way across the slippery rocks to get inside. I had to hunch down as bats I had disturbed flew around me. It was a bit unnerving, and after a short distance, we decided not to go further. Our hide was quite rustic, open windows for watching wildlife on all sides, and wooden beds. Fabien and I were alone for a couple of hours, and we sat at the window watching a fierce rainstorm outside. No animal sightings, but around 6:30pm, our bunk mates arrived, covered in leeches! The leeches come out in full force when it’s raining, and they are disgusting little creatures. After they stripped down, disposed of their unwanted guests and nursed the bites, they introduced themselves, and Australian couple and an Italian girl. We perched ourselves in front of the window, waiting for animals which were probably scared off from the extra commotion caused. We had our tuna fish sandwiches, then climbed into our wooden bunks where we spent a not so restful evening listening to the sounds of the jungle. It was actually quite fun, and when we woke up the next morning with our stiff backs, we were excited about the walk back. It was a quick walk, as we tried to avoid the leaches. I arrived unscarred, while Fab found one his sock, that left a nice bloody stain. YUCK!
When we reached the village, we caught the boat back down the river to Jerantut where we spent an uneventful evening before heading to the Cameron Highlands. More to come…
Tags: BIG TRIP 2005-2006, In English 2005-2006, Malaysia