Malaysia may have plenty of dense jungle over in Borneo, but it comes a shock to many people to realise there is major jungle like this so close to KL!
Of all my jungle trekking around Asia, I believe the trip to Taman Negara on Peninsula Malaysia was my very first time, and I remember it fondly. I had thought it was much closer to Kuala Lumpur, but despite the long drive up the Titiwangsa Mountains to Kuala Tahan on the outskirts of Taman Negara (“Taman Negara” literally means “Park National”), I was extremely excited about what I may find when I get there!
Taman Negara was created from the then-untamed jungles in 1939 and is among the oldest pieces of rainforest in the world, estimated to be over 130 million years old. It is said that tigers, elephants, and rhino all live within the vast boundaries of Taman Negara, although I had high doubts that I would see any of them (and I was right). After paying at the ‘gate’ the RM6 fee (which includes camera permit) I went about exploring the jungles.
Because I am a solo traveller predominantly, excursions like this are much safer when taken as part of a larger group. I heard once of a Malaysian man who was found dead with half of his body inside a python after venturing into the jungle alone. I don’t want a similar fate to happen to me or you, so after my public bus ride from KL, I hooked up with a few other people and we made a nice tidy group. As luck would have it, I always seem to end up with Koreans – not that I’m complaining! We all agreed that the noise of the insects such as cicadas in Taman Negara was almost overpowering, yet such atmosphere really makes you feel like you are part of the wild!
One of the highlights of Taman Negara is the canopy walkway. I have seen one of these in Brunei’s Ulu Temburong National Park, and also at Macritchie Nature Reserve in Singapore. However, the one here seemed much more isolated and dangerous – maybe because of the threat of tigers lurking in the foliage? Who knows, but it just seemed different (despite being lower than the one I walked over in Brunei). Taman Negara’s canopy walkway is actually a series of suspended bridges over the jungle canopy, which I was told are over 50 meters off the ground.
We never got to see too much wildlife, although there were ample lizards and snakes, as well as some huge creepy crawlies. You have to remember that this is a real jungle at in the Titiwangsa Mountains, and you need to be very careful and have your wits about you if you don’t want to fall foul of the jungle critters. As expected, we didn’t see any tigers or rhino. In this part of Malaysia, there are only a few sightings each year of the endangered Malayan Tiger, although it is still quite disconcerting when you hear a rustle in the bushes!
Entering or exiting Taman Negara can be achieved by taking a boat down the river back to the front of the park. The rivers are deep and murky and also habitat to crocodiles so the slight frames of the boats make for a rocky and somewhat scary journey.
For more information on Taman Negara, I would recommend checking out this recent blog from WanderLouise, who has some great photos as well as interesting experiences. Additionally, you cannot go wrong with this guide from Lonely Planet, which tells you all you need to know about Taman Negara.