All these years, I've read and heard a lot about Taman Negara (Malaysia's National Rainforest Resrve) but have yet to have the opportunity to visit it. So, I was so glad to receive an invitation from Tourism Malaysia to visit Taman Negara as part of their eco-tourism programme.
The timing is also fortuitous as nowadays, I am into activities that make me sweat a little and connect more with nature (in the hope that this will bring down my cholesterol, blood sugar and blood pressure levels LOL). So, this trip to Taman Negara is very much on my bucket list.
Kuala Tahan Jetty (in Pahang state) which is the gate way to Taman Negara is about 3.5 hours by coach from Kuala Lumpur. There is a coach service that departs Hotel Istana in KL for Kuala Tahan at 9:00am daily. The same coach departs Kuala Tahan for Kuala Lumpur at 1:30pm (arriving in KL just in time for dinner).
Small boats took us across the 50 metre water gap between Kuala Tahan Jetty and Mutiara Taman Negara resort right across the Tembeling River.
Mutiara Taman Negara resort is the most well developed eco-tourism resort in Taman Negara. It has accommodation options ranging from bungalows, chalets, dorms to self pitched tents, to cater to all preferences.
My well equipped room was little different from the same in KL or any other city with all the creature comforts.
Next time, I shall try a tent as that's the best way to get close to nature with all the creepy crawly entertainment throw in for free ;-p
With so many activities lined up for us, we can't wait to get out of our rooms, luxurious though they may be, and jump right into the arms of the 130 million year old grand Mother Nature.
Our guide Farid has an infectious love for the forest. "Love nature and nature will love you back". Well said, Farid. And, conversely, make nature angry and we will have much to regret.
It was fun stalking wild animals at the Jungle Hide - there are a few wildlife observation hides in Taman Negara built overlooking salt licks. We spotted a family of wild boars, a solitary mouse deer and some birds diving at the little pond, scooping up insects on the surface at lightning speed.
Crossing the world's longest suspension bridge, Taman Negara's Canopy Walkway. It's over half a kilometre long (510 metres) and over 40 metres above ground. The walk was slightly bouncy and the bridge sways a little, but it was comfortable and not scarily wobbly. We couldn't walk the whole 510 metre length as part of the bridge was under maintenance.
We were above most of the rainforest canopy and could reach out to caress the green crowns of the tallest trees.
What goes up, must come down, especially when it is time for lunch :-p
We had lunch at the floating restaurant - one of several across the river from Mutiara Taman Negara resort. Yes, the floating restaurant was supposed to float...... but it was sitting on the parched sandy river bed as the river was dry due to the exceptionally dry season.
The buffet lunch had lots of delicious homely Malay dishes and I kept going back for more of Pahang's signature river catfish (Ikan Patin or Silver Catfish).
I love the tender, smooth, juicy white flesh of Pahang river catfish. It is cut in bold, big chunks and cooked in mild sweetish curry with subtle spicy hints. There was only sweetness and none of that muddy taste which other catfish have. I lost count of how many times I went back to the buffet line to get another piece of this goodness.
After the sumptuous lunch, we took a little boat cruise along River Tahan and were mesmerised at the sight and sounds of serene waters shaded by picturesque overhanging riverside trees. It felt so good that I fell asleep a few times in the open boat with the sun rays beating down on us. I found out later that I was not the only one who "cruised to nowhere" :-D
The little boats took us to the Kelah Fish Sanctuary. The fish were there, lots of them shiny silver fish thrashing merrily in the water in a feeding frenzy whenever we threw in some fish feed. But, the water was a little murky today, so I couldn't get any pictures of them.
Instead, we had a lot of fun with the low flying drone taking pictures of us wading in the water :-D
We were looking forward to shooting the rapids at Kuala Trenggan but it was the dry season, so the water was rather sluggish and lazy.
Supposed to be a wet and wild rodeo but turned out to a slow rockabye baby :-D
It was a problem we solved easily.
We DIY some big waves for the camera.
Who says pictures don't lie ;-p
But, truthfully, man made waves have it's own kind of fun as you can see from that evil grin from wave maker Wilson's face.
Along the way, we stopped at Jetty Tualang to visit this giant Tualang tree which is estimated to be at least 350 years old.
I am in awe with this natural wonder. This towering giant can reach heights of 250 feet or a 30 storey building. Bees like to build their nests on Tualang trees as the branches are at least 100 feet above ground, away from bears that steal their honey.
Along the way, we also dropped by an Orang Asli settlement by the river side.
Orang Asli are the original people of the forests. They are gentle, warm and friendly folks whose lifestyle is still very much attached to the forest, river and sea.
The village head man demonstrated the Orang Asli way of making fire, using dried vine, twigs and leaves. We also tried our hands at blow pipes and watched a village class room lesson in progress.
Dinner was back at Mutiara Taman Negara resort. Lots of choices at the buffet and I didn't allow myself to miss the river catfish.
After night fall, it was fun discovering the part of the jungle that comes alive only at night. Our guide Farid is an expert in spotting fascinating insects and other creatures among the leaves and bark even in pitch darkness.
Can you spot the insect here?
Other activities available at Taman Negara which we missed this round and have to come back for include, exploring the caves in the forest, trekking up Gunung Tahan, fishing and visiting the Four Steps Waterfall.
->> Good bye Taman Negara and your lovely people. We took home only pictures and fond memories, and left only footprints and a promise to be back.
Mutiara Taman Negara Resort
Address: Kuala Tahan Jerantut, 27000 Pahang Darul Makmur, Malaysia
GPS: 4.384844, 102.400751 / 4°23'05.4"N 102°24'02.7"E
Tel: +60 9-266 2200
Dates: 28-29 Apr 2016
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