The natural park of Taman Negara retains one of the oldest rain forests of the world, and is one of the most important park in Peninsular Malaysia attracting enough visitors, both local and foreign. For this reason it is well organized, accessible, and with easy orientation… as a result, the chances of wildlife observation are few and mainly limited to the dense forest; only the ones that opt for longer trails that can take longer one day, could be luckier to spot animals.
The best time to visit the park is out of the rainy season that begins in October and lasts until February. The peak of the tourism season is between April and August. In December rain is not guaranteed, but can arise so suddenly, most od the time in the afternoon; when the day raise sunny and with a sky without cloudless, which makes the air warm enough to form clouds, is almost inevitably to bring rain.
The park is very easy orientation, at least in the tracks near the head quarters, with signs indicating the direction and the correspondent distances, so it is not necessary to use guides. A guide is about 30 RM for the trail to Bukit Teresek, which is the shortest one. Much of the journey to Bukit Teresek is made trough a deck and some stairs, with only a few areas in natural terrain. The access to the Canopy Walkway is also made by a platform.
This time of year, with rain being frequent, the choise was for the closest route of the park, with the walk to Bukit Teresek starting at 8 am reaching the viewpoint at the time of moisture clouds rising slowly from the canopy, forming a thin white layer that hides the blue sky. This show last for a little time with this steam disappearing as the sun warms the air.
In the way back, we arrive at the Canopy Walkway, a series of suspension bridges between the treetops that form a route with about 500 meters. In addition to the balance challenge we have a totally different viewpoint of trees and other vegetation, which constitutes this rich and diverse forest. Portions of this route are located about 30 meters from the ground, and support in trees with more than 250 years… thank you trees!
The journey to Bukit Teresek and Canopy Walkway doesn’t take more than three hours leaving time for a bath in the clear waters of the river Sungei Tahan, a few minutes form the park entrance.
As in terms of wild life this trail doesn’t have much to offer, but as a compensation the forest presents rich and diverse, and a slow walk allows to enjoy the small details of plants and trees, as also the way the light pass through the high and dense canopy creating a with range of greens.
But is not fair to say that we can’t find animal life, because the leeches are a constant presence in most wet parts of the trail, with these persistent animals to nest between the toes… unpleasant experience!
The small village of Kuala Tahan, situated at the confluence of two rivers, hence the name “Kuala” meaning “junction of two rivers”: the Sungei Tahan of clear waters and Sungei Tembeling dragging a muddy color and that continues until Kuala Tembeling.
Kuala Tahan lives basically from tourism of Taman Negara, being little more than a street, with some restaurants, coffee shops, a internet “café”, travel agencies and some shops (only open in high season). From here you have two accesses to the pier where the long-boats stop and where you can find the “floating restaurants” that are built on rafts serve meals along all day.
Trough the streets of Kuala Tahan, you can find a few of false tourist information office, which are basically travel agencies that sell boat tickets and mini-van trips back to Kuala Tembeling or Kuala Lumpur. Here is also a good place to find accommodation in different styles and budgets: bungalow and guest houses that offer rooms or dorms. Resorts are located a bit away from Kuala Tahan, reached by car that are usually provided by the resort.
In December, having officially begun the rainy season the presence of visitors was discreet, keeping the village streets empty during most of the day except at dinner time, where the only open restaurant serve meals (Que Restaurant) and is also a meeting place for locals to drinking tea or beer while watching a football game on a big screen.
However the busiest time in Kuala Tahan is in the morning, with activity starting early by 7.00 in the morning, with local people gathering in the same restaurant (still closed at this time) for breakfast. On the main road food vendors line up, with serving meals or wrapped food in banana leaf for take-away. Delicious food and pleasant environment that eased the three hours waiting for the bus back to Kuala Tembeling.
Costs inside Taman Negara:
Entry into the park: 1 RM
Use of camera or iPhone: 5 RM
Canopy Walkway: 5 RM, paid at the beginning or end of the section, as the sense that it makes the route.
Boat to cross the river between Kuala Tahan the entrance of Taman Negara: 1 RM (the trip takes about 2 minutes). The boat start early in the morning, even before 7 am.
Accommodation in Kuala Tahan:
Around Kuala Tahan are some resorts.
Inside the park, near the head-quarters is also a sophisticated resort, the Mutiara Taman Negara, which has various accommodation options for various prices, as also a dorm, with air-conditioning for 28 RM. The disadvantage is that the outside walks there is not much to do on this side of the river, while in Kuala Tahan, you can watch the peaceful daily life of the population and find cheaper options for food.
The main street of Kuala Tahan are small signs indicating the name of hotels and guest houses, most with only double rooms (with prices of around 60 RM) but where there are some guest-houses with dorms (between price 20 and the 25 RM).
The choice was for Rayyan Hostel, located just off the waterfront, up the ramp on the left that leads to the village of Kuala Tahan. Here there are only dormitories with shared bathroom, with the fan switch (20 RM) or air-conditioner (25 RM). The place is simple and modest, with the friendly and helpful owner, with reasonable toilets and shower (with hot water) made pleasant the two nights here.
Where to eat in Kuala Tahan
In addition to the “floating restaurants” that have more atmosphere but are a bit more expensive, the Que Restaurant, located at the corner of Main Street and the street that leads to the pier in front of the school is a good option, with food made to order, with also vegetarian dishes.
As this restaurant is closed in the morning, the option for breakfast are food stalls that are installed in the same location as the restaurant from 7.00 am, serving curries and nasi that are the choice for breakfast of Malaysians, for how rice is indispensable presence at any meals; for the most delicious nasi lemak sign savored in Malaysia, and certainly the cheapest, by 3 RM.
Right next door another restaurant serves rotis from the 8.00 am.
And in the same area, another small space serves tea and coffee, hot or with ice.
How to get from Kuala Lumpur to Taman Negara
The easiest option is to use the services of a travel agency that ensures the connections between bus and boat. The option was for Han Travels that has a branch in Chinatown in Complex Selancor in Jalang Sultan, in front of the hotel Swiss Inn.
The bus leaves at 8.30 am. Is advisable to buy the ticket one day, especially if high season, but if you want buy tin he same day is better to reached a bit earlier, around 8.00 am.
The trip by mini-van to Kuala Tembeling (takes 3 hours) plus the boat ride to Kuala Tahan (3 hours) costs 95 RM. The trip in mini-van is performed at high speed with the driver doing risky overtakes, resulting that the arrival Kuala Tembeling was around 11.30h, being then necessary to wait until 13.00h for the boat start the trip.
Alternative without travel agencies:
- Go to the Perkeliling Bus Terminal in Kuala Lumpur, and catch a bus to Jerantut: 9:30 am 10:45 am 12:00 pm 5:30 pm 3.30pm; Ticket 19 RM.
- In Jerantut there are no buses to Kuala Tembeling so it is necessary to use a taxi (16 kilometers away).
- The boat Kuala Tembeling to Kuala Tahan costs 45 RM.
How to go from Taman Negara to Kuala Lumpur:
The way back can be done similarly, but with the boat trip could be replaced by mini-van. The Han Travels trip to KL start at 10:00 am, and must be booked the day before, in one of the floating restaurants that also work as offices to this travel agency.
Free alternative travel agencies:
- Local Bus from Kuala Tahan for Jerantut.
The bus leaves the main street of Kuala Tahan, where are located the restaurants and shops, opposite the Internet cafe.
The bus schedule change according the day of the week as also between high and low season, so you should check schedule with local people. Guaranteed every day is the bus at 10.00 and 15.00 h. During high season there are also buses to 7.30h, 12.00h and even during the afternoon.
The journey is pleasant and takes 1.5 hours through the forest until Jerantut.
Ticket: 7 RM
- From the bus terminal in Jerantut there are daily buses to Kuala Lumpur (Pekelinling Bus Terminal): 8.45pm, 10.00h, 13.30h, 14.45h, 19.30h 16.00he (the latter only on Sundays).
The journey takes 3.5 hours, depending on traffic on arrival in Kuala Lumpur
Ticket: 19 RM.
If the buses are full there are mini-van service that departs at 12.00h, which costs 40 RM, also bound for Pekelinling Bus Terminal. The journey takes 2 hours.
Pekelinling Bus Terminal is located in the northern suburbs of Kuala Lumpur, and right by the terminal is located on the Monorail line. To get to Chinatown, the closest Monorail station is Maharajalela Station. Ticket 3.3 RM.