Taman Negara National Park

Once known as King George V Park, Taman Negara was gazetted as a national park in 1938 when the Sultans of Pahang, Terengganu and Kelantan agreed to set aside a 434,300 ha tract of virgin jungle where all three states meet.

The range of vegetation in the park includes riverine species and lowland forest through cloud and moss forest at higher elevations and on to a strange subalpine environment rich in strange pitcher plants close to the summit of Gunung Tahan. Over 250 species of bird have been recorded in Taman Negara, and mammals resident in the park include wild ox (gaur), sambar, barking deer, tapir, civet cat, wild boar and even the occasional tiger and elephant herd. However, the more exotic mammals rarely put in an appearance, especially in areas closer to Kuala Tahan.

Contents
1 Getting there
2 Best time to visit
3 Tourist information
4 Equipment
5 Hides
6 Background
7 Treks
7.1 Gunung Tahan
7.2 Gunung Gagau and Western Taman Negara
7.3 Canopy Walk
8 Fishing
9 River trips
10 Jerantut

Ins and outs

Getting there

Taman Negara straddles the mountainous interior of three states. Because it is one of the most popular destinations on the Peninsula there are lots of ways to get here - by bus, boat and by train.

Best time to visit

Between March and September, during the dry season. The park may be closed at the height of the monsoon season from the beginning of November to the end of December, when the rivers are in flood.

Tourist information

The Department of Wildlife has a bureau at the Kuala Tembeling jetty and issues permits and licences. You will need to get your permit before entering the park (bring photocopies of your passport). Those who risk turning up at the Kuala Tembeling jetty without booking may be turned away if boats are full.

The
park headquarters
 are at Kuala Tahan, on the south boundary of the park, accessible by boat from Kuala Tembeling, a two- to three-hour beautiful journey (or a more mundane bus journey). At Kuala Tahan all visitors are required to check in at the reception desk. Various companies run tours to Taman Negara. It is sometimes simpler and less hassle to do this than going it alone, but it does cut down on your options. Regardless of what KL tour operators may tell you, there is a local bus that runs two to three times a day from Jerantut bus station to Kuala Tahan.
Kuala Tahan
is a sleepy country village on the south bank of the Tembeling River. There is usually plenty of accommodation for all budgets, but it may be booked up during public holidays and in the high season. Many visitors, particularly those unfamiliar with travelling in Malaysia, have recommended tours for their logistical advantages, although the park is also easy to visit independently. The disadvantage of going it along is that tour groups tend to book up the hides.

Equipment

It is worth having walking boots for even the shortest of excursions (as rain turns muddy paths into skiddy patches), as well as a thick pair of socks and long (loose) trousers. Leeches are common in the park after rain; spraying clothes and boots with insect repellent and wearing leech socks helps. If you find yourself providing a free meal for a leech, you can dislodge them with salt or a couple of drops of iodine (also useful for purifying water in the water-poor areas of the park). When crossing jungle rivers, hiking sandles or cheap rubber deck shoes help to keep your balance on the slippery rocks and in the fast current. If you're sticking to the lowlands, minimal clothing is needed, as it's hot work. However, those undertaking the Gunung Tahan trail or similar higher peaks shouldn't underestimate the cooler temperatures at higher altitudes. A good fleece, rain gear and a sleeping bag should be packed as standard. A good torch is essential for those going to hides as is a water bottle for longer walks and treks. A raincover and waterproof bags may be useful. Visitors are not permitted to carry glass into the park. The shop at the park headquarters hires out torches, tents, water bottles, cooking equipment and fishing tackle - even jungle boots. A camera permit is necessary.

Hides

Some hides (
bumbun)
are close to the park headquarters, from a five-minute walk to a day's trek or boat ride. Visitors can stay overnight at the hides, but there are no facilities other than a sleeping space and a pit latrine. Take a powerful torch to spotlight any animals that visit the salt-licks. You are more likely to see wildlife at the hides further from the Park HQ, as the number of people now visiting Taman Negara has begun to frighten the animals away. Rats, monitor lizards and wild pigs are among the animals not so easily frightened: food bags must be tied up securely at night. During popular periods and on weekends it is best to book your spot at a salt-lick.

Background

Gunung Tahan
is the highest of three peaks on the east side of the park and marks the Pahang-Kelantan border. Its name means 'the forbidden mountain'; according to local Asli folklore the summit is the domain of a giant monkey, who guards two pots of magic stones. The first expeditions to Gunung Tahan were despatched by the Sultan of Pahang in 1863 but were defeated by the near-vertical-sided Teku Gorge, the most obvious approach to the mountain, from the Tahan River. The 1000-m-high gorge ended in a series of waterfalls which came crashing 600 m down the mountain. Several other ill-fated European-led expeditions followed, before the summit was finally reached by four Malays on another British expedition in 1905.

Until the park was set up,
Kampong Kuala Tahan
- now the site of the park headquarters
- was one of the most remote Orang Asli villages in North Pahang, at the confluence of the Tembeling and Tahan rivers. This area of the Peninsula remained unmapped and mostly unexplored well into the 20th century. These days, Kuala Tahan is sometimes overrun with visitors; park accommodation has expanded rapidly under private sector management. But most visitors do not venture more than a day or two's walk from headquarters, and huge swathes of jungle in the north and east sections of the park remain virtually untouched and unvisited. Taman Negara now has scores of trails, requiring varying amounts of physical exertion; the toughest walk is the seven- to nine-day Gunung Tahan summit trek.

Treks

Trails are signposted from Park HQ. Tours are conducted twice daily by guides and these include night walks, cave treks and other walks. Because most visitors tend to stick to the trails immediately around the park headquarters, even a modest day's outing will take you away from the crowds. A full listing and details on various routes can be obtained at park HQ. Independent day walks can be taken to caves, swimming holes, waterfalls, along rivers (again with swimming areas), to salt-licks and hides and through forest. Longer multi-day treks are also possible, but guides must be taken on all these longer forays. The most demanding is climbing Gunung Tahan.

Gunung Tahan

There are three possible approaches to climbing the mountain, none should be underestimated, especially during periods of bad weather. A maximum of 48 hikers are allowed on the trail at any one time, so book in advance if planning to trek at peak periods. The first (described below) is a eight- to nine-day tough trek from park HQ at Kuala Tahan, the second route (described below) is for around seven days, following the same route from Kuala Tahan to the Gunung Tahan summit before descending on the northwest side of the mountain and exiting the park at Sungai Relau. From this point (if booked in advance through park HQ), a park pickup can be arranged for a specific date and you can be dropped off at the Western Park HQ near Merapoh. From Merapoh it's possible to continue your journey by train to the north or south. The third and shortest route (four to five days) involves climbing the peak on a return trek from the Merapoh and the park entrance at Sungai Relau.

The first trek is best climbed in spring or early summer, which are usually the drier and clearer months.


Day 1
: Kuala Tahan to Kuala Melantai (four to five hours) - a beautiful trek through lowland rainforest and gently undulating terrain; this is a good introduction of hiking in the forest and getting used to heat and humidity of the lowlands. Good water and some small bathing pools come as a welcome relief on arrival at Melantai camp.


Day 2
: Kuala Melantai to Kuala Puteh (eight hours). No streams en route; succession of tough climbs along the ridge, final one is Gunung Rajah at 571 m (beautiful views of the forest below); 1½-hour descent to campsite by Sungai Tahan.

Day 3
: Kuala Puteh to Kuala Teku (2½-4½ hours). Route follows Sungai Tahan, which must be crossed seven times - care must be taken during periods of high rainfall, either in the valleys themselves or in the surrounding mountains. The campsite is at the Sungai Teku confluence and was the base camp for the first successful Gunung Tahan expedition in 1905. Both Puteh and Teku camps have beautiful riverside locations and plentiful water - make the most of this, as there are limited water resources over the following days.


Day 4
: Kuala Teku to Gunung Tangga Lima Belas (seven hours). Long, uphill slog (4½ hours) to Wray's Camp (named after 1905 expedition member). This is a good campsite; alternatively climb through mossy forest to Gunung Tangga Lima Belas campsite, which has magnificent views, but is very exposed. A third option is a campsite above a steep cliff hike called Gunung Gedong by the locals. This is a long day with limited water and plenty of exposed scrambling using attached ropes and, in some places, some fairly flimsy ladders - with full packs this is around 10 hours hiking from Teku.

Day 5
: Gunung Tangga Lima Belas to summit, returning to the Padang. After a scramble up the side of a rockface on Gunung Gedong, the trail leads to the Padang - a plateau area (three to four hours). Set up tents and leave equipment at campsite; route to summit follows ridge and takes 2½ hours. It's essential to take a raincoat as the summit is often shrouded in mist. A unique and fascinating zone of moss forest and bush replete with pitcher plants surrounds the summit. Begin descent to the Padang by 1600.


Days 6-9
: Padang to Kuala Tahan, following the same route.

For the second route, to continue on the route to Relau (44 km from the summit) and Merapoh, follow the description below.

Day 5
variation: From the summit follow trails to Bukit Botak or Bonsai - both camps are high with great views but limited water. It's cold at night.


Day 6
: The next day is a tough and muddy descent, again using fixed ropes in many areas through rapidly thickening forest. Due to following a ridge there's little water despite passing three 'official' camps - Blumut, Kubang and Permatang. Try to aim for Kem Kor, the first camp to be located close to a river after the summit. This camp has plenty of space and it's incredible to have a proper swim after reaching the summit.


Day 7
: Three to four hours' hike and a couple of river crossings brings you to Sungai Relau and the park entrance point, where there are some good swimming spots, shelter and showers. If you booked previously, a pickup truck will arrive and take you Merapoh HQ on the surfaced road that runs to this point. The very polite Merapoh HQ staff will check your documents at this point and make sure you're taking all your rubbish out of the park. They'll also issue you with certificate confirming your successful ascent of the Tahan mountain! A small additional 'taxi' service will ensure you're dropped off at the Marapoh train station on the Singapore/Kota Bharu train line.

Gunung Gagau and Western Taman Negara

Gunung Tahan might be the highest peak within the park's boundaries, but it's by no means the only one in what is an extremely mountainous area. Far to the east lies Gunung Gagau, a 1377 m peak within the Taman Negara's core zone. This area is currently closed to tourists, being reserved for the area's rich wildlife and members of the indigenous Batik tribe who reside in the area. Scientists or conservationists with specific projects may be allowed into the area with advance notice. Batik guides and national park rangers are often the only people with in-depth knowledge of the area, which is reached by a one-day boat journey up the Tembeling and Sat rivers and around four days' hiking along poorly marked or sometimes nonexistent trails.

Far more accessible and open to visitors are trails to the northeast of Kuala Tahan heading up to Kuala Perkai via several interesting caves and the hide of Bumbun Kumbang - a potential four-day circuit.

Canopy Walk

This is worth a visit to take in jungle life at close proximity. The walkway is suspended about 40 m above the forest floor and stretches for over 530 m, making it the world's longest canopy walkway.

Fishing

Fishing is better further from Kuala Tahan (be aware that fishing is often prohibited); there are game fishing lodges near the confluence of the Tenor and Tahan rivers, at Kuala Terenggan (up the Tembeling from Kuala Tahan) and at Kuala Kenyam, at the confluence of the Kenyam (often spelt Keniam on tourist maps) and the Tembeling. The best months to fish are February to March and July to August, during the monsoon season. At the height of the monsoon, in November and December travel can be difficult and the park is sometimes closed. The rivers Tahan, Kenyam and the more remote Sepia (all tributaries of the Tembeling) are reckoned to be the best waters. There are more than 200 species of fish in the park's rivers including the
kelasa
, a renowned sport fish. A permit is necessary.

River trips

Boat trips can be arranged from the park headquarters to the Lata Berkoh rapids on Sungai Tahan (near Kuala Tahan), Kuala Terenggan (several sets of rapids to be negotiated) and Kuala Kenyam (from where a trail leads to the top of a limestone outcrop). There is a trip to the rapids, misleadingly called a waterfall, by park authorities, on a boat that holds four passengers. Although this is a relatively expensive way to see the park, it is probably the most enchanting and when split between a number of people (boats carrying up to 12 people can be booked), it is worthwhile.

Jerantut

This is the nearest town to Kuala Tembeling and the most popular entry point into Taman Negara, some 16 km away. For those travelling to the park on public transport it may be necessary to spend a night here, and there is a range of accommodation on offer, plus backpacker-friendly tour agencies.

This is edited copy from Footprint Handbooks. For comprehensive details (incl address, tel no, directions, opening times and prices) please refer to book or individual chapter PDF
Products in this Region

  No related products

PDF Downloads

  No PDFs currently available

Digital Products

Available NOW!
Read more...