There are many things that we thought we have in Singapore and for the true blue Singaporean male, we would have enough of the rainforest jungle when doing our national duty. MacRitchie Reservoir and the central catchment area are enough excuses not to get ourselves covered in perspiration while exploring the jungle. My recent trip to our northern neighbour’s National Rainforest Reserve (otherwise known as Taman Negara) has proven me wrong as the diversity existing within the rainforest ecosystem is just waiting for us to discover and experience.
There are many ways to enjoy nature in which anyone from children to adults and the urbanite to the adventurous can truly be touched by nature fairly easily from Kuala Lumpur. As Farid my nature guide says, “If you love nature, nature will love you back.”
Taman Botani Putrajaya
Nestled next to the manmade lake in Putrajaya, Malaysia is the Taman Botani Putrajaya. Host to tropical flora of Malaysia and around the world, the botanical gardens give a quick introduction of the different plant species one can find in the Peninsula. You can start the journey from the visitor centre with the 170-metre-long canopy walk where you can see interesting leaves of various trees, get up close to the Heliconia species and the different types of vines at the Vine Garden.
The gardens is huge, so do take time to walk or even bike next to the lake. The reflection of the trees of manmade island on a calm lake makes for a beautiful landscape during sunset or sunrise. If you are into architecture, head to the Moroccan Pavilion where plants are the inspiration behind the architectural features and provides a welcome respite from the sun during your walk in the park.
Tanah Aina Farrah Soraya Eco Tourism Resort
If you want a more intimate experience of the rainforest and yet do not have the time to venture far from the capital city of Kuala Lumpur, the Tanah Aina Farrah Soraya Eco Tourism Resort is a place worth going. Located in the hills close to the town of Bentong, which is famous for its durians, the resort is a welcome break from the hustle and bustle of the city; you are immediately transported to a serene environment with a fresh water stream meandering through the resort.
Follow the stream to the source is the waterfall and just next to it is the “Leap of Faith”, a 16-feet-tall platform where you will experience an adrenaline rush like no other; as you jump from the platform into the icy-cool freshwater beneath that, you are freed from the heat of the tropical sun almost immediately.
There are also other activities including night and morning walks where you can see the fauna of the forest. If it happens to be a day of clear skies, observing the night full of stars is highly possible too.
On the way to Taman Negara Mutiara Resort, we were given a treat to observe the majestic Asian elephants at the Kuala Gandah. The elephants are rescued by the National Elephant Conservation Centre which rehabilitate the trapped animals when their habitat is encroached upon by marauding plantation companies that cut down rainforests for short-term gain of cash crops such as rubber plantation and palm oil.
Here you can get up close and personal with the elephants by feeding them, including Miss Tripod, an elephant with an amputated leg caused by a hunter’s trap. You can also go down to pond and wash the baby elephants as well. This is certainly a treat for everyone!
Mutiara Taman Negara Resort
To get the best of the nature in Malaysia, there is none other place in the Peninsula than the 130-million-year-old Taman Negara in Pahang. There are many budget accommodation options in and around Kuala Tahan town, the entry point to the nature park. The best should be the Mutiara just opposite Kuala Tahan. The Mutiara provides creature comforts you would expect from a top class resort. With over 80 room types ranging from Bungalows to Chalets, there’s something for everyone.
Like the Tanah Aina resort, there are many jungle related activities but on a much larger scale. A noteworthy one is the Canopy Walkway which is suspended 40 metres above ground. It doesn’t seem like much until you are looking down when traversing the walkway. I got to see birds flying around and touch the leaves of the tall majestic trees.
We also got to experience how the “original people” or Orang Asli live in the jungle. Called Bateks by the locals, they have a short stature with curly hairs that reminded me of the aborigines of Australia. We had fun trying to start a fire by the traditional method using wood and rattan cane. We even tried blowpipe shooting as well.
The highlight of the stay in Mutiara has got to be the night walk. Thanks to our nature guide Farid, we were shown tree snakes resting on tree branches above us, stick insects and spiders beside us and scorpions hiding inside nooks and crannies on the jungle floor just next to the boardwalk. We even got to witness mousedeers coming out to quench their thirsts at one of the many jungle hides set up around the resort. If you are into caving and love visiting waterfalls, you can easily join such activities organised by the resort staff too.
Going into the jungles is not as scary or unexciting you might think. With the resort staff showing you the wonders of nature, you will start to understand how much we will lose if deforestation continues unabated. The journey may not be exactly a walk in the park but the experience is something that stays with you for a lifetime.