Taman Negara National Park - The jungle!

Trip Start Dec 27, 2008
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Trip End Jun 27, 2009


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Saturday, May 2, 2009

When we arrived at Taman Negara we thought we had made a massive mistake. Back at the Perhentians hoards and hoards of people, locals and Chinese were coming the other way, heading for the Perhentians. Having been away for so long you lose track of the days, the weeks, you rarely know what bloomin' month it is. Turns out, it's mayday bank holiday. And so, when we arrived at Taman Negara there were scores of coaches and cars lining the long road leading to the park. Not to worry, I thought. We called in at Tourist Info and asked about a few places to stay, the woman behind the desk proceded to tell us that the whole park was fully booked, but she did have a tent. That's all very well and good, but we don't have a sleeping bag and don't fancy sleeping exposed to the threat of mosquitos, fire ants and leaches.

To cut a very long story short, we ended up staying in a 6 person dorm about the size of a garden shed. Our room-mates on the first night were nice enough, friendly and respectful of dorm etiquette. On the second night we were joined by an American chap who brought with him the smell of old vinegar. He'd been staying in the rainforest hide overnight and through sheer exhaustion or through simply being a sociopath he'd neglected to take a shower. That night I fell asleep smelling my own armpit, it was heavenly.

On the first night we did the night safari in a jeep with two lads we met on the bus to the park. This was vastly dissapointing, we saw two birds, a herd of cows, a leopard cat that just looked like a domestic cat to me, two tractors and a bunch of humans.

Like I said, the park was packed with asian tourists on holiday and it really spoilt the first full day. Charlotte and I met up with the two lads from the bus, a group of five girls from various places and a guy they'd met from their dorm (James), we all started the trek toward the jungle canopy walkway. The jungle istelf is mighty impressive, everything about it is huge, the trees, the ants, the whole national park spans 4343 sqkm, it's 130 million years old and was completely unaffected by any of the ice ages.

When we arrived at the sight of the canopy walkway things were looking bad. The surrounding area was filled with people waiting, literally stood bumper-to-bumper. What was more annoying was that the sign in sheet was deceptively short, only on further inspection certain names on the list had written X80 next to their name. Turns out we would be waiting for four hours! Our group slowly dwindled down to just Charlotte, James and I. We sat playing cards and chatting, surrounded by tour groups wearing matching t-shirts and caps.

When the time came we were excited and giddy. The walkway was rickety and only made of ladders bound together by rope, but the views of the forest were awesome, it runs 400 meters and is between 25-40 meters above the ground. To ensure there are no major accidents only four people are allowed on one section at a time and must stand five meters apart. The three of us had a lot of stupid fun posing for photos in the chinese tourist style, making the peace 'V' sign and pouting. Once we were done we began the one hour trek back to our hostel. Along the way we saw the most impressive ant colonies i've ever seen, even on film, there must have been 10,000 or more marching along branches and logs for at least 50 yards, it was incredible. Trekking in the rainforest is the sweatiest work in the world, you come out drenched but it's great fun and a fantastic work-out.

On our second full day the park was calm again, the tourists had cleared off back home in time for work on monday morning, now we could fully appreciate the beauty of the park. The other main activity we tried was the trip down the rapids. The scenery as we floated down the serene section of the Tahan River was incredible, the rainforest rises high above on both sides and the sounds of the animals combined with the flow of the river is so relaxing, an amazing experience. This was the calm before the storm, when we hit the rapids we again got drenched, the little wooden boat didn't look capable of staying afloat, i'm glad I was wrong. Soon enough we stopped at the side of the river and swam in the refreshing waterfalls, we even took a natural jacuzzi in the smaller ones. As there was only Charlotte and I in the boat, our guide had time to give each of us a tattoo made from the different coloured paints he rubbed out of the river rocks.

Next we stopped off at the Orang Asli settlement, a tribe of nomadic people that live off the rainforest land. Here we had a chance to fire a blowpipe at a target, I was pretty rubbish and told I could kill a monkey but not a squirrel. The people had some weird and wonderful traditions, when a member of their tribe dies they simply suspend the corpse high in the trees (closer to heaven) and move on. The tribe reminded me of the Zulus we saw in SA, the people had extremely dark skin and wore african style sheets. All in all, this is the best trip the park has to offer.

On the third day we moved out of the dorm into a private room only to regret it later. At night our room transformed into a safehouse for various bugs including ants, mosquitos and moths, luckily we've got our own mozzy net and up it went. Desperately trying to spend as little time in there a possible Charlotte and I joined James for some dinner and then headed to the only resort in the park that serves beers, plus the footy was on, bonus!

Once all the tourists cleared off the park was beautiful and well worth a visit, my only advice to anyone wanting to go is to avoid mayday bank holiday like you would the tigers. On the morning we left we took a boat down the river to get the bus back to KL.
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Where I stayed
Yellow Guesthouse

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