With its glorious vistas, verdant undulating terrain and varied tropical landscapes, Malaysia’s ancient forests offer vast possibilities for trekking and camping.
The country’s extensive array of national parks and wildlife reserves are ideal for communing with nature and discovering her secrets. From the primordial rainforest of Taman Negara to the wildlife sanctuaries at Danum Valley and the Kinabatangan floodplains, some of Asia’s best-preserved environments offer nature lovers a wealth of experience. While amateurs may try Malaysia’s many easily accessible recreational forests near urban centres, seasoned explorers can go for challenging week-long treks up mountains such as Gunung Tahan, the tallest peak in Peninsular Malaysia. For uninitiated, having a train local guide is necessary to ensure safety and to learn about the amazing and precious diversity of flora and fauna in the ecosystem. Tropical jungle are dense, and the thick vegetation provides camouflage for the jungle denizens. It takes patience and a trained eye to see them.
DIVERSITY OF ENVIRONMENT
Swampy mangroves, extensive river floodplains, dipterocarp rainforests and montane hillscape are among the varied environments that can exist even within trekking distance of each other. Each possess its own ecosystem and wildlife characteristics. The tidal mangrove forest act as vital buffers against coastal erosion and as protective breeding and nursery zones for numerous fish and aquatic species. There are mangrove belts along most of Peninsular Malaysia’s west coast as well as in Sabah and Sarawak. Some such as in Kuala Selangor Nature Park have boardwalks for safety and convenience of visitors. The most common type of rainforests is the dipterocarp forest. It is one of nature’s most complex ecosystems, a habitat for thousands of plant species from tiny lichens to exotic palms, ferns and vines and huge trees rising well over 50m to the heavens.
Each has its own functional place in the jungle’s cycle of life. Further up the hills and mountain slopes, montane forest environments take over with their cooler ambience and presenting spectacular views that are well worth the trek. Jungle trekking can take an hour or more and, with camping, as many days as desired. Among the best periods to go trekking in Peninsular Malaysia is in the ‘dry season’ from the month of March to September when the rainfall is less. Sabah and Sarawak, the ‘wet season’ is from July to October. In many areas, jungle trekking can be combined with other interesting activities such as river expeditions.
TREASURES AND SENSES OF THE JUNGLE
Malaysia’s primeval and unexplored rainforests offer intrepid trekkers great opportunities to observe tropical flora and fauna. The wilds of Malaysia overflow with fantastic plant and animal diversity that fulfill the competitive conditions of the ecosystem. Many species are exotic, rare or even endemic to the particular region and are protected. Endau-Rompin in Johor is a rare milieu of lowland and mountain forests which is home to the largest population of endangered animals in the country. The Sumatran Rhinoceros, tigers and elephants are among the protected species in Endau-Rompin.
Generally, most rainforest animals are shy or camouflage themselves to avoid predators or to hunt. Bumbun or tower hides and canopy walks, such as Taman Negara aid those searching to spot the inhabitants. Take the time to spot the many insects and butterflies flitting about in the forests of Peninsula Malaysia. Marvel at the pendulous nose of the proboscis monkeys found at Sukau in Sabah and Bako in Sarawak. Listen to the swooshing wing beats of colourful hornbills in the vales of Sarawak or the call of gibbons echoing at dawn in Danum Valley in Sabah. Besides wildlife, the natural terrain features cool rivers to ford across and enchanting waterfalls to splash around amidst the natural surroundings. A visit to the jungle requires the full use of one’s senses to discover all the features and creatures of the forest. Part of the adventure is to discover how they all fit together.
SITES FOR NATURE AND JUNGLE ADVENTURES
|Kuala Selangor Nature Park||Selangor||Mangrove forest|
|Templer Park||Selangor||Mountain forest|
|Ulu Bendol||Negeri Sembilan||Mountain forest|
|Endau Rompin||Johor||Lowland rainforest|
|Gunung Ledang||Johor||Highland rainforest|
|Cameron Highlands||Pahang||Highland & mountain rainforest|
|Taman Negara||Pahang||Lowland & hill rainforest|
|Tasik Chini||Pahang||Freshwater swamp forest|
|Tasik Bera||Pahang||Freshwater swamp forest|
|Genting Highlands||Pahang||Highland rainforest|
|Fraser’s Hill||Pahang||Highland rainforest|
|Tasik Kenyir||Terengganu||Freshwater swamp forest|
|Danum Valley||Sabah||Highland & mountain rainforest|
|Kinabalu National Park||Sabah||Highland & mountain rainforest|
|Kinabatangan Floodplain||Sabah||Freshwater swamp forest|
|Gunung Emas||Sabah||Highland rainforest|
|Bako National Park||Sarawak||Mangrove & mixed forest|
|Lambir National Park||Sarawak||Lowland hill forest|
|Mulu National Park||Sarawak||Hill rainforest & limestone|
|Niah National Park||Sarawak||Lowland rainforest|
JUNGLE ADVENTURE TIPS
- Find out about the trail and surroundings, be sure that you have enough time to complete the entire route before darkness falls. Do not stray off the path to chase after animals.
- Use good judgment regarding the fitness level required for the trek, and know your physical limits.
- Always inform the park officials or let someone know of your plans and destination for the day, especially if going alone.
- Take plenty of water and pack a few easy to eat snacks to keep energy level up. Unless trekking with a local guide, it is not advisable to eat jungle fruit or drink from any water source.
- In the highlands try to trek on the ridge tops to save energy traversing the steep sloped and to catch a cool breeze.
- Be quiet as possible to avoid scaring any wildlife. Getting an early start during the dawn provides the best chance to sight animals seeking food and the warmth at the early morning sun.
- Wear thin, loose, preferably cotton clothing to remain comfortable.
- Cover arms and legs with long trousers and long-sleeved shirts to ward off mosquitoes and to provide protection against thorny plants.
- Wear leech socks or long socks to prevent leeches from finding an entry way.
- Choose sturdy footwear with proper ankle support and good traction.
- Be prepared for sudden rain showers by carrying a poncho that wraps over both body and your carrying pack to keep everything dry.
- A wide brimmed hat helps to shade a trekker from the heat of the tropical sun.