Malaysia’s rugged undulating terrain dense rain forests crossed by rapid rivers make it an irresistible destination for four wheel drive or 4WD expeditions. The heat, mud, rolling hills and rainstorms add to the challenge in the grueling yet exhilarating off-road driving.
With over half the country still under jungle cover, Malaysia’s natural landscape brings out the best of man and machine in a test of skill and endurance. Yet there are sweet rewards, with stunning vistas to be hold or a quiet stop to view the wildlife and the waterfalls to cool off after an exhausting run. International 4X4 or off-road events held in Malaysia annually are usually around October and November. Among them are the trans-Borneo International Rally, the National Challenge and the Rainforest International Challenge of Malaysia. The novice or casual visitor may not be cut out for the rigors of world class events like the year-ends Camel Trophy or the Rainforest Challenge, two of the world of 4WD’s most competitive events. However, there is nothing to stop an interested amateur from trying out off-road driving and having an exciting time exploring places off the beaten track, especially in a conducive environment like Malaysia’s.
MALAYSIAN EXPEDITION ROUTES
Peninsular Malaysia’s East Coast offers some of the best terrain for off-road enthusiasts. The forest around Gua Musang in Kelantan; Tasik Kenyir, Sungai Loh and Sungai Kelamin in Terengganu; Endau Rompin in Johor; Tasik Chini and Cameron Highlands in Pahang are established routes for this adventure sport. Closer to Kuala Lumpur, the most notable is Pertak in Kuala Kubu Bharu, Selangor which is just two hours drive from the city. The route is scenic with plantations and fresh fruit stalls lining the approach road. South of Kuala Lumpur, the forest around Kuala Klawang in Negeri Sembilan offer waterfall attractions such as Lata Kijang and visits to Aboriginal settlements. Pahang and Terengganu are the acclaimed 4WD destinations. The Sungai Lembing mines in Pahang are tested through challenging site and anglers may like to park their rods for some fishing as well. Endau Rompin, a National Park area in Johor is a more trying route. A well-prepared group expedition is strongly recommended since a lone vehicle may encounter difficulties. Further a field in East Malaysia, the areas around the Kinabalu National Park in Sabah and Bintulu in Sarawak are sites for off-road driving. While the jungle routes themselves may be grueling, most sites are approached from small town areas where provisions and fuel can be obtained.
OFF-ROAD DRIVING SEASON
Off-road driving is a year round activity, but depending on the level of expertise of participants, some months are better than others. The relatively drier season from March to October make for firmer terrain and less mud as trails may become severe if it rains. Storms, landslides and floods may also change the tracks and make them impassable or inaccessible. For the East Coast, take note of the December – February monsoon rains. There are local adventure operators offering 4WD expeditions, designed to suit visitors’ experience and time constraints. Drivers, food and camping equipment can be included in the package. Campsites are usually situated near a waterfall or river, a superb environment for bathing and swimming. Although visitors can rent 4WD vehicles on their own, it is not advisable to venture into the wilderness without a guide and partners as the terrain is difficult to negotiate without the benefit of experience. Some operators also offer 4WD road training courses with a certificate upon completion. Due to the rugged terrain and the challenges for individuals and groups in case of breakdowns or getting stuck in mud, participants need to be of sound body and mind. Nevertheless, easier routes can be selected for family outings, corporate team-building or youth leadership programs. Although it can be extreme sport, operators and enthusiasts are aware of the need to minimize danger to the environment.
PRACTICAL POINTER FOR 4WD ADVENTURES
- Wear light but absorbent natural fiber clothing.
- Nights in the rainforests may get cooler than expected so bring along a water-proof jacket to keep you warm, as well as protection from the rain.
- Sturdy shoes are a must especially in competition events. Bring a pair of thongs of sneakers to let your feet breathe and relax when you make camp.
- Sock are a must to keep your feet dry and unchaffed. A pair of heavy duty gloves can come in very handy.
- For overnight camping, bring a sleeping bag and a camping tent.
- Always check vehicles before starting out on a drive. Pay special attention to tyres, which can develop punctures from the rough terrain.
- Carry a first aid kit with elastic bandages, surgical dressing, antiseptic, burn cram, eye drops, scissors and tweezers.