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Jungle and Wildlife in Taman Negara

Taman Negara National Park on Peninsular Malaysia contains the oldest jungle in the world. It has never been destroyed by ice ages or other causes. The human race is the only threat for this jungle. We reach the jungle by jungle train, bus, and boat, and spend a few nights in the jungle in search for wildlife.

The Jungle Train to Jerantut

Jungle Train

From Kota Bharu we take the so-called jungle train to Jerantut. The route crosses the jungle, leading to beautiful views from the train. In the middle of the route through the jungle, the train has to exchange a carriage because of some disorder. It takes 2 hours, but the delay is considered to be normal here.

Help yourself Guesthouse

Jerantut is little more than a transfer hub for tourists on their way to Taman Negara. When the train arrives, we search for Green Park Guesthouse, described in our guidebook as the best in town. Once there, it doesn�t seem to be much, and we are left to ourselves after check-in. Apparently the staff is more concerned with their new rest house. But we manage with the few other guests.

The briefing about the jungle in Taman Negara we are offered in the rest house is a bit disappointing. The owner, a Taman Negara jungle guide, is not present and his son doesn�t have much to tell us. But we can buy the tickets for the bus, boat, and entrance to the park, so we settle for that.

To the jungle

The following morning the bus brings us to Kuala Tembeling, where we are put on the boat. The boat journey is great, and we manage to spot some otters along the way. For the rest it�s merely forest and hills we see, but the scenery is very nice.

The boat arrives in Kuala Tenga. This little village is situated on the opposite side of the river from the headquarters and entrance to Taman Negara National Park. The headquarters include luxury resorts, but backpackers like us settle for the cheaper accommodation in the village. We have to climb a hill though, which is exhausting in the heat. But we manage to find a nice bungalow for little money.

Taman Negara Headquarters

Canopy Walk in Taman NegaraAfter a shower and a well deserved meal we head for the park. A boat brings us to the headquarters where we investigate the different possibilities. It is possible to make walks in the park without a guide. The paths are marked and there is a map available with routes. There are also organised walks with a guide, and we decide to book a guided night walk, so we learn what goes on around us at night.

But first, we head out on our own. We walk through the resort before we enter the jungle. A path leads us to a hide, a shelter for spotting animals. We settle hear for a while, and spot some nice birds and squirrels.

Night Walk

The night walk starts with a peek in the swamp area behind the Taman Negara resort bungalows. We hear lots of sounds, but can see nothing, until the guide�s flashlight shines right into the eyes of a deer. This is tonight�s bonus, since we will mainly search for insects. We search a little more since he hears the sound of a civet (cat with a long snout), but without success. Yet, it is exciting to hear that the wildlife is there, so close to the resort.

Tree Root Stairs in Taman NegaraWe walk further into the jungle, while the guide is showing us merely insects. We see different types of spiders, walking sticks, ants, and grasshoppers. All of them a size bigger than we are used to. We also see fresh marks of wild pigs and hear them as well, but these are probably on the run for us. All in all, a nice tour, where we learn a little more about the jungle.

Paths in the Jungle

The next morning we wake up early to make a long hike in the jungle of Taman Negara. The paths in the jungle are frequently walked, so we don�t need a machete to cut our way through the bush. Yet, the walk isn�t easy, in parts it is steep uphill, where the roots of the trees double as stairs. On our way we see a lot of butterflies and ants, and hear the sounds of what are probably beautiful birds. On top of the hill, we enjoy a nice view but do not stay long since we are attacked by mosquitoes.

From the hill we head for the canopy walk. This is a hanging bridge in the top of the trees. It is supposed to give an impression of what lives high in the trees, but with the load noise of the tourists on the bridge, that�s very little. But at least the views are nice, and we can see the different types of trees. Apparently, the mosquitoes are also active on these heights.

Orang Asli

Orang Asli woman in her hutIn the afternoon we book a tour to the Orang Asli. These are the indigenous people who still live in the jungle, hunting and fishing in the river. We learn how they make fire and use a bow-pipe for hunting. And of course, we can try those ourselves. It is very nice to have seen these people, but we are under the impression that the tourists are spoiling it. We are irritated by a fellow tourist who gives them a sack full of western candy and even cigarettes. This way, they pick up the wrong western habits.

Most of the evenings we eat in the restaurants on the water. The quality of the meals differs however. The restaurants also double as boarding docks for the boats, so the tourists will come anyway, even if the food isn�t very good. We learn to pick the restaurants a bit further up the river, which are better and more scenic.

Spending the night in a hide

For our last night in Taman Negara we reserved a spot in one of the hides further in the jungle. Wildlife often show themselves at night or early in the morning, and therefore beds are created in the some of the hides. Unfortunately, we can only choose one of two hides, since one is destroyed by elephants (!!), and one is in maintenance. The two remaining hides are situated 3 kilometers from the headquarters. The path to ours follows the river, passes ridges and bridges, and crosses fallen trees. Once in while we see lizards and butterflies.

When we almost reach the hide, we have to cross the river. The ground is covered with rocks and fast flowing water is half a meter deep. On our bare feet and with our clothes on our back we balance to the other side, and are glad our clothes are still dry.

The River

Swimming in the river in Taman NegaraOur hide is located close to the river. We are the first to arrive (there are seven beds), and we install our stuff. At the salt lick where the hide looks upon is nothing to see, so head for the river. We take a swim there until we hear something in the bush. When we investigate it appears to be a large black pheasant like bird with a big white tail. We try to come closer for a good picture and eventually scare him away.

We return to the river for a swim and sit on the shore. It is a beautiful spot where we see many king fishers, small colored birds with large beaks picking fish from the water. In fact, it is a nicer place than the hide itself, so we stay here until it gets dark.

Back in the hide, the others have arrived. We do not keep a schedule to spot the wild on the salt lick, but most of the night someone is posting. At a certain time, a large deer arrives and everybody is waked to see it. Unfortunately, it is the only wildlife we get to see today. Yet, it is a nice experience to sleep in the jungle, with all its noises, especially at dusk and dawn.

Before we walk back to Taman Negara headquarters, we take a look at another hide, near a stream where animals come to drink. We hear that last night a bear came hear, lucky bastards. But at least we see two different species of monkeys and some lizards on our way back.

The boat journey back from Taman Negara to Kuala Tembeling is as nice as the first time, although we have some trouble with the engine. But, after it gets fixed, we arrive safely in Kuala Tembeling, and with the bus in Jerantut. From there, we take the night train to Kuala Lumpur, ending our jungle adventure in Taman Negara.



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