I came to this part of Malaysia with a clear objective, going for a Taman Negara trek. Why? Well, it’s a huge jungle, it still has a relevant wild nature, and it’s cheap.
Taman Negara, means national park in Malay, and it is a huge green area in peninsular Malaysia. Most of it is still a virgin jungle forest, although it’s size has been shrinking during the past of time, being the main reason of it the plantation of palm fields.
However, you can do a lot of activities in this wonderful national park, and see plenty of animals on your way to do them. I came here to do some jungle trekkings, and specially motivated to see, perhaps, a few rare and exotic wild animals like the Asian tiger or the Asian elephant, although I saw none of them at the end.
How to get to Taman Negara
To reach Taman Negara, there are several ways, it all depends on which entrance you opt to. I chose to enter through the town of Kuala Tahan, since it was the one I heard the most from some travelers I met during my trips in Malaysia and other neighbour countries. I’m aware now that there are other and that they are worthy too. To come to Kuala Tahan, there are several ways, depending on your origin, (be aware most of them imply 2 days to arrive):
- If you are coming from the Cameron Highlands, there are direct buses to Jerantut (the nearest big town near Kuala Tahan) from there, at least from the bus station in Tanah Rata
- If you are coming from Kuala Lumpur, there are buses to Jerantut at one of the bus terminals of Kuala Lumpur, Bus Terminal Perkeliling
- From Penang, you would have to go first to Kuala Lumpur, and then to Jerantut
If you want more detailed information about the transportation to Kuala Tahan, check this link: http://www.tamannegara.asia/transport/public-transportation
Accommodation, food and money
About the accommodation, you would find plenty of options, from hotels to guest houses to hostels in Kuala Tahan. They vary from 2€/night (shared room) to 180€/night (luxury hotel). You can find some of them in Booking.com or Agoda, although you will normally get better prices booking in person.
Food won’t be a big issue either, there are many restaurants (cheap ones and more expensive ones) and a few convenience stores. If you are looking for a supermarket, the closest one is in Jerantut. There are big ones indeed, so don’t miss the chance to get some food there. Fruits or dry fruits with you aren’t really an option in Kuala Tahan.
Same as ATMs, banks or currency exchange, they are all in Jerantut, where you will find plenty of them. Only some expensive hotels and a few resorts accept VISA / Mastercard. So be sure to bring cash with you. I spent an average of 10€ / day, including the cost of the water, meals and a dormitory. There is an entrance to pay in order to do a Taman Negara trek. It is 1RM if you are not thinking about taking pictures, or 6RM if you you will take them. Besides that, you will need to pay 2RM (less than 0.5€) a day to cross the river from Kuala Tahan to the national park.
General information about the treks
Now let’s finally talk about the important part, hiking. I did 4 different treks in the area, and after talking with other travelers and a trekking guide I met in Jerantut (thanks to CouchSurfing) I came to a conclusion. You don’t really have to hire a trekking guide to do a Taman Negara trek. That is something you would be willing to do if you enter deep into the jungle, in order to be with someone who knows the region, the trails and the nature.
The only real danger I am aware of in the area are Malayan tigers, which according to the WWF, there are only 250-340 individuals in Malaysia, sadly. They are spread in several regions, although most of them are in Taman Negara. Normally they are away from the civilization, and don’t usually go to the outer part of the jungle. They don’t like people either, but you might not want to encounter one of them.
If at the end you decide to hire a guide, because you want to do a long trekking (my friend, the trekking guide, told me about Mount Tahan or Gunung Tahan in Malay, which is a 7-8 days trekking), then prices are around 1200RM for this long trekking. This includes only the salary of the guide, but you can join several people and make it way cheaper, since the price is not per person.
You will have to carry on your own food (remember there are no supermarkets in Kuala Tahan, only small shops). Water won’t be a problem, there are many rivers, just bring water tablets with you and you are good to go. There are other trekkings you can do with guides:
- like a night trekking walk
- or a 2-4 days trekking walk through the jungle (around 20€-30€ / day for the trekking guide)
Trekking routes and maps
If you are wondering, I used Maps.Me (has an Android and iOS app), to not get lost and figure out all the trekkings I could do. However, Komoot is a very good one. This is the app I use to show the maps in the blog, and you could simply reuse the routes I’m showing you here.
So which trekkings did I do? Well, there were many I could do, but since it rained heavily a few days, I only did the following trekkings:
Canopy walk + short way from there to Lubuk Simpon beach
This was roughly 3h to me. The shortest day of the 4. The Canopy walk was priced with 5RM and it took me 10 minutes to walk through it. On the way up to Bukit Teresek, before turning left on my way to the beach, I missed the sign to the Lubuk Simpon, so I reached Bukit Teresek and then I went back.
Bukit Teresek peak and viewpoint
Since I did the previous day the walk from the Canopy to Lubuk Simpon and the way up to Bukit Teresek, I decided to go to Bukit Teresek going first to Lubuk Simpon beach, then to go north and reach Bukit Teresek from the opposite side of the mountain I did the day before. This day it took me 3.5h and the way up to Bukit Teresek was remarkably beautiful and a little challenging.
Gua Telinga cave
From Kuala Tahan, this is a 2-3h one way (4-6h both ways) if it’s raining or the terrain in wet. Otherwise you could do it in 1h 15min to go, and another one to return. 6.22km in total.
There are some ups and downs, but only a few of them are exhausting. It would be flat for the bigger part of the trek. Gua Telinga is sort of a cave, nothing amazing, but the way there was pretty beautiful. You’d most likely see monkeys at the beginning.
Latah Berkoh waterfall
This was the longest trekking I did, it was a total length of 18km. Here you would most likely see nobody from the Menyeberangi crossing point. Try to be with your eyes widely open, you could miss some of the marks in the way.
Some of the boats, that are at the entrance, can come to pick you up at the Latah Berkoh Waterfall. The guard of the park said it would take me 4-5h per way, but can be done faster.
Practical tips for a Taman Negara trek
Be aware of the rainy season. The monsoon in this region is between October and March, and I went there in January. It rained heavily a few days, but it wasn’t a big deal anyway.
You can expect to see plenty of leeches on your way in the jungle. Although I guess there won’t be many if you come in the dry season. Since I came in the monsoon season, I got many of them sucking blood from my legs. Especially the days of Gua Telinga (which actually it rained most of the way) and Latah Berkoh.
I recommend you to bring anti leech socks or to follow these recommendations to prevent leeches from biting you. If you go for the anti leech socks, these ultra resistant leggings are waterproof and windproof too: Waterproof leggings in Amazon
Leave smelly food at the hostel. You’d attract animals otherwise. So bring fruits, or vegetables with you, and water, of course.