Taman Negara is my favourite of all forests in Malaysia. Maybe because it is a world oldest virgin jungle, well protected as a forest reserve, and remain untouched with human activities. I have been to Taman Negara via Kuala Tahan entrance for countless times, did the common touristy thing like the world’s longest canopy walkway and Orang Asli cultures in a traditional village. However, recently I heard about the Merapoh entrance. It is not a common choice by many, but I decided to make a few calls, especially to the PERHILITAN staff, and a local tourist agent — SGI Outdoor Merapoh Travel.
On the day, we were so excited to explore the forest after about 6 hours of bus ride together with my fellow university mates. We stopped at Merapoh first, a small town in the Lipis district of Pahang for breakfast before we continued our journey for about 7km to Sungai Relau, the entry point to Taman Negara.
Hiking in Taman Negara
A Challenging Trek Begins…
There was an added challenge to our first jungle trekking after a heavy downpour last night. We were extra cautious as the trail was muddy and slippery. One of our friends slipped as she was descending the slope and hurt herself as her natural reflex made her held on to a tree which she was not aware of the thorns. Along the 1.6 km trek, some of us were also stung by wasps. Not only that, but we also have an uninvited “participants” – the leeches! – which clung to us for our blood. Leeches were ubiquitous especially during the wet season, and we took as much precaution as possible by covering our skins to prevent them from sticking to us. We learned a lesson, travelling here is best during July to September, not November.
Group picture with one thousand-year-old tree, the guide told us.
After about 2 hours walk, we were glad to stop by a river to cool ourselves at the Kelah Fish Sanctuary before we continued to head towards Seraya Tower. It was worth the climb as we had a picturesque view of the misty forest. One can even spot Gunung Tahan (2,187m), the highest point of Peninsular Malaysia from afar. As the tower could only support 20 people at a time, we took turns to go up the tower to enjoy the view there.
Kelah Fish Sanctuary
Panorama view from Seraya Tower
On the next day, we woke up early, exercised and prepared ourselves for a guided cave exploration in Gua Gajah. Before we started our adventure, the guide told us that it was this trail to the cave was the same trail that the elephants use. It took us about 2 hours going through obstacles such as crossing four rivers, trekking on a muddy pathway with fallen big trees and so forth. Once we arrived at the entrance of the cave, everyone was quick to check for feasting leeches. It was a hilarious scene seeing how everyone reacted when they found blood on their socks, shirts, and pants! After using so much energy, we had our lunch at the mouth of the cave before continuing.
Ahhhhh, that is a leech bite!!!
Walking in the dark cave was a unique and enjoyable experience as the air was cooler than the humid forest. We also observed the formation of stalactites and stalagmites which represented the age of the cave, and also the unexpected sight of elephant dungs. It made us wondered how these elephants managed to climb into this rocky cave. As we moved deeper into the cave, we arrived at the habitat of the bats. With torchlight in our hands shining every corner of the cave, bats started flying everywhere. It was an eye-opening experience, but we did not stay long as the stench from bats’ droppings was unpleasant for us.
Elephant like stalagmite formed of calcium salts deposited by dripping water
Worth the sweat and blood…
It may not be everyone’s first time to explore a jungle, but it’s definitely not going to be the last time – at least for me. We learned so much about Mother Nature and got in touch with trees that we always read about such as the famous timber tree, meranti; the wild rambutan tree and herbs such as tongkatali. Besides, we became more knowledgeable about the different species of bats (well, except for Batman…) and enjoyed listening to the lively wildlife and breathing in fresh oxygen.
Where best to stay?
To be honest, the best place to stay is in the jungle. But if you are not ready to stay outdoor for a night (i.e. camping), you could always stay in a hotel at the nearest town like Gua Musang. Gua Musang is about 25 minutes from Merapoh, and it is very convenient if you could go by car. Popular hotels among the travellers are My Home Hotel and Mines Inn Hotel. Otherwise, you could try to hitch a ride. I did it once before, and it is possible for anyone! For safety, I advise you to arrange with the local tourist agent like SGI Outdoor Merapoh Travel to reduce the risk of not getting a car. I believe you want to just enjoy the nature trip, right?
I love the feeling of surrounding myself with the sounds of flora and fauna of tropical rainforest. I love the adventure inside the forest, especially the simple joy of going on a hike. I just love to reconnect myself back to nature… And Taman Negara will be the perfect place to do so.