Taman Negara National Park
A highlight of Peninsular Malaysia
What we say:
While Taman Negara spreads over more than 4,000 square kilometres and the three provinces of Pahang, Kelantan and Terengganu, just about everyone visits it from the riverside hamlet of Kuala Tahan.
From here it is possible to spend upwards of 10 days hiking through the park totally incommunicado, but many if not most first-time visitors will spend one, two or three days in the park. Our ideal first-time stay would be two to three days.
A number of simple walks can be done without a guide and a combination of two or perhaps three of these can be used to create a pretty full day in the park. On top of these simple walks, more organised one-night, two-day and two-night, three-day treks can be arranged -- generally involving a boat trip to the starting point -- to get further into the park. The longer the trek the greater the expense, but not always the greater the experience. A number of shorter activities can also be done (with a guide) to further pad out your time.
Simple activities within the park that do not require a guide include the Canopy Walkway, where you can walk through the high forest canopy on suspended rope bridges, and Bukit Teresik, a double viewpoint. Those who are very confident walking alone could also take the trail to another viewpoint, Bukit Indah, or all the way along the riverbank to the ranger station at Kuala Terenggan, though we were told that in both these latter cases a guide, while not required, is very advisable.
Trips that require a guide include the night jungle walk, fishing trip, river rafting and a visit to the Orang Asli village along the river.
While longer treks can stretch to as much as nine days -- to summit Gunung Tahan, the tallest peak in peninsular Malaysia -- in practice most opt for a two-day or three-day trek starting from Kuala Keniam a couple of hours upriver of Kuala Tahan.
How long do you need to explore Taman Negara National Park?
Someone with limited time should allow one day and one night in the park, visiting the Canopy Walkway and perhaps Bukit Teresek and then either arriving at Kuala Tahan or returning to Kuala Tembeling by boat to enjoy more of the park scenery.
Those with more time should consider doing the above and then doing a two-day, one-night trek -- this is what we did and we found it to be the perfect taster for the park. Our guide admitted there was no particular benefit in doing the two-night, three-day trek other than a slightly increased chance of seeing wildlife.
What level of fitness is required?
Anyone of moderate fitness can visit the Canopy Walk. Bukit Teresek is more demanding, but more due to the poor quality of the trail than it being overly difficult. The longer treks do require some fitness. On our two-day, one-night trek there was eight hours of trekking on each day and we found the going quite tough.
Will you see wildlife?
Most likely no. We saw wild pigs and monitor lizards on the way back from the Canopy Walkway, but during the longer walk saw only rustling trees and one hornbill. We did sleep in a cave and saw a tonne of bats and a snake. You need to be very lucky to see larger wildlife -- while we came across numerous fresh looking elephant trails, we never saw one. Our guide had seen a sun bear once -- in seven years of trekking in the park.
What you will see are leeches. Plenty of leeches.
What gear do you need?
Comfortable walking shoes are required. You do not need to bring trekking boots (though if you have them with you, why not). The trails, especially during and after rainy season, can be treachorous.
There is no phone signal in the park.
What does it cost?
A two-day, one-night trek costs 230 ringgit. The three-day version is 330 ringgit. Admission to the Canopy Walkway is five ringgit. Admission to the park is one ringgit and a camera pass is five ringgit. A boat across the river is one ringgit.
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