BY MEENA L. RAMADAS
Get close to nature at one of the oldest rainforests in the
WALKING through the forest beneath a moonlit sky is intimidating.
The giant mengkudur
At the behest of a guide from Mutiara Taman Negara Resort, 17
reporters and photographers armed with torchlights and in single file wade in the darkness
through a small section of Taman Negara during a night jungle walk.
Crickets and cicadas fill the jungle with their nocturnal
symphonies and a distant rustling from the depths of the jungle, caused by unknown animals,
reaches our ears.
Less than five minutes into the walk, everyone stops and whispers
of "Tapir!" is passed down the line.
Each person eagerly peers ahead and soon enough, the very busy yet
unfazed animal comes into view.
Some reach forward to pat the animal (for the curious, patting a
tapir feels like patting a horse) while some just watch in awe at the proximity of the
Not far from the first animal, another tapir is busy foraging,
oblivious to the camera flashes and gushes of "Awww … it’s so cute".
Tapirs travel in pairs and catching a glimpse of this couple on the
first day of a trip to the forest is a very lucky turn indeed, for the animals are extremely
But, such is the splendour of Taman Negara.
Deemed one of the oldest rainforests in the world, Taman Negara has
celebrated about 130 million birthdays. It is home to over 300 species of birds, 200 species
of mammals and an estimated 10,000 species of plants.
The forest’s fecundity is a product of the area’s aqueous gifts –
several rivers and tributaries that support its abundance of life. Some of the most vital of
these are the Tahan River, Tembeling River and Sepia River.
Taman Negara is also home to one resort – the Mutiara Taman Negara – and a visit to
this sprawling place leaves a lasting impression.
On the Tembeleng
Guide Hamzah with an elephant ear
Situated on the fringes of the forest and bordered by the Tembeling
River, the resort is practically integrated with the majestic forest. It is not surprising to
catch glimpses of squirrels, monkeys and peacock ferns during a walk to the resort’s mini
A definite plus point is the proximity of the forest to the resort.
The forest is located quite literally in the backyard of it, which allows visitors to easily
access hiking routes.
Cosy timber chalets, bungalows, dormitories and, for the more
adventurous, a camping site is available for visitors. The resort also provides guides for
These include ‘shooting’ rapids, water confidence, bird or animal
watching, hiking to Bukit Teresek for a view of Mount Tahan or the canopy
At 530m in length, the Taman Negara canopy walkway is the longest
of its kind in the world.
The walkway, suspended 40m from the forest’s floor, offers visitors
a view of the emerald green dipterocarp tree tops framed by azure skies.
However, about 200m of the walkway has been closed since last year
for repair work which is expected to be completed by the end of this month.
A boat ride 7km upstream from the resort transports visitors to the
mahseer freshwater fish sanctuary.
Located on the banks of the coffee-coloured Tahan River, visitors
can feed this freshwater game fish with the pellets provided.
A mahseer can reach up to 30kg in weight with the red Mahseer
commonly found here. The fish’s hue is due to the nutrient-rich sediments it feeds on in this
Cave exploration enthusiasts would also be glad to know that the
area houses some limestone caves. Some 17km from the resort lies Gua Kepayang which offers
visitors the chance to see stalactite and stalagmite formations.
Prices for a chalet with air-conditioning, two single or a double
bed and hot/cold shower at Mutiara Taman Negara starts at RM470.
A bungalow with two bedrooms, satellite television, dining room,
kitchen and other facilities cost RM1,820.
For more information, call the resort’s Kuala
Lumpur sales office at 03-2782 2222 or email email@example.com.