With Borneo out of the equation due to time and costs, the question was how can we see something apart from cities and beaches on peninsular Malaysia? The answer was Taman Negara National Park.
We arrived in the small town of Kuala Tahan, the base for 90% of people visiting the national park. All that separates it is a small river, which can only be crossed by boat.
Our plan for our 2 days was to do easy-ish treks marked on the various maps we had. We started out with the short swamp loop that led us to the jungle canopy. This is a series of rope bridges suspended high up in the air between trees, giving a fantastic view of the surroundings.
There were around 10 bridges in total, and the last few got progressively higher until we were 40m from the ground. It was great fun but the bridges were quite wobbly, so it might not be great for those afraid of heights!
After this we visited a hide, where it is possible to camp for the night for a small fee, although the one we went to was probably a bit close to civilisation to see many animals.
We then began the 8km Teresek loop, which included ascending Teresek Hill standing at 334m. It started off easily enough, walking along custom built walkways. We thought we’d have it done in an hour or two.
After a kilometre or 2 we reached some rocks with a view over the valley which I think some people thought was the summit by the amount of them turning back, but it was nowhere near. Walking on, the walkways disappeared and it became a proper trek – climbing up roots, hopping over rocks and clinging onto ropes until we reached the top.
The view was good but not quite as spectacular as we hoped!
Then began the descent. This was tough, with very steep trails and more ropes, but it was fun. When we finally reached some walkways again, many parts had been crushed by falling trees and it wasn’t as well maintained as the earlier sections.
After a 2km detour to see another hide (which turned out to be across a river so we didn’t bother) we had just 3km left to get back to the park entrance. I liked this abandoned electricity hut, which looks like it’s deep in the jungle but actually was quite close to the exit.
Eventually we made it out. We’d trekked at least 15km and were absolutely shattered. We slept quite well that night!
The next day we had planned to do some more trekking but still feeling tired we walked just a few kilometres to Rentis Simpon, a popular swimming area with a beach of sorts. The water looked a lot less inviting than we expected but me and Alex braved it and had a great time drifting down the fast flowing river. It was slightly scary though as the current was strong!
With a distinct lack of nightlife (unsurprisingly) or anything at all going on, we decided one evening to do a night safari. They are widely touted around the town and while expensive for what they are (RM40 per person) there was a good chance of seeing some animals so we signed up.
The safari doesn’t go into the national park, instead it drives outside of Kuala Tahan to the nearby palm plantations. Not the most authentic of habitats but undoubtably plenty of wildlife. Or so we thought.
It started off well as we saw a kingfisher and a snake but then not much else. The truck was equipped with a big light that they shined to the sides to try and see something but it was all pretty quiet. Eventually we saw a family of wild boar which was probably the most interesting part, followed by 2 owls and that was it – we were out of the plantation.
While I didn’t expect to see a leopard or anything, and I realise these things are all about luck, we were dropped back 40 minutes earlier than promised and it never felt like the guides were too bothered about finding anything. Add to that the rather high price and it wasn’t the best trip we have been on.
I was a bit sad we only had 2 days at Taman Negara. It was a chance to properly experience a rainforest and get some well needed exercise! There is tons to do for people of all fitness levels and it’s well worth a few days of your Malaysia itinerary.
We paid RM75 for a minibus from Kuala Besut to Kuala Taham. We booked it on Perhentian Kecil but it would have been cheaper to wait until Besut to do it. We were then also charged another Rm10 each to avoid being stranded in Jerantut (the nearest large town around 50km from Tahan) which was supposed to be included but arguing got us nowhere.
The trip was fine, with a quick change of bus half way and then an hour stop at Han Travel in Jerantut where we were offered various tours and given information about the park but the agents were remarkably un-pushy. The prices of the tours were slightly cheaper in some cases booking in Tahan, but not by much.
A lot of guides say to get a boat from Kuala Tembling to Kuala Tahan as it is supposed to be amazing, but we didn’t have the opportunity on the way there and on the way back wanted so save time so took the bus again but it is probably worth it.
Travel agents were charging an exorbitant RM80 for a minibus back to KL which is ridiculous considering the cost of transport in Malaysia. We attempted to wait for a 7.30am local bus to Jerantut but it didn’t materialise. There is another at 10am which is a lot more reliable but we got impatient and hitched a ride on a tourist minibus going back to the Perhentians and got dropped off at Jerantut, for which we were charged a ridiculous RM25 each.
From Jerantut we only had to wait around half an hour for a bus to KL which cost less than RM20 each.
A permit to enter the national park costs only RM1 for a month, and a camera an additional RM5. You need to buy these as soon as you enter the park for the first time, and keep them with you as the fine is enormous if you are caught.
To get to the park, a boat crossing from Kuala Tahan costs RM1 per person (it takes around 30 seconds).
There are a lot of interesting tours available from Kuala Tahan in addition to the night safari but they all only last 2-3 hours and are all around RM-30-40 each so it can be expensive which is why we primarily stuck to trekking.
Kuala Tahan is very small, there is no bank or ATM and very little choice of restaurants, aside from a couple in the town and some floating restaurants on the river, all of which serve very mediocre food. There are small shops to buy water and snacks but things like mosquito spray (essential here) is expensive so stock up beforehand.
There is phone reception but little to no 3G or Edge.
We stayed at Yellow Guesthouse, which is around a 7 minute walk from the bus stop. Judging by some of the dire options we saw, we felt very lucky to get a room here. It was new, clean and comfy and even had working WiFi (in one corner of the room).
I would highly recommend booking ahead wherever you choose as we saw plenty of people searching desperately for rooms later in the day and lots of places had ‘Full’ signs up.