The world’s oldest jungle: Taman Negara, Malaysia

Malaysia made a big deal of its nature during the 2007 tourism campaign, and rightfully so. At over 130 million years old Taman Negara is the oldest jungle  in the world and one of many in Malaysia, but certainly not the only one to enjoy. It has been, however, our first encounter with one of them and has lived up to its hype, except perhaps in what would have been the largest thrill: seeing a large wild animal, whether it be a “big cat”, en elephant or even a tapir.

To get there we got a bus from Kuala Lumpur to Jerantut (19 MR) then a shared taxi to the jetty (5MR) and after cruised in a small powerboat all the way to Kuala Tahan (35 MR). While doing so I couldn’t avoid thinking about Charlie Sheen and his buddies in “Apocalypse Now”; a brown murky river found its way through a dense jungle home to water buffalos and who knows what else. The 3.5 hour trip is everything but boring, and by the time you wonder how much further you will go you have reached Kuala Tahan and the park.

taman mara malaysia

Taman Mara and the river

The small riverside village is somewhat dull at first glance and finding OK accommodation takes a while, but soon after its easy mood and friendly charm make you feel like one more villager.

Fried rice with chicken gave us the energy to join a night trek in the jungle, time during which animal viewing is supposed to be the best. Two hours later we were back in the restaurant and had seen nothing but a millipede, a scorpion, walking sticks and 2 deer in the distance. This said the sounds of the jungle are everything you imagine you will hear and much more.

taman negara main entrance

On day 2 we did the canopy walk that offers nice views of the jungle at tree top heights and after made our way to the top of Teresek mountain to enjoy great views. The walk is no easy task, requiring some leg strength, good lungs and heaps of water to replace what is lost from the sweat.

At the top we met Johan and Lieve, a friendly Belgian couple that was having a hard time keeping the flies away from their faces, just as we were. Easy talking let to friendship and we all trekked the 2 hours back together, explored a nearby sinkhole and when done quenched our thirst in a restaurant boat. We had different plans for the following day but still hope to get together in Borneo…

taman negara trekking

The trekking group, tired, sweaty and happy.

Overall impression? Although we did not see any large animals and that was the main reason for going there, I would certainly go back. I enjoyed the treks, the dinners in the restaurant boats and the impressive sounds of the jungle. If you also consider the cheap costs or decide to participate in other activities that are offered (there are 9 day jungle walking treks, elevated hides for night animal observation, night drives…) then the equation becomes a no-brainer, bearing in mind that to see big animal you will need some luck. But then nature always runs its own course, right?

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