The Lonely Planet describes Kuala Tahan as a tourist trap and they aren’t wrong. It’s the gateway to Taman Negara, claimed to be the oldest rainforest in the world. March is just after the monsoon and the rivers were flooded, but it’s also the low season for tourists, so we could find a spot right next to the river to camp and watch the river life.
We booked a 2 day jungle trek. Our guide was Super Mario, 1.50m tall, and his CV includes top 10 finishes in the 130km Malaysian jungle ultra marathons. He was a fantastic guide and showed us which plants we could eat, which ones to use to stop bleeding (very handy with all the leeches around), how to send an ‘sms’ in the jungle and which tree to cut to harvest the poison for your blow pipe arrow. He also had very sharp eyes for spotting animals and was a great cook.
Stefan and Jolande (Frenchies) were the other tourists heading into the inner jungle. After a slow start in the morning we headed upstream in a long wooden leaky boat. First stop was the impressive canopy walk. We jumped the queue and were soon in the top of the trees, enjoying the views. Back on the ground we were very lucky to see a beautiful black snake and a monitor lizard, a few of many animals we would see in the next 2 days.
The trekking was hot and very sweaty with lots of clambering over tree roots. We spent the night in a massive cave so no need to lug tents into the jungle. The second day we had lunch next to a river, a nice spot for a very welcome swim after sweating buckets in the hot and muddy jungle.
A short hike out after lunch brought us back to the main river Tembeling where another wooden long boat took us downstream. The driver enjoyed soaking us all through the rapids. Our final stop was at an Orang Asli village, one of the local tribes still allowed to hunt in the national park. Sadly this village is rather run-down with rubbish spread around everywhere and the locals relying on tourist ringgit to be able to buy the sweets, tobacco, alcohol and other necessities for the 11 families living there.
They showed us how the blow pipe is made and how they make the arrows before they gave us a demonstration how to use it, using a little kid’s teddy bear as a target about 10m away. Of course we had to try as well, and I’ll let you watch the video to see what happened there…
For the animal lovers, this is a list of the animals we remember seeing in the 2 days:
Mouse deer (the smallest deer we have ever seen, maybe the smallest that exist in the world? It was about the size of a cat with tiny, tiny thin little legs and a very cute face), black squirrels, giant squirrel, horn bills, porcupines, brown rats, bats, black snake, a colourful snake eating a frog, centipede, millipedes, local bees and toads (no, they weren’t cane toads, but they were as ugly and even bigger).
We also heard a big cat (not sure which one, but according to Jon it must have been a tiger, a bit scary when you’re squatting with your trousers around your knees in the bush at night), saw elephant dung, sunbear poo and even more exciting were the foot prints from large cats, tapirs and even elephants in the mud.
And of course there are the millions of ants (even jumbo-sized ones), frogs, spiders, fish and butterflies that you would expect in a jungle.