This jungle adventure lead me and my friend Alice to the Taman Negara National Park which is 150 million years old, over 4300km² big, houses over 70 different palms, 200 tigers, 600 types of birds, 1000 types of butterflies, some elephants, tapirs, wild pigs, rhinos, monkeys, leopards, deer, snakes, ….. and a lot of leeches!!
The 7 hour train ride from Singapore to Jerantut wasn’t very pleasant in the packed cabins which were cooled down way too much. Although we passed the Singapore – Malaysia border, we never received an exit or entry stamp nor was our luggage checked at any time. I guess we were fine? Arriving at 2:30am left us with a 3 hour wait for the bus to Kuala Tahan, the jungle base. Depending on your timeline, you may want to take a different connection.
From Jerantut to Kuala Tehan the bus takes another 2 hours. Then you must take a boat to the other side of the river Sugai Tembeling to the Wildlife Department where you need to register for your overnight stay and 2-day trek. With no warnings or tips from the ranger we started our trek.
The real jungle adventure starts here
The trek to the Kuala Trenggau Lodge is about 9.2km and from there another 2km to the high seat Bumbun Kumbang where we planned to stay the night. First you will walk on the longest ‘canopy walk’ of the world above 40m from the ground. On shaky bridges you are walking 500m next to the tree tops through the jungle and enjoy beautiful views. If you are lucky you see some snakes but not much more.
What we were most afraid of: Getting beaten by leeches! Protect yourself as good as you can as these wounds can be nasty. We have seen several hikers with big bandages around their ankles.
From the canopy, walk the path leads further into the jungle, first an easy walk with many tourists but the further you walk, the less people you will meet. You will have to fight your way through the thick jungle, over and under huge, fallen tree stems, over several streams, uphill and downhill. Don’t underestimated this jungle hike, like we did. We had to take several rest stops as it was strenuous, humid, and hot. It seemed like we aren’t getting any further, and we didn’t have a clue how far it still was to our destination.
Suddenly a loud roar resonates in the typical noisy jungle but at that moment, all the other jungle noises disappeared. Our heart rate boosted to 200 beats/sec and the first instinct was to run! But where to? If that tiger jumps out of the bush, we are dead! We panicked and stopped. “Keep calm, breath deeply, and think”, we told us and waited for the jungle noises to start again, which means the danger is gone. We had no choice other than to wait since Kuala Tahan was 5km away and we didn’t know what to expect in the other direction. A few minutes later, the silence ended and the noises from the jungle were back. Still shivering, we decided to move on towards our destination. Soon we ran into aboriginal people named Orang Asli. It took us about 5 hours for 5-6km to get here but we were so happy to see civilization, even in primitive bamboo huts.
We just wanted to get away from this area as soon as possible to feel safer again and we hopped on a boat which took us stream upwards to Kuala Trenggau. Why didn’t we just leave the jungle, where we could have died? I don’t know, we were probably too naive and didn’t know better at that time. From Kuala Trenggau we continued our trek to the high seat which took another 60 minutes through the thicket crossing several streams. Shortly after 5pm we arrived at our destination, exhausted and relieved. Now we had about 2 hours until complete darkness to wait and observe animals.
The high seat offers 8 wooden ‘beds’ and a bench. At least there was a door but you can’t lock it to feel safer. A big thunderstorm rolled in and soon it started to poor down and it felt really spooky, alone in the jungle far from civilisation. At that time, we wished we were a bigger group and other tourist would stay over here that night.
That night we weren’t able to relax the 12 hours we stayed at the hut to gain energy for the next day again but we maybe slept for about 4-5 hours. Every half hour we were woken by the thunder and animal noises. That night was one of the longest we had experienced and we were finally released by the sunrise at 7:30am. Our only food left were a few biscuits that were probably nibbled by bats and mice.” Leave, as soon as possible!”, we thought and off we went, back to the river through the now muddy jungle and streams. Driven by anxiety we tried to get out of the jungle as fast as we could. Luckily, a few aboriginal people took us with them to Kuala Tahan where we felt safe again. Now we deserved a shower and a big meal to regain some energy.
What else is there to do
- Close to the park entrance you can find a swimming opportunity at Lumbok Simphon at your own risk
- Walk around the resort area of Taman Negara
- Get your chance of seeing some wildlife from the high seat Bumbun Tahan, the closest from the starting point
- The cave Gua Telinga is known for bats but sometimes closed due to rock falls
- Go on the 1.5 hour night safari through the palm oil tree plantation and observe wild pigs, monkeys, leopards, cows, birds and other unknown wild animals
- Eat at one of the floating restaurants
- Take a lot of bug spray with you
- Pack enough food and water with you since you won’t be able to get anything while in the jungle for the 2 days
- Wear long shorts and high socks or boots to fight the leeches!
- Take enough cash with you as you won’t find any ATMs within the National Park
- Research in advance where exactly you want to go and keep in mind that it will take a lot longer to walk in the jungle than on a nice path
- For the less adventurous, take a guide with you if you can find one
What a jungle experience! Did I scare or discourage you? I am sure this is not for everyone and I wouldn’t recommend it to a non-adventurist, even with a tour guide. But if you need the thrill and adrenalin and want to take on a challenge, go for it but prepare well! Don’t forget you are not in a zoo and respect the animals. We didn’t find Tarzan but had an unforgettable experience!