Lush green, prolific life surrounding the giant trunks of ancient trees is most people’s idea of a tropical rainforest. If you’ve always dreamed of seeing one for yourself or going on an adventure holiday, Malaysia’s foremost national wilderness is my recommendation. It’s called Taman Negara which means “national park,” but with Malaysia’s strict conservation laws, it’s more wilderness than park.
The vast swath of protected land lies in the heart of continental Malaysia in the Cameron Highlands. It not only boasts countless varieties of plant and animal life, but also varied terrain that is still accessible to most active people. Besides such exotic flora as tree ferns, orchids and rafflesia, it is home to endangered species of Asian elephants, tigers, and rhinos. Sightings of endangered species are rare, but iguana, deer, birds and bats are easily seen if you know how and where to look. Local tour guides love to show these off.
It’s well off the beaten path for most Westerns, which is part of its charm for enthusiasts. In fact, most visitors must reach park headquarters in small riverboats. The only road would be rough even for a 4-wheel drive vehicle. Other parts of the park are only accessible by foot. A trek up Mount Tahan takes about four days of backpacking.
But if you’re looking for adventure on the wild side, here are a few tips:
1. Book a group stay. You must book ahead, and most tours have a minimum number of persons required (some as low a four). If someone in your group speaks Malay or Indonesian, so much the better.
2. Obtain photo permits. If you want to take pictures, get a permit. It’s the law.
3. Have local cash currency. There are no banks in a foreign wilderness.
4. Pick a good time of year to travel. This would be when it isn’t too wet or too crowded with locals. Did I mention it’s a rainforest? March is the driest month and is mating season for many species.
5. Wear protective clothing. Heavy jeans, long sleeved shirts and sneakers are ideal. This might seem hot, but tropical rainforests are home to large quantities of insects and leeches. I suggest protection first and comfort later.
6. Get international travel insurance. Make sure you are healthy enough for wandering through a wilderness several hours from any medical help. If you are, check out travelers insurance for any unforeseen emergencies you might encounter. Illnesses and injuries occur more frequently than we want, often necessitating emergency medical evacuation.
Then relax and enjoy the mesmerizing panorama of a tropical rainforest.