TEXT & PHOTOS BY Chua Wei Ling
Malaysia has long been known for its wildlife – visitors have been thronging to its dense rainforests and deep oceans for decades hoping to spot some of the rarest creatures and plants in the world. Consisting of 13 states, the country is also home to the oldest rainforest in the world – Taman Negara – spread across the states of Pahang, Kelantan and Terengganu.
While it’s mainly a hub for governmental offices, Putrajaya in Kuala Lumpur, the capital city of Malaysia is also home to the Pink Mosque (Masjid Putra), built in 1997 on the edge of the man-made Putrajaya Lake. The Sunni mosque, modelled after the Persian Islamic architecture of the Safavid period, can hold up to as many as 15,000 worshippers at any given time.
Taman Botani Putrajaya
Covering an area of 93 hectares, the Taman Botani Putrajaya (Botanical Garden) consists of 3 phases. At present, only the first phase is open to the public, with the subsequent phases set to be opened from 2017 onwards.
Home to more than 700 species of flowering and non-flowering plants, it includes the largest collection of species from the ginger family, as well as unusual plants like the red and orange varieties of durian – Durian Sukang and Durian Dalit – which are usually only found in Sabah. The Botanical Garden is divided into 5 sectors: the Explorer’s Trail, Lakeside, Floral Gardens, Sun Garden and Palm Hill.
Home to a massive collection of fauna from countries such as South Africa, America and across the Asia Pacific region, ferns that are said to have existed for more than 200 million years can be found here as well. To aid in plant pollination, and for the safety of visitors, stingless bees have been introduced, housed in hives throughout the garden.
Beginning from the Visitor Centre, the Explorer’s Trail takes visitors along the Canopy Bridge, affording views amongst the tops of trees such as the Bornean Camphorwood and Teak.
The adjacent Heliconia path is lined with vibrantly-coloured heliconia plants. The path continues onto the Vine Garden, where flowering White Thunbergia and Bengal Thunbergia hang low from the hardwood structures.
The Garden consists of man-made islands, built to prevent strong currents and as a resting place for migratory birds along their flight path. Flamingos can often be spotted during the migration season from September to December on the islands at the Lakeside area, along with a variety of heron species.
Tanah Aina Soraya Eco Resort
A 2-hour drive from KL, Tanah Aina Soraya Eco Resort is situated deep within the mountains, en route to Genting and through Bentong. Dirt roads lead to the resort, and the only way in is via the resort’s private 4WD.
Amenities in the resort are all eco-friendly, and use of all other personal products are strongly discouraged as all by-products are flushed directly into the river. There is no wifi nor air-conditioning available here either.
Surrounded by the river and waterfalls, the most popular activity at the resort is called the ‘Leap of Faith’, a 5m-high platform jump into the river. Accessible only with the resort’s guides, the journey involves a river crossing, and a hike through rugged mountain paths, with narrower portions flanked by wooden fences and ropes.
The first portion takes 15 minutes to trek through, leading to a second river crossing, which can be traversed in three methods: by walking across guided with ropes (if the water is shallow enough), swimming (it’s less than 50m), or riding on a tube. This will lead to the edge of the waterfall where the Leap of Faith platform is.
Each person is given 10 seconds on the plank – a maximum of 3 people are allowed on it at any given time – to make the jump.
Taman Negara (National Park)
Covering an area of 4,343sq.km., the park is accessible directly from Mutiara Resort, which offers lodging right within the park, where tapirs, wild boars, squirrels and monkeys roam freely within the grounds. Up to 500 different species of birds and animals, as well as 10,000 species of plants can be found within the area, along with the world’s longest suspended canopy walk, measuring 530m.
To get to the canopy walk (entry fee RM5), it’s an uphill trek of 1.6km along a boardwalk to Bukit Teresek (tracks of wild boars and tapirs can be seen at times). The walk is suspended at over 40m above the forest floor, allowing for an unobstructed view amongst the treetops, where various species of birds can be seen at all times. Visitors are advised to keep a distance of 10m apart – photography is not allowed on the bridges, other than on the 7 different platforms.
A 5-minute longboat ride away is an Orang Asli village that provides a glimpse into the simple life of the locals. The structure of their houses are kept simple, and even the school is simply an open building that is free for all locals – young or old – to attend. From Kuala Tahan jetty, visitors can head to Lubuk Tenor’s Kelah Fish Sanctuary, where you can swim and feed schools of kelah (mahseer) that are protected and reared within the crystal-clear waters of Sungai Tahan. The nearby Tualang Jetty is home to a huge Tualang tree – at over 350 years old, its roots can encircle 20 people.
At night, a rainforest hike is a great opportunity to spot critters like the common stick insect and the red-headed grasshopper, along with giant millipedes, various species of spiders, and even snakes like the bronze back tree snake. Scorpions can be trackable only via UV lights and are easily sent scurrying into hiding with the slightest of vibrations.
Observation towers throughout the park, such as Tahan Hide, make for great places to observe wildlife. Mousedeer and Sambar deer, along with families of wild boars, are drawn to the salt-water stream in front of the tower. Night-time and dawn are the best times for sightings, and especially if the weather is hot and dry.
Entry permits to Taman Negara have to be obtained, and a license for all photography and videography must be obtained at the Department of Wildlife office at Kuala Tembeling jetty for a nominal fee.
There are regular coach services from KL to Taman Negara (5-7 hours). Alternatively, KTM also services Taman Negara (Jerantut) via JB Sentral, taking 9 hours.
TEXT AND PHOTOS BY CHUA WEI LING