Land Before Time: Belum-Temenggor Forest

Situated in northeast Perak, the Belum-Temenggor Forest Reserve is the largest contiguous forest area in West Malaysia. Covering a vast 300,000 hectares, it includes the Temenggor Forest, the Belum Forest Reserve and Royal Belum State Park (RBSP), and goes on to adjoin Bang Lang National Park and the Hala-Bala Wildlife Sanctuary just over the border in neighbouring Thailand. 

Estimated to be over 130 million years old, Belum-Temenggor predates both the Amazon and Congo, and given its partially protected status today, it may stand a better chance than either of surviving. 

Located within this massive forest is man-made Lake Temenggor; at over 150sq.km., it includes hundreds of small islands, which are actually the tops of old hills flooded by the dam- ming of the Perak and Temenggor rivers. Among these, is Banding Island (2.5sq.km.) home to Belum Rainforest Resort and forest research centre. 

BIODIVERSITY IN BELUM

Forming a vast, intact wildlife corridor that includes rainforest, grassland, swamp and lake habitat, it’s a key biosphere for endangered mammals like the Malayan tiger, tapir and Asiatic elephant, as well as the massive seladang (gaur) and Sumatran rhinoceros. Living in harmony within this
ecosystem are the indigenous Orang Asli – the area’s original inhabitants.

In terms of birdlife, all 10 types of hornbill native to Malaysia can be found in the forest canopy, as well as over 300 other bird species, including fishing eagles, who along with river otters feed on Lake Temenggor’s 23 types of fish. Of the 3,000 species of flowering plants, three types of Rafflesia can be found; as it only has a life cycle of 5-7 days, it is rare to see it in full bloom.

WHAT TO DO

The only reliable way to get around most of Belum-Temenggor is by boat.

Rainforest Trekking

Guided day- and night-treks are easily arranged on Banding Island as well as in Temenggor, while visitors require entry permits for the Royal Belum State Park (allow 5 working days’ processing time). Outside of rainy season (Nov-Mar), it is also possible to arrange private jungle camping trips within Royal Belum, but guests must book 7 working days in advance for the park’s entry permit (2D/1N at RM400/person, min. 4 people).

Most half-day treks often yield sightings of Rafflesias and hornbills, as well as signs of large mammals around the salt licks at Sira Gajah. Treks generally include a swimming break in one of the forest waterfalls, such as Sungai Nam (in Lower Belum) or Sungei Ruok (in Royal Belum).

Birding

With elevations up to 1,500m, Belum- Temenggor plays host to a wide range of bird species, including 20 types of bulbuls and 30 types of babblers. The area around Lake Temenggor is predominantly home to waterfowl, including egret, heron, kingfisher and osprey who feed on fish species like carp or even juvenile toman. The most active birding season is generally August- October, when most of Belum-Temenggor’s 3,000-strong population of hornbills go out to feed every morning. Birding tours generally last 2-4 hours.

Orang Asli Visits

There are numerous Orang Asli settlements around the lake, with the most easily reached being Kampong Chuweh. Home to 90 people, most visitors spend 30 minutes in the village, it’s possible to do an overnight homestay with locals, as well as fishing trips, or rainforest walks.

WHEN TO GO

The driest months are April-October, when low water levels can limit boat
access to some locations deeper in the jungle. While Belum-Temenggor is accessible year-round, the peak months for trekking are generally July-August and/ or October-December – also the peak for sport fishing.

BELUM RAINFOREST RESORT

The Belum Rainforest Resort, located on Banding Island, is operated under the island’s development charter; 80% of the land is left untouched as forest with only 20% under low-impact development including a variety of accommodation options catering to all budgets and interests, including kampung-styled traditional chalets, luxury villas, house boats and the
original lodge itself. Taking a leading role in Lake Belum- Temenggor’s preservation, it also offers activities like bamboo rafting, Orang Asli visits, and guided rainforest treks ranging from 2-3 hour guided hikes in Lower Belum (RM150/person) to full-day tours including Orang Asli village visits, waterfalls and Rafflesia spotting (RM370/person), and night treks around Banding Island (RM90/person). Other activities include birding and fishing trips (catch & release only) from RM150-350/person.

The resort also runs a number of ongoing eco-programmes including its annual tree planting event, Te’el Juhuk, and various initiatives via its EMKAY Foundation, building schools in remote Orang Asli communities and helping integrate local indigenous populations into conservation activities.

GETTING THERE

Banding Island is located along the East- West Highway, and easily reached by road from major airports including Penang (3hrs), Ipoh (3.5hrs) and KL (5hrs). Visit www.belumresort.com for more.

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