IF YOU think the Amazon rainforest in South America is the only place that will satiate your thirst for a jungle adventure, do think again.
Many may not realise it, but Malaysia is home to one of the oldest rainforests in the world that boasts panoramic views of miles and miles of jungle.
During a recent three-day, two-night media familiarisation trip to Taman Negara in Pahang, the writer discovered that the resort and jungle was a great getaway for nature and outdoor enthusiasts.
After a four-hour bus ride from Kuala Lumpur, we arrived at Mutiara Taman Negara where we stayed in wooden chalets with all the modern comforts.
Despite the modern interior, the chalets have a traditional kampung look. They are located within the resort’s well-kept grounds.
Visitors to the resort might catch a glimpse of wild boars and deer strolling within the area.
Taman Negara, which is spread across the states of Pahang, Kedah and Terengganu, is home to over 300 species of birds, 200 species of mammals and 10,000 species of plants.
Some of the activities available include jungle-trekking, canopy walks, shooting the rapids, night jungle walk, a boat trip to Lata Berkoh and visiting the orang asli.
Many may also not realise that Taman Negara has the longest canopy walk in the world, stretching across a 530m suspension bridge suspended 40m above the ground, giving visitors a chance to take in the spectacular scenery surrounding them.
Currently, part of the canopy walk is under construction, but visitors can still enjoy the walk with ease.
Those not accustomed to trekking or hiking can take comfort in the fact that part of the trails in the resort have boardwalks, providing a less arduous trek for the novice.
Seasoned trekkers can easily ask the guides to take them on a more challenging route.
The boardwalks on the trail proved useful for stable footing when taking pictures during a hike, and indeed the jungle is an ideal location for photographers to shoot animals, insects and birds in their natural habitat.
There is much to see during a trek but having a guide will prove helpful as one may not always know what to look out for.
During the trek, our guide pointed out a scorpion by the side of the trail that none of the media personnel had noticed.
These experienced individuals have an eye for spotting insects, plants and birds that urbanites might easily miss.
Additionally, they have an impressive knowledge of the jungle and readily share information such as identifying edible plants and their health benefits, among others.
Alternatively, visitors can opt for the night jungle walk. A guide will lead a group of four to 12 people, each person carrying a torch light, as they make their way into the jungle.
Some animals and insects only come out in the dark, creating a new experience for visitors to hike in the dark under the supervision of experienced guides.
According to our guide, Hamzah Abdul Hamid or Pak Chu, if lucky, one might see animals such as tapir in the jungle.
The night walk is relatively easy to navigate as the guides will use trails with raised boardwalks, helping to avoid the possible mishap of slipping or wrongly placing a foot on muddy, uneven ground and suffering injuries.
A short boat ride away, visitors can enjoy the cool waterfall at Lata Berkoh, which is a popular spot among tourists.
Another interesting activity for visitors is visiting the orang asli, specifically the Batek tribe.
About a 20-minute boat ride away from the resort, one will notice their home along the riverbank.
Tourists can visit their village and learn the Batek’s way of life, watch how darts for sumpit (blowpipe) are made, and even try their hand at using the weapon.
The blowpipe, which is an elongated weapon made from wood with a small tube inside, is used to hunt game, such as monkeys. The darts are dipped in poison retrieved from the pokok ipoh.
According to guide Mohd Kaderi, the Batek tribe still rely on the jungle for their food, such as hunting for game.
He added that it was important for them to have visitors as it provided them with exposure to the outside world.
Mutiara Taman Negara general manager Nathan Vaithi said some changes had been made to the chalets.
The bathrooms are newly renovated and are now equipped with a water heater. Each chalet has a safe, minibar, telephone and television.
“We are also working towards upgrading Internet services at the resort,” he said.
He said many Europeans, notably the Dutch, sometimes stay there a few months at a time.
“Many Singaporean students also come here to do their fieldwork,” he explained.
“We even have 2012’s Fraser’s Hill International Bird Race champion working with us,” he said, referring to the resort’s recreation executive, Romlan Jaafar, who along with two other members, comprised the winning team Flycatchers.
Nathan said he hoped more Malaysians would visit Taman Negara.
He said there was a lack of awareness among the locals regarding the beauty of this local heritage.