Taman Negara is the Malaysian name for National Park. In this instance it is referring to ‘the’ Taman Negara, the largest national park in the country. It consists of tropical rainforest that has been around for over 130 million years, regarded as the oldest in the world. The park was established in 1939 and these days makes a great trip for anyone visiting Malaysia. A visit to Taman Negara gives you a great opportunity to go deep into the jungle and enjoy the natural habitat. The park is home to a lot of wildlife too, so you can see what you can spot on your visit.
In this post I will give you some info about how to visit Taman Negara and what to do here. I’ll also talk about my own experiences and why I think you should definitely visit Taman Negara as part of a trip to Malaysia. Personally I have travelled around large parts of Southeast Asia and can definitely say that Taman Negara is one of my highlights of the region.
When to visit Taman Negara – beware the rains!
Malaysia is a country effected my monsoon’s and it’s advisable to avoid going to Taman Negera during it’s wet season. This normally starts around mid-October to November, and continues through to the end of January. Of course these can also run into February too if it’s particularly long monsoon season. Therefore the advisable time to go is between March and mid-October. May to August is the driest period and therefore high season with the most visitors. I personally visited in Mid-October just before the start of the rains and it was very quite and some hostels were just about to shut down for the rains.
How to get to Taman Negara
Their is a village in Taman Negara named Kuala Tahan, and this is definitely where I recommend basing yourself. It is found along the Tembeling River and has plenty of accommodation as well as restaurants. It’s also where the Park HQ for treks are and where the guides go from. I recommend booking a mini van ride that includes a boat ticket. This way you can journey along the Tembeling River river to the village and enjoy the views and spot wildlife as you go. Water Buffalo, Monkeys and Birds are common.
The boats go from the Kampung Tanjung Jelai jetty. There are a number of tour agencies that offer the route that are found in Kuala Lumpur. This is probably the easiest place to reach the park from. Ask your accommodation there if they recommend one. Honestly people have such mixed experiences with agencies I personally think the nest approach here is just go for whatever time and cost is most convenient for you rather than worrying about online reviews.
You can of course come to the park from other destinations in Malaysia too. Agencies will offer the destination from various routes, depending on the season. If your coming by public transport then Jerantut is the nearest town. It’s not far to travel to the jetty from here. Though if you have arrive lateish then you may need to stay the night so that boats will be running in the morning.
It is very important to note that there are no ATM’s in Kuala Tahan. You must take out Malaysian Ringgit before you arrive or won’t be able to be pay for what you need.
Wait until your in Kuala Tahan before you book tours or outward travel!
When you are tourist agencies will try to sell you things and book you on tours. They can be quite pushy about this. You don’t need to book anything until you get to Kuala Tahan itself so don’t worry! You will need to get a park entry ticket and camera permit from the park HQ though.
When leaving the park there are several tour agencies offering options to shop around to get the best deal to where you want to go. You should take into account Malaysia’s monsoon season’s though, this may restrict your choices for the 2 coasts depending when the monsoon is starting. You won’t need to get the boat again, you can take a mini van or bus straight out.
Where to stay in Kuala Tahan and where to eat
The village has many accommodation options, and you either book online or turn up and find a place. Though during high season I definitely recommend booking in advance. There are 2 hostels I recommend here. These are Wild Lodge and Agosto Taman Negara Hostel. The first is the busier of the 2 and often a focal point for backpackers due it’s tours and the fact it sells alcohol. Its also the most well known hostel in the area. The second is nearby and is a smaller with a dorm consisting wooden pod style beds. It’s a bit more quite and I like the privacy the pod beds provided.
Down on the river you will find several floating restaurants. These are where to eat during your stay here. They provide standard Malaysian meals such as Nasi Goreng and Mee Goreng. That is fried rice and spicy fried noodles. They also do snacks such as fries or sandwiches. There are some vegetarian options available, usually just vege versions of the rice and noddle dishes and sides like spring rolls. The village also has a small shop where you can buy snacks from. There is some local street food around too on occasion, though I didn’t try it as it seemed to be only meat (i’m vegetarian).
Activities to do in the park
There are plenty of tour agencies offering various activities in Taman Negara. As I have already advised you should wait until you reach Kuala Tahan before you book anything. You won’t save money doing it beforehand, and this way you can actually chat to the organisers and see what other travellers are doing. You can go trekking in the park by yourself but personally I recommend going with a guide. Its a huge park and you can easily get lost, so unless you are a very experienced at self guided trekking it’s better to go with a guide. Here is a look at the 3 activities I go up to when I visited Taman Negera:
This is a great way to see some of the local wildlife at nighttime, particularly the bugs. You head through some of the rainforest with a guide who will point out things they see on the way. When I visited this included Scorpions, Large Spiders, Frogs, Stick Insects, Millipedes and a Praying Mantis. As well as various other insect life. There is a a chance of course to see other larger creatures but we weren’t fortunate, but honestly we saw so many smaller ones that I would of missed otherwise it was definitely worth it. You should bring your own torch for this!
Trek through the rainforest
Generally their are 2 options offered though you can look into longer ones. These are either a day trek which takes 7 to 8 hours or a 2 day one including a night sleeping in a cave. There are of course various add on’s and whatever that you can include as part of this. Personally I joined a day trek as it’s pretty tough going out here in the rainforest. It’s very humid and you will sweat. A lot. It was good fun and the guide was knowledgeable about the local area and wildlife. He even told us a bit about the few indigenous people who live in the rainforest. And about the time he and his guided group were stalked by a tiger!
At the end we took a boat back to Kuala Tahan that passed over some of the rapids, that was fun (and very wet!). You can do a session of rapid shooting as well if you want, for extra cost of course. If you do a trek (and I really recommend you do) be sure to take plenty of water with you. Food is usually provided but be sure to let them known any deity requirements when booking it.
Forest Canopy Walk
The world’s longest canopy walk is located within Taman Negara. You don’t need a guide to find it, it’s signposted from the park entrance and not to far to find. It gives you an opportunity to walk through the rainforest looking down and is an interesting way to see the local flora. A small fee is required which you pay at the entrance to the walk. Compared to the trek it’s not as exciting but i’s an inserting thing to do if you have a free morning or afternoon.
Why I think Taman Negara is worth a visit
From reading all of the above you can see that Taman Negara is an interesting place. It really gives you an opportunity to go into a rainforest and explore it’s fauna and see some of it’s wildlife.
Personally I really enjoyed it and I think it’s one of the best places in Southeast Asia to really see the rainforest away from the big cities and tourist resorts. The atmosphere staying in the village of Kaula Tahan is a pleasant one. The people are nice and it’s fun to eat on the floating restaurants.
It’s easy to get to from Kuala Lumpur and fun too once you are on the boat. The trekking guides here are very experienced and run a good operation, meaning you really get a chance to go into the rainforest and experience how it feels. All in all it’s just a great place to see the more wild side of nature in Southeast Asia.
How long to spend here
I recommend you allocate at least 3 nights when visiting Taman Negara. Your first is for travel here and to settle in. You can then do your activities over the next 2 days. A lot of people tend to rush out once they have done a trek but honestly you should give yourself sometime to rest and recuperate before heading onward. It may feel like your wasting a few hours but honestly you your body will appreciate it, the humidity takes a lot out of you here!
If your travelling around Malaysia and wondering where to head next then Cameron Highlands is a great choice from here, presuming you’ve come from Kuala Lumpur to begin with. If you’ve done Cameron Highlands already then heading to Kuala Lumpur is a good choice as you can then decide where to go from there. The Perhentian islands are also a popular place to head to from Taman Negara when it’s not the rainy season.