Taman Negara is a nature lover’s dream AND a unique cultural experience. Taman Negara is a vast, protected jungle in Malaysia. It’s a staggering 130 million years old and considered the world’s oldest rainforest. It’s a favorite day trip from Kuala Lumpur, but there’s a hotel in the jungle if you want to stay a few days. Taman Negara has lots of outdoorsy fun like a canopy walk, trekking, wildlife spotting, boating, etc.
Read about other Kuala Lumpur Day Trips here.
Taman Negara is also home to an aboriginal tribe, the Orang Asli. They are hunter-gatherers who have survived in this rainforest forest for countless generations. Their small village is open to a limited number of visitors, offering a glimpse of their way of life.
Visiting Taman Negara is a special opportunity. On one hand, Taman Negara is a fun chance to play Tarzan in an ancient jungle. On the other, it’s is a rewarding chance to meet aborigines who have actually mastered that jungle.
We loved all the activities, but we want to start with our favorite, meeting the Orang Asli.
Orang Asli Aboriginal Village
There are 2 requirements for meeting the Orang Asli. 1.) Your visit must be prearranged with park officials and the tribe. 2.) You must be accompanied by a certified nature guide. Our guide was awesome and extremely helpful as a translator for our survival lessons. He also took care of all the pre-arrangements.
The continued existence of the Orang Asli is a marvel. The government keeps pushing them to modernize, but they have fought to keep their traditional lifestyle. The Orang Asli are fully aware of the modern world. They even wear some modern clothes, but they survive as hunter-gathers in the rainforest. Their survival skills are literally death-defying. Most of us wouldn’t last a night in the wild rainforest. They have thrived there for millennia.
Our visit included a short village tour and eating some foods harvested from the rainforest, but most of our time was spent on practicing some survival skills.
Our lessons focused on 2 essential skills, starting a fire and shooting a blowgun. We had never started a fire without matches or a modern lighter. It was also a very hot, humid day, so we didn’t know if we could do it. It turned out to be surprisingly easy using their “primitive” techniques and tools.
The blowgun lesson wasn’t as easy. The lesson began by showing us some real poison darts that they actually use in hunting. It was very exciting, but we were reluctant to even touch them. We didn’t use the real poison darts for our lesson, but we did use an authentic blowgun. Our teacher, Pawe made the blowgun and had used it to hunt lots of game. There were several notches along the barrel representing the kills. We could feel them as we held the blowgun, and it was a bit eerie.
Then Pawe put up our target, and we all had a good laugh. Our “prey” was a little stuffed animal. Pawe was a great teacher, but we couldn’t hit the target until we cheated. For our last shots, we walked up super close to the target. Despite our horrible aim, the lesson was so fun. Pawe put us at ease with his warm personality and laughter. Of course, he was laughing at us, but we still built a bond. Meeting the Orang Asli was an unforgettable experience.
Taman Negara has the longest canopy walk in the world. It’s 1739 feet long and has a height of 132 feet. The canopy walk is a series of rope bridges that connect at several treetop platforms. Some of the sections are quite long and can get very wobbly.
We enjoyed the wobbles, but it made taking steady photos difficult. You need to hold on with at least one hand for balance. And the bridges are never completely still.
It was also great fun to try to balance while peeking over the side. 132 feet may not seem that high, but staring down from the swinging rope bridge can give a touch of vertigo and a mild thrill.
The Canopy Walk is popular and can get crowded. We were lucky to have it all to ourselves that day, so we took our time. We tried to spot some wildlife, but it was the middle of the day. Most of the animals are only active at night. We did see lots of birds and butterflies.
There are several different jungle treks available. Most trails are well marked and suitable for the average person. The elevated boardwalks make for an easy walk above the mud. No guide is needed if you just want a fun nature walk, but the guides can make the treks more interesting and informative.
Our guide had many cool facts to share. The prickly plant on the left is used to make Rattan furniture. The plant in the middle is used as medicine by the Ornag Asli. The tree is estimated to be 400 years old, but they’re not exactly certain. There are no seasons in the rainforest, so they can’t count the rings. They estimate age by size.
That tower is a “hide” used for wildlife spotting. There are many scattered in the park. The tree in the middle of the clearing is next to a salt lick that draws the animals. Deer, reindeer, tapir, wild boar, and many smaller creatures can be seen there. The prime-time for wildlife observations is at night, so we didn’t see any animals. There are several Night Observation Tours available in different areas of the park. Some are close to HQ and some are in very remote wilderness.
Shooting the Rapids
Shooting the rapids is a great way to cool off in Taman Negara. It’s not as intense as white water rafting, but shooting the rapids offers some wet and wild fun.
The long boat moves fast, but most of the river is smooth going. It’s easy to enjoy the jungle scenery, the fresh air, and the wind in your face. The rapids are a different story. There are 7 sections of rapids that are surprisingly powerful and splashy.
We got completely drenched and had a blast. Luckily we were prepared and had a change of clothes.
We definitely recommend visiting Taman Negara if you’re in Malaysia. You have 2 options:
- Day trip from Kuala Lumpur – Taman Negara is about 4 hours from KL, but it’s totally doable as a day trip. It does require an early start at 4:30am, but you can just sleep on the way. Tours usually include breakfast near the park and lunch at a floating restaurant. We had a full day of activities and made it back to Kuala Lumpur by 7:30pm. It was a long day, but it was amazing.
- Stay at the Rainforest Hotel – If you’re serious about hiking, wildlife spotting, and camping, you can spend a few nights in Taman Negara. You can even go on a week-long hiking expedition through the Taman Negara. There’s a rustic resort and enough activities to keep you busy for days.
Mutiara Taman Negara Hotel
*This article was originally posted on thetravelninjas blog.