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   Introduction  

A land of spectacular vistas, undulating terrain and ancient rain forests, Malaysia offers unlimited opportunities for a trekker. The wilds of the country's extensive national parks and wildlife reserves presents an opportunity to rediscover the allure of nature.

From the freshwater swamp forests of the Kinabatangan floodplain where Proboscis monkeys squat in treetops munching leaves, to the undisturbed dipterocarp rainforests of Taman Negara, one of Asia's finest conservation areas, trekking in Malaysia is a rich and rewarding experience.

Seasoned trekkers may want to try the rigorous seven-day trek to the summit of Gunung Tahan in Taman Negara, Pahang. Novice trekkers can pratice at Forest Reserve Institute of Malaysia (FRIM) in Kepong, Kuala Lumpur, The Malaysia Agricultural Park at Tamn Bukit Cahaya in Shah Alam, Selangor or Air Keroh Recreational Forest in Malacca.

Well known trekking sites in Sarawak include Niah National Park, Mulu National Park and Lambir National Park. In Sabah, the Kinabalu National Park and Danum Valley are good trekking destinations.

SITES FOR JUNGLE TREKKING
Kuala Selangor Nature Park Selangor Mangrove forest
Templers Park Selangor Mountain forest
Ulu Bendol Negeri Sembilan Mountain forest
Endau Rompin Johor Lowland rainforest
Gunung Ledang Johor Highland rainforest
Cameron Highlands Pahang Highland and mountain rainforest
Taman Negara Pahang Lowland and hill rainforest
Tasik Chini Pahang Freshwater swamp forest
Tasik Bera Pahang Freshwater swamp forest
Genting Highlands Pahang Highland rainforest
Fraser's Hill Pahang Highland rainforest
Tasik Kenyir Terengganu Freshwater swamp forest
Danum Valley Sabah Highland and mountain forest
Kinabalu National Park Sabah Highland and mountain forest
Kinabatangan Floodplain Sabah Freshwater swamp forest
Gunung Emas Sabah Highland rainforest
Bako National Park Sarawak Mangrove forest
Lambir National Park Sarawak Lowland rainforest
Mulu National Park Sarawak Hill rainforest and limestone pinnacles
Niah National Park Sarawak Lowland rainforest


   Diversity of terrain  

Undulating hills matted with dense vegetation, gushing rivers, steep forested slopes and muddy trails are just a few examples of the varied terrain encountered when trekking in Malaysia's diverse tropical habitats. Blanketing the landscape, there are several major types of rainforests to explore, each with their own unique characteristics and wildlife.

Acting as a buffer between land and sea, mangrove forests prevent coastal erosion and are vital as feeding and breeding grounds for fisheries. In Kuala Selangor Nature Park and other mangrove sites, where fiddler crabs dart in to muddy holes to avoid hungry monkeys, boardwalks snake through the forest to make trekking easier.

A prominent feature of both Peninsula Malaysia and East Malaysian Hillsides, dipterocarp forests are one of natures' most complex and diverse ecosystems. Hundreds of plant species including climbing vines and palms can be seen in a dazzling array of forms and functions. Large buttressed roots provide stability for many rainforest trees while the tips of some leaves aid water dripping.

Mountain forests are a cooler alternative for trekking than the dipterocarp forests and come with their own attractions and indigenous plant and animal life.

Jungle trekking can take an hour or two or as many days as you wish. The choice is up to the nature adventurer. The best time to trek in Peninsula Malaysia is during the dry season in March to October when rainfall is sparse and does not hinder exploration. The wet season in Sabah and Sarawak is from July to October.

   Sights and Sounds of the Forest  

The wilds of Malaysia are full of fascinating animals and amazing plants that take advantage of the competitive conditions of the rainforest. Rainforest wildlife conceal or camouflage themselves to avoid predators and to survive but towed hides and canopy walks aid those searching for a glimpse of the inhabitants.

Endau-Rompin in Johor is an unique collection of lowland and mountain rain forest which is home to the largest population of endangered animals in the country. The Sumatran rhinoceros, tigers and elephants are among the protected species in Endau-Rompin. Taman Negara in Pahang has many trails of which the Mat Kilau trail is the most popular due to the sightings of Fishing Eagles, gibbons, pheasants and Tapir.

A visit to the jungle requires the full use of one's senses to discover all the creatures of the forest. Take time to spot the many insects and butterflies flitting about in the forests of Peninsula Malaysia. Marvel at the membrane wings of the Flying Lemur gliding trees from tree in Endau Rompin. Listen to the swooshing wingbeats of colourful hornbills or the call of gibbons echoing at dawn in Danum Valley in Sabah.

From fungi to orchids, thousands of rainforest plants climb up, drape over or join together to form a vibrant and interconnected habitat. The observant trekker will notice how a strangler and kills the host tree, leaving nothing but a hollow center in its place.

JUNGLE TREKKING TIPS

  • When choosing a trail, be sure that you have enough time to complete the entire route before darkness falls. Bo not stray off the path to chase after animals.
  • Use good judgment regarding the fitness level required for the trek and know your physical limits.
  • Always inform the park officials or let someone know of your plans and destination for the day, especially if going alone.
  • Take plenty of water and pack a few easy to eat snacks to keep energy level up. Unless trekking with a local guide, it is not advisable to eat jungle fruit or drink from rivers and streams.
  • In the highlands try to trek on the ridgetops to save energy traversing the steep slopes and catch a cool breeze.
  • Be as quiet as possible to avoid scaring any wildlife. Getting an early start during the dawn provides the best chance to sight animals seeking food and the warmth of the early morning sun.
  • Wear thin, loose, preferably cotton clothing to remain comfortable.
  • Cover arms and legs with long trousers and long - sleeved shirts to ward off mosquitoes and to provide protection against thorny plants.
  • Wear leech socks or long socks to prevent leeches from finding an entry way.
  • Choose sturdy footwear with proper ankle support and good traction.
  • Be prepared for sudden rainshowers by carrying a poncho that wraps over both body and your carrying pack to keep everything dry.
  • A wide brimmed hat helps to shade a trekker from the heat of the tropical sun.

   Camping  

National Parks in Malaysia provide many jungle camping sites. There are also many mountain and beach sites which are suited for camping. In picking your camp site, always take into consideration the weather conditions and the types of camping equipment you will need.

The rainy season during December to February renders some camp sites along the river trails of Taman Negara in accessible. Always check with the relevant Park authorities before hand.

The lower altitudes of primary jungle like Taman Negara, Kenong Rimba Park in Pahang; Endou Rompin in Johor; Mulu and Lambir National Parks in Sarawak are humid, so your choice of tents should allow for good ventilation. Enclosed nylon tents with sewn-in groundsheets are not recommended as they tend to condense air on the inside. Cotton tents get heavy after absorbing water.

CAMPING SITES
Gunung Jerai Kedah
Pulau Payar Marine Park Kedah
Gunung Korbu Perak Perak
Port Dickson Negeri Sembilan
Mersing Marine Park Johor
Endau-Rompin Johor
Redang Marine Park Terengganu
Taman Negara Pahang
Kenong Rimba Park Pahang
Gunung Tahan Pahang
Gunung Tangga Lima Belas Pahang
Tioman Marine Park Pahang
Cherating Pahang
Gunung Tapis Pahang
Gunung Alab Sabah
Tuanku Abdul Rahman National Park Sabah
Mulu National Park (Lowland and hill forest) Sarawak
Lambir Hills Park (Lowland and hill forest) Sarawak
Gunung Mulu Sarawak

When camping on high altitude locations such as Gunung Jerai in Kedah; Gunung Korbu in Perak; Gunung Tapis and Gunung Tahan in Pahang, choose a site sheltered from the wind and avoid the higher peaks when thunderstorms occur. A self-contained tent with aluminium poles and stakes is best for mountain camping.

Only a basic set up is needed when camping on the beaches of the marine parks in the country which includes Pulau Payar in Kedah; Port Dickson, Negeri Sembilan; Pulau Redang, Terengganu; Pulau Tioman and Cherating in Pahang and Tunku Abdul Rahman Park in Sabah. A hammock or sleeping bag will do very well.

Although most of the national parks and private tourist facilities furnish and rent out camping gear, it may be wiser to bring along basic camping necessities.

Remember to check on restrictions which may apply due to ecological or other reasons. If unsure, contact the Park authorities.

JUNGLE TREKKING TIPS

Whether camping in the damp rainforests, on sunny beaches or atop mountain peaks, there are a few easy environmental tips to keep in mind to protect and preserve Malaysia's camp sites.
  • Always choose a clear camping site free of debris and away from rotting trees.
  • Never cut down vegetation in order to make way for a camp site.
  • Whenever possible, try to avoid overusing popular camping areas and select an alternative location in order to minimise soil compaction.
  • Bring along reusable plastic cups and plates.
  • Minimise the use of detergents for washing and bathing and be sure to do this downstream from water collection areas.
  • Pit latrines are to be dug well away from any water sources and the camp site. It is to be filled in before you leave the area.
  • Rubbish is to be collected and carried away when you leave, not simply buried.

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