Having struggled with vertigo for years I didn’t expect the canopy walkway 45m above the Malaysian jungle to be the highlight of my trip to Taman Negara. In fact I wasn’t at all sure if would be brave enough to tackle it. But after being inspired by a chat with a friend not long before I left the UK and some serious mind over matter meditation, I got myself onto the first bridge and after that there was no going back.
The walkway is the longest of its kind in the world and consists of 11 bridges strung between treetop platforms where up to five people can stop at any one time to take a break and a few snaps of the dense rainforest below. The bridges are narrow with floors made of wood and sides of rope and feel surprisingly sturdy though they do sway. The best way to stop that is to walk slowly putting one foot in front of the other – like a model, our guide told us.
Helpfully the first couple of bridges are quite short, I think a deliberate attempt to get people used to the experience. After that most were longer, particularly the part that suddenly became vertical – no one had mentioned there was a steel ladder in the mix!
After a fairly short while the fear I’d felt waiting for our turn had completely gone and been replaced by a sense of wonder at being above the vast green tangle of trees, animals and insects. Down below looked impossible to navigate, but up on high you get the sense of being in the jungle without the need to clear a path to cross it. Also of course I felt a huge sense of achievement and hope that my vertigo might actually be a thing of the past.
At the the end of the walkway there’s a trail signposted to Bukit Teresik, a 300m+ uphill walk to a viewing point across the rainforest. There are wooden steps almost the whole way up which makes it easy but can get a bit tedious. Our guide took us off into what I assume was the original trail which was steeper and occasionally slippery, but more interesting and challenging.
You can come back down to the canopy walkway entrance if you’ve arranged a boat back to Kuala Tahan, or take a branch of the trail that leads to the Mutiara Taman Negara hotel where the park headquarters are. This is where we stayed and is probably the nicest hotel in the area as well as the most convenient.
It has rooms and cabins set in lovely grounds, a good restaurant and the only bar in Kuala Tahan, although we did hear from a couple of people that their hotel offered them a beer. Other eating options in Kuala Tahan village, which is a quick boat ride across the river from the Mutiara, are really just a series of floating restaurants along the shore. They are ok but fairly limited in choice, so after a couple of meals there we reverted to Western fare at the hotel restaurant.
From the park headquarters/ hotel grounds there are lots of sign posts to other trails and both there and in the village, tours with guides are offered. Personally I think it’s no brainier to go out with a local guide as you’re much more likely to spot the flora of interest and hopefully some interesting fauna.
We didn’t expect to see wildlife like elephants and tigers on our hikes as know they are much deeper in the jungle, but there were birds, insects, lizards, monkeys and a few snakes. Ironically we saw the animal most people are keen to spot, the tapir, near to the hotel bar not long after arriving. Presumably it had also heard it was the only bar in the area.
Other things to do at Taman Negara include a boat rapids ride which isn’t the most exciting I’ve done but you do get pretty wet. You can also visit a village of the Orang Asli tribe, who live in huts made of Palm leaves but I’ll write a separate post about that as found it fascinating.
The easiest way to get there is to book with a Malaysian tour company like Han Travel. They have lots of options for varying numbers of days and nights and you can just take the transport or add a hotel, or do a full package with meals, activities and guide. We booked the latter online from home and going from KL it cost about £150 each for three days, two nights in a chalet at the Mutiara with transport from KL to Taman Negara and then on to the Cameron Highlands. Breakfast was at the hotel but lunch and dinner at the floating restaurant which we ditched for the second night. It also included all the activities I’ve mentioned and a guide which we thought was pretty good value, especially given the standard of the hotel.
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