Temenggor Forest Reserve ~ Hulu Perak Malaysia
Help preserve the Temenggor Forest. Intense logging and over poaching in the area is very worrying indeed. This is going to be a trip to write home about, spending 2 nights in the middle of one of Malaysia's wildest jungles! We were given instructions short of a manual on getting to banding at temenggor. I was excited though, I've heard so much about Perak's Temenggor Rainforest but never set foot in its primary jungle.
Since the 1940's these jungles were labelled black areas. The communists were particularly active in these parts and had a field day bombing and sabotaging any project in the area.Even the east-west highway took an exceptionally long time to complete due to the usual gunfire between the army and the renegades. So, with all that happening, the jungle was left to its own ..until now.
We arrived at Gerik for lunch. This is the last place to stock up on supplies so we decided it was best to buy ourselves a pair of 'kampung adidas'. This is the best kinda shoes to wear in the jungle. It has great grip, it dries quickly and it's light.. And it costs only RM4.90 a pair! I mean, how much more authentic can you get??!! Forget about your trainers, they're as good as roller-skates on these slippery trails..
jungle coffee plant
The last leg of the drive through 40km of the east west highway brought us to the jetty 45minutes later. The Belum and Temenggor Forest Reserve is home to a great variety of fauna and flora. All along the east west highway are Elephant Crossing signs. The jungles here are estimated at 130million years old - older than Amazon and Congo. There are some 3,000 species of flowering plants, many endemic to northern peninsula, 100species of mammals including large roaming animals such as the Sumatran Rhino, Malayan Tiger, Malayan Gaur, Malayan Tapir, Clouded Leopard, Malayan Sun-Bear, and the Asian Elephant. 274 species of birds including all 10 species of Hornbills live and feed here. This area constitutes 300,000hectares of virgin land of which only 117, 800 has been reserved (but not gazetted) for the Royal Belum State Park . The Belum jungle connects with the Hala-Bala Wildlife Sanctuary and the Bang Land National Park in Thailand . It creates a wildlife corridor which allows these animals to roam and it also demarcates the border with Thailand for national security reasons.
But according to MNS' Committee Chairman, Anthony Sebastian, only 36,000hectares were gazetted as State Park, and based on studies about 40 per cent of the Temenggor jungles had perished due to uncontrolled logging and 20% more were to go in the coming months. If it's all going to go, then this will be the only time to experience nature's beauty. Of course, we may also be the last generation to see it in its origins..how frightening is that?!
After 40min speedboat ride, we arrived at our secluded campsite.. MNS conducted a study on the myriad of species in the area back in 1993 and 1998, using this camp at Sg.Halong as base . There wasn't much to the place initially. Only a boathouse and an open thatched hut which to our relief was just the storage area for the boatmen. Our hut was located further into the jungle, close to the stream. It's basic so. bring your own sleeping bag and pillow; and you get a raised platform to sleep on. ..with a roof over your head.and some walls... If you're a little shy. you'll be in for a shock. There's no boy-girl separation, no partitions. Angie, who took up some space next to me . brought an inflatable mattress for comfort..smart!! There are however, separate shower rooms and toilets. The dining/kitchen hut is where everyone lounges during downtime.
We were allowed time to ourselves to get settled. It was a good break for some bird watching. The best place to watch for birds is in the open area by the lake. Not long after, our attention was directed to a call from above, a flock of about 50 highly endangered plain pouched hornbills in the shape of a V-formation were crossing our view. Belum/Temenggor area is the only place in Malaysia where visitors can see large flocks of hornbills.
Another reason for this trip was to search for the rare and largest flower in the world, the Rafflesia. And we were required to trek which took us 6 hours into the belly of a primary jungle. Tall trees lined our path.merbau, meranti, tualang, kledang, keruing.all on the wanted list.. the loggers' wanted list. These trees take an average of 70yrs to grow to a moderate size. That's a person's lifetime. Our guide shows us the different flora around .. the jungle sirih, orchids, flowering climbers, ixoras, jungle gingers and ferns.
After a heavy downpour the day before, the slopes were slippery but we managed to climb down to a cluster of rafflesia. The flower wasn't quite ready to bloom yet..but impressive all the same. Unlike those seen in pictures..it was light pink in colour. The rafflesia cantleyi takes 7- 9 months to germinate and then it blooms for only 6 days before it wilts and rots away. I hear there is one particular rafflesia called rafflesia azlanii named after Sultan Azlan Shah that's only found in perak and pahang. Why would anyone want something named after him that goes extinct? Wouldn't it be logical to preserve what's in a name?
We arrived at the commando camp at the end of our trek at about 4.00pm . After picking off leeches, thankfully the boat came by to pick us up. We raced against the rain back to our campsite. Just as we docked, the rains poured. Dinner was well earned and supper was a plus!
On the last morning, we went on a boat visit to the Temiar village at sg.chiong. The early morning mist created a different landscape : a magical, irreplaceable landscape. Everything seems like it's been here and will be here forever. When we got to sg.chiong, realization sets in. Things are not very well at Temenggor. The water is murky, the fish stock reduced, the natives' hunting ground flattened by loggers and just behind a thin curtain of trees, the rev of tractors can be heard clearly. The logging companies have moved in and they are slicing off pieces of land indiscriminately. 'Panjang' one of our guides had to trek out from his village to get to us at our campsite which took him until nightfall to reach us. He would have been able to travel a shorter time if his normal route via the river wasn't silted up by the excessive logging just upriver from his village. and yet they suffer in silence.
By lunch we had packed our bags and tidied the campsite - ready to return to banding. There's definitely so much to write home about. The contrast.a mystifying, untouched land filled with the wonders of inhabitants that have enriched this land for millennia and the unmasked truth that they are all disappearing fast.. faster than I had thought.as we watched endless convoy of trucks leaving the jungle, laden with tree trunks.