Taman Negara, widely touted as the world’s oldest primary rainforest (“Yes! It’s even older than the Amazon!” read the brochures), is nonetheless a beautiful destination to explore. Though not independently confirmed as the “oldest,” much to the chagrin of local tourist companies, it is dated at approximately 130 million years old, and has the added bonus of never undergoing any serious human interference (logging, et al), volcanic activity, seismic eruptions, ice ages, etc. It is, therefore, pristine.
Exploring the jungle on foot is the largest attraction, and blissfully free of cost, and largely, free of tourists. It’s so large that you can walk a good while without seeing or hearing anything but jungle sights and sounds; we trekked out on a “well-marked” (if these are “well-marked,” then I am definitely not yet ready for the more “rugged” pathways). Taman Negara was kind enough to remind both myself and my husband how out of shape we still were; the path to the Canopy Walkway (Titian Kanopi) was humid, sweaty, extremely uneven, and completely worthwhile, as were the hundreds of uneven steps up to the walkway itself. I was not sure I would make it; this was way more than the 272 even concrete steps up to the Batu Caves, and these came after a long trek through the jungle with plenty of organic climbing of its own. Not easy, but I certainly felt accomplished after it was done.
The walkway itself was exhilarating and terrorizing. A couple went ahead of us, having bounded up the stairs faster than we did – I saw the girl (very slight) inch her way out high up in the air and the boards and ropes bend severely under her tiny weight. This did not give me a great feeling. Twenty minutes later or so when we finally got to the fateful entrance, up the last few winding and steep stairs in the canopy hut, I stared down at my feet and the six-inch plank ahead of me. The other couple was nowhere in sight, and we hadn’t heard any bloodcurdling screams from a death plummet or two, so that was a good sign. Rhys came up behind me – we were to stay at least 10 meters apart according to the guide at the bottom, for “bridge safety,” he mentioned ominously. I knew if Rhys went first, I’d lose my nerve – which was funny, since he is afraid of heights and I figured he would have more difficulty with the trek. I can’t wait until I don’t have to fight paralysis from weight worries anymore – I’m 45 pounds down, but I have many, many more to go. I took a deep breath and walked forward…
…and winced as the planks creaked under my weight. They move from side to side and always seem in danger of flipping right the hell over. It is an amazing experience, but a little scary for the uninitiated. For the record, the Taman Negara Canopy Walkway is the longest in the world – clocking in at just under half a kilometer. You feel every footfall of that length too, with the ropes straining above and around you and the sounds of the jungle below you wafting up to your heart-thrumming ears, a beautiful orchestra of danger. The walkway is divided into several portions, and at the end of each, you emerge onto a wooden platform very high in the air, and with warning signs that encouragingly read “NOT more than 4 people allowed on platform! Keep moving!” (Note: If you would like to see a video of what this walkway looks like, please check out this link, it’s another couple who posted a short section of their walk on YouTube!)
By the time I neared the end of the walkway, I was feeling marginally less frightened of the experience, and was enjoying the views over the sides to the forest below. It truly was beautiful! And then this happened:
Yes, that is a stair-ladder, and the stairs are INCREDIBLY small. Plus, the netting is visible between the stair steps, with occasional holes where someone put their foot through it and then probably promptly died of a heart attack. I minced down the stairs, breathing hard. It was no fun. I am smiling in the picture Rhys took as I neared the top of the ladder (I let him go first after the first length of planks), but only because there wasn’t really anything else to do but laugh at the absurdity of it. I survived, thankfully. After the ladder of doom, there was only another short section, and then we travelled the short distance to the boat jetty, which we did not know existed prior to trekking all the way from Kuala Tahan. Oh well, it was a nice walk (especially in hindsight!).
That night, we chose to bow to one of the many tourist-oriented activities and took a 4X4 Night Safari, as we had been informed by other travellers that this held our best chance to see animals. Way too many of us piled into the back of a truck (and some of us on the top of the cab) and pealed off toward darkness. It was pretty awesome. We managed to see several species on the trek, due to a fantastic guide with razor-keen eyesight and a willingness to trudge off into the jungle with only sandals on and actually bring a few species to us (!!). For the record, none of the other trucks had this good a time, and none of them stopped for that kind of experience. Win! We saw several Leopard Cats, a Civet, a Wild Boar, Pygmy Tyrant birds (thanks to our guide), and awesomely a few Flying Tree Snakes (you read that right). We first spotted the mama in a bush, and the guide went flying off past it and retrieved a baby for us to look at (“Be careful of the head,” he warned). He refused to get too close to the mama, as it was MUCH bigger and pretty active. Our guide was AWESOME.
Early the next morning, we boarded the boat to take us back to civilization and are again at Hotel Wau – we had originally planned on spending 3 days instead of 2 in the jungle, but all of the treks past the Canopy Walkway were rated as much more difficult, and that one was plenty difficult enough, thanks. Plus, it rained a LOT the last night we were there, so the leeches would have been out in force. I am just a tad disappointed neither of us got even one leech, I wanted to get a picture. Not that sad, though, and I’m sure at some point, I will get my chance.
*Note: I have included a lot of wiki links in this post. If you like that, please let me know, and I’ll continue to do so in the future. Educational! 😀