Visiting Taman Negara, Malaysia’s National Park

Taman Negara Malaysia Bukit Teresek view

Taman Negara is a place like no other on your Malaysian itinerary. After the bustle of Kuala Lumpur, the beaches of Langkawi or the misty tea fields of the Cameron Highlands, visiting Taman Negara rainforest is a must-see destination for you if you love getting outdoors in nature amongst ancient flora and fauna.

Taman Negara is a rainforest in Malaysia that at 130 million years old is thought to be one of the oldest in the world, second only in age to the Daintree rainforest in Australia. 

It was established in 1938 as an area of protected land that spans the three states of Pahang, Terengganu and Kelantan in Malaysia. After independence from colonialism in 1957, the park was named Taman Negara, which translates to ‘national park’ in Malay.



How many days should you spend in Taman Negara?

My trip to the national park lasted two days and two nights, which felt about right for my level of activity. If you fancy doing a local hike then you could easily extend your time here by another day or two to give yourself a little longer to explore. 

There are several options to enjoy the national park: you can opt for a day trip to Taman Negara from Kuala Lumpur with a guide, or you can travel there yourself to spend at least one night. 

Once there, the choice is yours whether you take part in any organised activities or decide that you want to explore some parts of Taman Negara on your own. 

You can get all the information you need about day trips and activities you can do without a guide at the park headquarters at the jetty opposite Kuala Tehan.

 

Canopy walkway in Taman Negara Malaysia

Canopy walkway in Taman Negara, Malaysia

Best things to do in Taman Negara

There was clearly a lot more to do in Taman Negara that I did not have time for such as fishing, caving, waterfalls and of course multiple opportunities for wildlife encounters.

However, to get started, here are a few ideas to help you plan your trip to Malaysia’s national park:

  • Taman Negara Canopy Walk

Viewing the rainforest from the treetops is a perfect way to gain a new perspective on the incredible wildlife here. The canopy walkway is located close to the park headquarters so is easy to find. It costs 5 RM / £0.94 GBP / $1.74 AU to enter. 

The walkway is reputed to be the longest suspension bridge in Malaysia with some sections spanning 530 metres. Up in the trees you can admire the canopy of the forest and if you’re lucky spot hornbills and other birds amongst the branches of the towering trees.

If you’re not a fan of heights then this activity may not be the one for you, but the views and the experience were well worth the thrill. 

Canopy walk in Taman Negara National Park

Canopy walk in Taman Negara National Park

 

  • Climb Bukit Teresek

At 334 metres high, Bukit Teresek is one of the best places to reward yourself with spectacular views across Taman Negara, with the rainforest stretching away on all sides. 

The walk is 1.7km from Kuala Tehan. You can take a local guide with you who can explain the local flora, fauna and wildlife, or you can choose to strike off on your own.

The majority of the walk is easy to follow with a defined boardwalk under foot (and a lot of steps!) so you will find it an easy route if you want to explore by yourself. 

At the top on clear days you can see Gunung Tahan in the distance. At 2187 metres high it is the tallest peak in Peninsular Malaysia. The uphill scramble is sweaty work in the humidity, but definitely worth it.

Taman Negara Malaysia Bukit Teresek view

The view from the top of Bukit Teresek

 

  • Visit native villagers

The national park is home to the Orang Asli who are a tribe of people indigenous to Malaysia. About 400 people live on the banks of the Tembeling River in villages of roughly 30 – 40 people. 

The Orang Asli know the jungle intimately, with knowledge such as where to find sandalwood that is exported around the world for perfumes. They hunt and forage in the jungle and live off the land. 

Visitors are treated to a glimpse into the lives of the Orang Asli, who demonstrate how they carve the darts that they use for hunting and how they make fire without lighters or matches. 

In the village, children play with cats and dogs and chickens strut around the place. Wood smoke drifts from the chimneys of the wooden huts and life here is lived without running water or electricity. 

Your visit is brief and accompanied by an interpreter (as the villagers speak their own language) and for me one that was tinged with a bit of sadness as you could see how these people are caught in between the two worlds of their traditions and tourism.

Orang Asli village in Taman Negara

A hut in the Orang Asli village, Taman Negara

 

  • Walking trails

There are several multi-day walking trails through the rainforest, such as the trek to Gunung Tahan that takes seven days and six nights to complete. 

Smaller, local trails such as the walk along the river to Lubok Simpon can be accessed from Kuala Tahan, where you can pick up maps at the visitors centre and plan your route. 

For longer hikes it is advisable to go with a local guide who knows the rainforest intimately and can share their knowledge of the wildlife and plants you will encounter. They will also be best placed to guide you through the challenging terrain of the jungle. 

If you do decide to head off unaccompanied, always tell someone you travel plans, take a good GPS system and hiking equipment with you as the most challenging part of your walk will be navigating the jungle itself. 

  • Night safari

You can experience the rainforest at night either by a walking tour led by a local guide or jumping on board a 4WD night safari that will take you deep into the jungle to spot lizards, owls, snakes and even the elusive and adorable slow loris. 

It was raining heavily both nights when I was there so I opted not to take part in either of these activities, but I have experienced the Bornean jungle at night when I stayed at the Kinabatangan River. 

  • Shoot the river rapids

I unexpectedly experienced the rapids on the Tembeling River as we journeyed to visit the Orang Asli settlement. Although I had specifically asked not to be placed on the boat that was taking thrill seekers up river through the rapids, I somehow got shepherded on. 

The crew on the boat aimed the vessel straight into each set of rapids they came across, causing great waves of brown river water to cascade into the boat, soaking us all to the skin. We were given life jackets to wear but of course they didn’t do much to stem the anticipation of hitting the next rapids and the rocking of the boat.

If this sounds like your cup of tea, my advice is to bring old clothes you do not mind getting stained with river water and ensure you either take no valuables at all with you or that they are secure in a waterproof bag.

I had not prepared for the soaking as I wasn’t expecting to take part in the rapids. One of travel’s little frustrations as things don’t go as you plan but I gritted my teeth and tried to see the fun in it. As soon as I reached Kuala Lumpur I headed straight to the nearest laundry to wash all my filthy clothes clean…

Tembeling River Malaysia

On the bank of the Tembeling River

 

  • Eat at a floating restaurant 

Lined up along the edge of the river are several floating eateries – Mama Chop, Family Restaurant and Wan’s – that will serve you local dishes to fill you up after a hot day in the jungle. 

They are open for breakfast, lunch and dinner so if all you fancy doing is sitting and sipping a cold juice as you watch the river go by, then you will be spoiled for choice at one of these floating jungle restaurants.  

Floating restaurant at Taman Negara

Floating restaurant at Taman Negara

 

Is there a Taman Negara entrance fee?

All visitors are required to pay for a camera pass to the national park. This cost me 6 RM / £1.13 GBP / $2.10 AU. I purchased my camera pass at an office at Tembeling jetty. 

If you have arrived at the national park independently via public transport, then you can pay an entrance fee of 1 RM to Taman Nagara at the park office. If you’ve paid for local transportation then your park fee will be covered, as mine was.  



Getting to Taman Negara (from the Cameron Highlands)

Your journey to Taman Negara will definitely be one of the highlights at the national park. I began my journey in the Cameron Highlands, where I took a shared mini van to a river jetty at a place called Kuala Tembeling. This drive took 3 and a half hours and the winding roads through the Cameron Highlands are certainly an adventure in itself.

At Kuala Tembeling I waited a couple of hours for the boat to Taman Negara. Whilst here, a representative from a company called Han Travel gave me a spiel about all of the tours and activities I could do once I got to Taman Negara and it wasn’t very clear at this stage what you could do independently. I chose not to commit to any tours at this point as I wanted to keep my options open for when I arrived.

The long, low-sided boat arrived and the crew loaded everyone’s bags onto the front and promised to cover them with a tarpaulin if it rained. Inside the boat I sat on the floor on a cushion and leant against the wooden backrest dividing me from the section behind. Each section could seat two people, so I reckon the boat could seat roughly 20 passengers. 

The boat journey along the Tembeling River to Kuala Tehan, the little village opposite the entrance to Teman Negara, took 2 hours. Along the way, we spotted cows and water buffalo at the banks of the brown water, swollen by the rain. It was an enjoyable journey and fun to chat to the other people on the boat. 

Boat journey from Kuala Tembeling to Taman Negara

Boat journey from Kuala Tembeling to Taman Negara

 

Kuala Lumpur to Taman Negara by road

The return trip was a little less exciting as you can access Taman Negara from KL by road. From Taman Negara I joined a shared minivan to Jerantut bus station where I waited for 1.5 hours for a second minivan that took me all the way into Kuala Lumpur in 3 hours. 

I booked transport in Malaysia by speaking to the reception desk at whatever accommodation I happened to be at. I found that the staff are always willing to help you book travel as they have the contacts with local companies, and can organise most onward travel for you if you ask. 

My journey from the national park to Kuala Lumpur cost 79 RM / £15 GBP / $27 AU, but you can take a public bus from Jerantut to Kuala Lumpur for 7 RM / £1.32 / $2.45 AU.

For helpful route planning, I like using Rome to Rio as it helps break down your options using local transport. For locally arranged transport, speak to your accommodation or tourist information offices in wherever you are staying. 

Where to stay in Taman Negara

I spent a long time researching accommodation in Taman Negara and ended up not booking anything before I went as not much appeared online for the national park. I figured that the place seemed small enough that I could walk around when I got there and find a place to stay.

I picked up a map at the Kuala Tembeling office and it was helpfully marked with all the nearby accommodation. My confusion was eased when I realised that you couldn’t stay in Taman Negara itself, accommodation is available in Kuala Tehan, which is on the other side of the river to the entrance of the park. 

Kuala Tehan is a small place served by a variety of accommodation options such as hostels, guesthouses and eco resorts offering various accommodation options from backpacker dorms to private rooms. 

On the journey to Taman Negara I ended up chatting to a couple of Dutch backpackers who had pre-booked their accommodation at Han Rainforest Resort. I tagged along with them and booked myself into a 4 bed dorm for 25 RM / £4.71 / $8.77 AU per night. 

My dorm room ended up being empty the whole time I was there and had air con, so I was happy with the price. The main lounge area of the resort had free Wifi.

The resort offered transport to / from the main jetty in Kuala Tehan as it was just shy of a kilometre walk, which with luggage is quite a nice bonus in the Malaysian humidity!

Tembeling River in Taman Negara national park

 

What to bring to Teman Negara

  • Day bag
  • Waterproof rain cover for backpack
  • Sturdy hiking shoes
  • Loose fitting clothes for hiking
  • Insect repellent
  • Water bottle
  • Small travel towel for your walks
  • Flashlight for night walks.

For further help on essentials to pack for your first backpacking trip, take a look at this full guide.

 

Hints and tips for your trip to Taman Negara

  • Alcohol free – due to the Muslim religion of the locals, Kuala Tehan is a largely alcohol free area. I did purchase a bottle beer from the bar at my accommodation one night, however when eating out in the village it is unlikely that you will see alcoholic options on the menu. Treat it as an opportunity to skip a day or two and give your liver a rest. 
  • Leeches – these nasty little suckers are present in the rainforest, so it’s worth being mindful to prevent yourself from any unfortunate encounters. If possible, wear long trousers, or socks that pull up over your ankle if you are wearing shorts.
  • Bring your supplies with you – due to its remote location, expect toiletries and other supplies to cost more in Kuala Tehan. There is a small convenience store in the village.
  • Bring some cash with you – have a supply of Malaysian Ringgit with you. There is an ATM in Kuala Tehan, but as it’s likely you’ll be paying for your meal, entrance fees, activities etc with cash then it’s advisable to have enough on you to last a couple of days.

 

More Malaysian adventures

Over to you.

Have you been to Taman Nagara? What was your experience of Malaysia’s national park? Do you have any questions about planning your trip to Taman Nagara?

Let me know in the comments. 

 

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Planning a trip to Taman Negara national park Malaysia

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