Malaysia’s best kept secret for outdoor and wildlife experiences is Taman Negara National Park, and it’s not far from Kuala Lumpur!
We’ve traveled pretty extensively through Malaysia over multiple trips, but one of my absolute favorites was a jaunt into Taman Negara National Park with my daughter Erika. After the hustle and bustle of Kuala Lumpur, we were ready to get into nature and hopefully see some great wildlife.
Malaysia is well-known for its abundance of wildlife, especially on Borneo, and we loved the orangutans of Sepilok, the proboscis monkeys at Labuk Bay. However, we were more than excited to go do a jungle so close to the capital city.
How To Get To Taman Negara
Getting to the park was half the fun. We flew into Kuala Lumpur for a few days and did some of the wonderful sights there like the Batu Caves, and then we bussed out to the river and jumped in a long boat for a three hour ride into the park. Along the way we saw tons of wildlife from huge monitor lizards, to water buffalo, and even some playful river otters.
There are three ways you can get to the National Park. First is the most popular, the way we went. You can catch a bus from Jerantut, where you will have to take a taxi to the boat jetty and hire a boat. Check with your hotel, they will be able to direct you to the right bus or pick you up.
The second and third way is quicker, drive. You can either take a bus the entire way through the hotel’s recommended bus service, or you can hire a Grab taxi. It will take about four hours.
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Taman Negara Facts
- It’s over 130 million years old.
- It encompasses over 4300 square meters of rainforest.
- Taman Negara is Malaysia’s first national park, established in 1939.
- Three Malaysian states have land in Taman Negara: Pahang, Kelantan and Terengganu. (source)
Activities We Enjoyed
Once we arrived in the park and assigned our guest hut, we were introduced to the guide that would take our group around for the next few days. Hamza was a Muslim man whose family had lived in the park forever.
Not only was he able to point out all the wildlife and natural landmarks, but he also told us personal stories and one day selected me to lead the group back to the huts as he collected wild mushrooms. Later he came to check on us with arms filled high with huge white mushrooms that only come out after the rains. He had on the biggest smile, and kept saying how happy his wife would be.
Taman is famous for its virgin rainforest, so of course they installed a must-do canopy walk. We ran up to do this right after we had checked in and signed up for the activities we wanted to do.
Erika and I climbed up and had a great time looking for birds and monkeys while navigating the 510 meter long swinging walkway. It was a great initiation into the park and its wildlife.
Safari Night Walk
One night Hamza took us on a jungle night safari, and that might have been my favorite time of all. On the way up the mountain to see the sunset, we came upon this chameleon catching the last few rays of sun. I love how his throat is full of all kinds of beautiful colors.
As darkness enveloped us in as complete a night as I’ve ever experienced, Hamza showed us mouse deer, scorpions, snakes, as well as all kinds of insects. It was fascinating.
Day Hike Swimming and Bat Cave
Hamza took us on a day hike where we did a couple of really fun activities. The first was a chance to climb down inside “the bat cave.” No, Batman didn’t live there, just lots of bats, frogs, snakes, and who knows what else.
Erika didn’t want to do it, but I convinced her. No regrets, right? Well, this time maybe I should have listened to her and even taken her advice to just wait it out.
Climbing down was not so bad, except that every inch of rock was covered in bat guano. It was dark, slippery, and a bit claustrophobic. She and I did not stay down too long, maybe 15 minutes. I took a few shots and was ready to go.
Climbing out was of course harder than getting in, and Hamza helped pull us out. Then he noticed we hadn’t really loved the experience and started helping clean up by wiping our legs of all the bat poop.
Luckily our next stop was swimming in the river where there was a natural water slide. The river water was moving rapidly, but the idea is to jump in and let the water whoosh you down.
This looked like much more fun than climbing around bats and their excrement, and both of us were ready to jump in, have fun, and get a little cleaned up.
It was a blast! There really wasn’t a whole lot of “swimming” going on, it was mostly kicking wildly trying to keep some control and we careened down small waterfall after waterfall.
The water was a rusty color, but it was soft, cool and refreshing. The rocks ranged in size, but all were pretty smooth. At one point we perched on an indentation in a huge boulder just letting the water cool us off and rinse off all the sweat and grime from the hike and the caves. It was pure heaven.
Visit an Aboriginal Settlement
The last activity we did was visit a temporary settlement of the Batek people. Part of the larger tribe of Orang Asli, these indigenous locals showed us how they made blow darts and we even got a chance to try them out. I couldn’t get the hang of it, but Erika did better.
Where To Stay
We stayed at the Mutiara Taman Negara Resort, a very popular place to stay inside the park. Erika and I had our own wooden bungalow, and we were very comfortable.
The restaurant is open most of the day so you can go down and get something to drink. I went there to not only eat the amazing food, but to write. I sat and listened to the forest as I composed.
Being right inside the park, we saw wildlife right near our cabin. We saw everything from monitor lizards, to snakes, to cheeky monkeys.
What To Wear in Taman Negara
Located very close to the equator, it is hot and humid in Taman Negara all year round. It’s also a rainforest which means there’s insects and leeches. It’s a good idea to come prepared for them.
- Good quality, High Deet Mosquito Repellent
- Long pants, lightweight (men, women)
- Long sleeved, lightweight shirts (men, women)
- Long socks
- Large brimmed hat
- Lots of batteries and memory cards for your camera
Power Tip: If you are going back to KL afterward, and especially if you are staying in the same hotel, it’s a good idea to leave the bulk of your luggage there.
Malaysia is well-known for its rainforests and diversity of wildlife. If you are planning a trip, Taman Negara National Park is the closest and most accessible park to Kuala Lumpur. There are plenty of things to do in the park that will keep you busy.
Have you ever been to Taman Negara National Park?