Night jungle walk in Taman Negara

Taman Negara Malaysia jungle boat rideTaman Negara arrival by boat

📍 Kuala Tahan, 13th of September 2018.

Getting to Taman Negara

The distances we travel between destinations are usually pretty big, transfers therefore tend to take the best part of the day. We always try to make the best of these days by either getting some work done or at least doing something fun before or after the transfer. Today was one of these days.

If there is one thing we try to avoid whenever possible during our travels, it’s the organized group tours. Having to explore at a predefined speed, taking the same staged photos as suggested by the organizers and not having any chance to go left or right off the route is just not that exciting. Plus, doing the discovery by yourself is oftentimes much cheaper, let alone more rewarding. What we typically do before going to a new place is read through blogs and reviews on TripAdvisor to have a better understanding of what is feasible and what speaks to our own travel aspirations. That being said, sometimes tour operators are not only unavoidable, but are also the most convenient option to see something or get somewhere (we very much enjoyed our 3D2N tour to Bromo and Ijen, for example). This was also the case for Taman Negara – the world’s oldest rainforest (>130 million years old!). To avoid losing time with public transport we booked our transfers through Han travel agency just around the corner from us. These transfers seem to be their main income these days, as more and more travellers opt to organize their tours by themselves, even if we all end up doing the same thing ¯\_(ツ)_/¯.

David being comfy

After a 3-4-hour speedy ride in a minibus, we arrived at Kuala Tembeling – a jetty where we changed to a boat transfer to the national park. This was not the most efficiently organized process. For some reason, all arriving people had to queue to have an individual sit-down with the park representatives to hear about all possible packages and buy a park entrance permit (+camera), which took over an hour. Information about departure time and boat, however, was also very unclear. Nervous and a bit irritated, we continuously asked around and got reassured we still had plenty of time. Finally ordered a coconut only to leave it behind as we realized our group had already boarded the boat and we were the last ones holding it behind. A bit embarrassed, we hopped in and sat quietly at the back. Once we got over ourselves, the boat ride was fun. We listened to an audio book and enjoyed the green scenery around us, slowly getting into the “jungle explorers” mood. Audio books are fantastic for traveling – you can look around while still learning something new - this proved to be especially handy for lengthy transfers.

A Czech surprise!

Bara and David

As we arrived, we decided to grab a beer and plan the rest of the day. Before we could even make two steps we heard a loud “hiiiii!” - David’s friend from back home, who was also traveling through Asia, was running towards us with her arms wide open. What were the chances we would meet here today?! This was so heart-warming to see her and her friends, the plan for the day was clear – hang out together.

We grabbed a dinner in one of the floating boat restaurants. The food was alright, but the service not the friendliest – something we found to be rather usual in Malaysia. Don’t think Malaysians mean it badly though, they just don’t like smiling at strangers as much as Indonesians do. Note to self: we should really stop comparing everything with Indonesia 😉

The night jungle walk

Looking for hidden spiders

In the evening we all went on a jungle night tour – an activity offered by many agencies and homestays. Since the girls had already booked their tour, it saved us the hassle of researching, so we simply joined. To be honest, we didn’t expect much from this 90-minute walk but were positively surprised. It was not necessarily about what we saw or heard, but about our guide. This guy was the most excited and exciting grownup we have met in a long time! Leading us through a narrow path in the jungle, he spotted various insects and plants and with a fascination of a kid in the Disneyland explained to the rest of the group what it is we were looking at. His joy and enthusiasm were intoxicating. There were a lot of “ah ha” and “aww” and “haha”.  Although we didn’t see any big animals (we heard you’d need to go good 10-15km deep into the jungle for that), during that short walk we did see stick insects, little snakes, huge ants, uncomfortably big spiders and a scorpion. You know, the cuddly kind of creatures 😉

The jungle was alive with all sorts of sounds surrounding us. As we were walking last in the group, a couple of times we switched off the torchlight and looked back in the absolute darkness for a shot of adrenaline. This was scary. Even scarier was to imagine being alone in the jungle at this time of the day. Before we went on the tour we were reading a blog post by a couple who decided to do an overnight jungle trek by themselves and got lost. And here we were, in the jungle, imagining how terrifying it must have been. Any doubts about doing a guided overnight trek vanished. We wanted to ask if the guide knew any stories like that with happy or less happy endings but decided against that. Ignorance is bliss sometimes.

Where to stay

We opted for staying at Ginger Guest Room which is outside the park and a quick drive away from the village. We went for this option because the place has excellent reviews especially about the hosts. We found this to be true - the hosts are very friendly and extremely accommodating - we were picked up and brought back to the village by car whenever we needed to, even after we insisted we could walk. The family also takes care of more than 12 adorable cats of all ages and colors which we found really sweet. Uncomplicated, clean, quiet with everything you need.

Daily budget for two

Transfer380 MYR
Night jungle tour60 MYR
Park entrance and camera allowance12 MYR
Meals25 + 35 + 41 = 101 MYR
Beers44 MYR
Total597 MYR (apx. 124 EUR)
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