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Confusion, protests over Taman Negara's 'unnecessary' closure : October 20, 2020

KUANTAN: The government's move to close Taman Negara in Jerantut has caused confusion and raised questions, as neither the national park nor Pahang is under the Conditional Movement Control Order (CMCO). State Tourism and Culture Committee chairman Datuk Seri Mohd Sharkar Shamsudin has therefore urged the government to revoke its order and reopen Taman Negara, which has been closed since Oct 6. "I do not know why the government decided to shut down Taman Negara. Can you imagine how many people have cancelled their reservations, resulting in operators suffering losses amounting to thousands of ringgit?....The CMCO is enforced in Selangor, Kuala Lumpur and Putrajaya (so) why penalise people in other places?

"People from Pahang, Terengganu, Kelantan, Johor or states not under the CMCO should be allowed to travel for holidays in Taman Negara. The federal government has to look at the bigger picture, as the national park is not affected by the CMCO," he said when contacted today. Sharkar said the tourism industry in Kuala Tahan was just getting back on its feet when the announcement was made to close Taman Negara. "I want them (the government) to reopen it. There is a time to close the park, which is during the monsoon season, and during that time (the rainy season), people seldom travel there," he said.

Sharkar was responding to a protest by tour operators in Kuala Tahan, Taman Negara, who had submitted a memorandum to the Energy and Natural Resources Ministry, urging the authorities to immediately revoke the closure notice. The Kuala Tahan operators describe the closure of the park, located in one of the world's oldest tropical rainforests, for the second time this year as harmful to their livelihoods and could lead to losses estimated at RM2 million. Meanwhile, Jerantut Member of Parliament Datuk Ahmad Nazlan Idris, who received the memorandum from Kuala Tahan Village Development and Safety Committee chairman, Abdul Jalil Abd Rahman today, said he sympathises with the tourism operators' plight.

"They (operators) are in the midst of recovering after the three-month closure due to the Movement Control Order, and now, they are put in a tough situation. They are certainly running out of time, as the monsoon season in December will force the park to be closed. "Since Taman Negara is not declared a red zone or under the CMCO, I hope the Energy and Natural Resources Ministry will review their decision and reopen the park," he said.

Fraser's Hill hiking trails remain open; Facebook posting fake : October 15, 2020

KUANTAN: Tourism Pahang has dismissed a social media post alleging that a trail in Fraser's Hill, Raub, has been ordered to close after several hikers tested positive for Covid-19. Its general manager Datuk Ishak Mokhtar described the Facebook posting as fake saying the Pine Tree Trail, which is popular among hikers and nature lovers, remains open for trekkers. "I have checked with the Pahang Forestry Department and the posting which has gone viral is untrue. The trail is opened to visitors," he said. The Facebook posting dated Oct 11 claimed that the Pine Tree Trail was ordered to close after five people tested positive for Covid-19.

#JOM! GO: Nature's inner sanctum : September 17, 2020

A landscape of lush wilderness and extraordinary natural beauty, Taman Negara is Malaysia's largest national park. Zulkifly Ab Latif goes on an unforgettable inner jungle tour "WE are barely 3km inside," answers Tam, a freelance nature guide for Taman Negara Kuala Tahan when I ask him how much further to our destination. He looks at me with a faint smile as I chug down what's left of the 1.5-litre mineral water in my hand. Obviously Tam is quite accustomed to the tropical humidity of Taman Negara's jungles while the rest of us are not. The four of us are on a 2D1N Inner Jungle Tour, organised by Wild Travellers Sdn Bhd, a traveI operator based in Kuala Tahan.
I chuckle and shake my head thinking about the 6km we still have to cover. The tall rainforest canopy towers above us while the air buzzes with all manner of insect sounds. Our destination is Gua Kepayang Besar, a grand cavernous limestone cave that can only be reached by a boat ride up Sungai Tembeling to Kuala Keniam and followed by an 8km hike. Located deep in the country's oldest national park, the cave is named after the Kepayang tree that produces a fruit that is deadly when raw but is used for food when cured properly. According to Tam, the chamber of the cave is almost the size of a football field and can host almost 300 visitors. Carved and sculptured by the elements and the passage of time, this limestone cave is perhaps one of the more adventurous and challenging spots to visit within the national park. It makes sense then that the package to visit the cave is marketed by Taman Negara operators as the Inner Jungle Tour. Reaching the cave of Kepayang Besar after the long hike, Tam tells us to unload all the supplies and items handed to us at Kuala Tahan near the beginning of the journey. Emptying my pack and spreading them out on the groundsheet laid on the cave floor, I see food items, mineral water, eating utensils, candles, sleeping mats and sleeping bags. Utilising what daylight is left, Tam proceeds to prepare for tonight's dinner with help from the group. Lit by the warm glow of candlelight and headlamps, dinner is a humble but delicious spread of steamed rice, chicken soup and fried eggs, all of which taste more satisfying knowing that we helped carry them through the jungle.
We begin our second day with a self-prepared breakfast while the morning sun shines slanting columns of light into the cave. In stark contrast to the dim and dreary scenery welcoming yesterday's evening arrival, the cave of Kepayang Besar takes on an almost magical feel when illuminated by the morning light. I notice the many hues of colour on the limestone walls and rock formations as I explore the cavern. Needing to face another 8km for the return journey but this time to Kuala Terenggan, we begin our return trek after taking some photos. Twenty minutes into the trek, Tam suddenly stops and tells us to leave our backpacks on the side of the trail and follow him. He leads us through a smaller trail towards the entrance of another limestone cave which is a bit smaller.
Named Gua Kepayang Kechil, the cave is the smaller sister cave of Kepayang Besar and it is home to a large colony of bats, insects, cave racer snakes and even giant toads. Pressing on, we stop near the riverbank of Terenggan river around noon for a light lunch of instant noodles and a refreshing dip. Tam says our pace is good, seeing that we arrived at a rest point at the riverbank as scheduled.
Indeed, the Inner Jungle Tour is actually a well orchestrated adventure, not merely trudging mindlessly through thick impenetrable rainforest to sleep in a dingy cave. Although the total distance of the inner jungle hiking tour is 18km and may sound gruelling, the trail is actually moderate in difficulty and has well defined points of interests to take in the sights as well as to rest.
Having kept to the schedule of the tour, we have ample time to visit and explore the Batek Tribe settlement which is the last point of interest before returning back to Kuala Tahan by boat from Kuala Terenggan. The Batek, an indigenous tribe of hunters and gatherers, still lead a semi-nomadic life within the area of Taman Negara, Kuala Tahan.
Their settlements can be found near and along the Tembeling river. It is here at one of their small settlements that I get to learn a bit more about the Batek and their way of life.
The settlements of the Batek are quite simple, consisting of humble huts made from bamboo with roofs of woven nipah leaves. With only around 1,000 in number, the Batek people are somewhat reserved and shy. Tam invites us to come closer as one of the Batek men begins demonstrating unique Batek lifeskills such as shooting blowpipes and making fire with rattan vines and dry wood. From the Batek settlement, it takes about 30 minutes to finally arrive at Kuala Terenggan, marking the end to our two-day jungle adventure in Taman Negara. Exhausted but elated, I am not prepared for the wet surprise on the return boat ride to Kuala Tahan when the boatman shoots through the gushing rapids, splashing everyone on the boat and making for a memorable end to the adventure.
LOCATED within the district of Jerantut in Pahang, Kuala Tahan is perhaps the most accessible and popular entrance to Taman Negara out of all its entry points in the three states of Pahang, Kelantan and Terengganu that it occupies. The national park entrance is located 68km from the town of Jerantut and 239km from Kuala Lumpur. Along with the inner jungle tour, a variety of other attractions and unique experiences framed against a tropical rainforest backdrop await visitors at Taman Negara in Kuala Tahan. From visitors seeking peace and solitude to those who crave adventures, Taman Negara will not disappoint. Despite the current pandemic and restrictions under the Recovery Movement Control Order (RMCO), whitewater rapid shooting, birdwatching, guided trekking trips to isolated parts of the national park, fishing, scenic boat trips and experiencing up close the magical rainforest canopy via a walkway suspended high above the rainforest floor can still be experienced here. Taman Negara is managed by the Department of Wildlife and National Parks (DWNP) and all visitors are required to obtain an entrance permit for a small fee. The permit can be obtained at the park centre. While the permit fees are often incorporated in package costs, visitors will still need to obtain licences for fishing and cameras at the park centre. Under RMCO standard operating procedures, only 10 people are allowed to visit the Gua Kepayang Besar daily.
  • WHERE TO STAY- Though the choices of lodging are many at Kuala Tahan, why not stay at Wild Travellers' Wild Lodge Taman Negara in Kuala Tahan before starting the inner jungle tour the next morning?
  • WHERE TO EAT- The many floating restaurants at Kuala Tahan
  • WHAT TO DO-Done with Inner Jungle tour, try Kuala Tahan's signature activities like taking a boat ride to the Kelah Sanctuary and Lata Berkoh and hiking up Bukit Terasek for a panoramic view of the Tembeling River.
• A backpack with a minimum capacity of 30 litres is compulsory since everyone will be handed out items and supplies to carry.
• One should be physically healthy and fit for two days of hiking.
• Bring suitable outdoor activity clothes, hiking shoes, sandals and personal medications.
• Bring a headlamp or flashlight for the overnight stay inside the cave.
• A dry bag to protect your belongings and electrical equipment from getting wet while on boat rides is a good investment.
• Bring snacks for extra energy while on the trail.
• Bring leech socks to protect your feet.
• Bring extra drinking water to help with the tropical jungle heat.
• Some visitors may feel pressed for time with the 2D1N schedule. An extra day at Kuala Tahan is advisable.
Besides the Inner Jungle Tour and Gua Kepayang Besar caving activity, Wild Travellers Sdn Bhd also organises other tours in Taman Negara.
Taman Negara Kuala Tahan 27000 Jerantut , Pahang
TEL 016-9893588
FAX 09-260 8252
EMAIL This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Make Fraser's Hill a national heritage - September 18, 2020

LETTERS: I read with dismay the development of a resort and spa on Fraser's Hill. My family and I have been loyal visitors to the hill station for decades. My school holidays were spent at Fraser's Hill, which we fondly adopted as our "kampung" as we were city kids who had no hometown to go to during the festive season. My friends often teased me for frequenting Fraser's Hill. Many of them made just a day-visit or went there only once, with the reasons being "nothing to do there", "nothing to eat" or "nothing to buy".
I believe that is what the Raub District Council is trying to "fix" — attract more tourists to generate revenue for Pahang. However, I think this may not be a good long-term strategy.
First of all, what makes Fraser's Hill attractive? Its value lies in its unspoiled nature and biodiversity. As such, it attracts people who are true lovers of nature and who revel in its beauty and tranquillity.
My family and I never felt bored in Fraser's Hill — we went jungle trekking and for long walks, barbequed under the stars, visited the now-defunct Jeriau waterfalls, played tennis, went bird watching and so on. I am sure there are many more like us who love Fraser's Hill the way it is.
To reiterate, Fraser's Hill is not for those who need bright lights, entertainment and shopping.
Once you try to attract such tourists to Fraser's Hill, over time these tourists, who do not appreciate nature, will end up destroying it.
The income that the state government generates is only for the short term. I hope that we have the foresight to see that value is measured not just in terms of monetary benefits, but also in terms of culture, heritage, and environment.
We have seen many development projects in Fraser's Hill ending in failure or becoming white elephants.
Why not gazette Fraser's Hill as a national heritage to preserve it for future generations? We do not know the value of what we have until we lose it. Please do not let this happen to Fraser's Hill.
Petaling Jaya, Selangor

#JOM! GO: More than just tea and strawberry : September 15, 2020

CAMERON Highlands has always been Malaysians' favorite family holiday destination, with its farmlands and nurseries, museum and tea centres, golf course, and nature.
And of course, its all-year-round spring-like weather thanks to the elevations (ranging from 800m to 1603m from sea level) it is on. But there are so much more than just these typical attractions The tableland, which is actually one of the country's oldest tourist spots, has more signature attractions than just the straight-forward visits to tea plantations and strawberry farms. With 70% of its total area is still covered with forest, nature-adventure in Cameron is a pretty cool and interesting venture. Even though it's not as popular as Cameron's tea and strawberry, jungle lovers will be pleased to know that there are actually 14 "official" jungle trails in Cameron. These trails are rated from easy to very tough, from easy 1-2 hour loops for the whole family to tough and very tough hikes to Cameron's accessible mountain peaks like Irau, Jasar and Beremban for experienced hikers.
But one forest "trail" one should not miss is the mystical Mossy Forest. It makes a beautiful introduction to the forest in the highlands without stepping on the forest floor.
Usually, the visit to Mossy Forest is paired with a stopover at the vast tea plantation that flanked the narrow road that connects the forest's entrance and the main road.
While there is an official entryway to Sungai Palas Boh Tea Estate located on the other side of the plantation, the one along the narrow road gives a hands-on feel to visitors. Albeit, the lack of human-comfort facilities like a viewing spot, benches, toilets, and even parking space.
But the opportunity to see the estate workers going about their business is way better than the sight of rolling hills covered with tea trees from a viewing deck.
Being one of the country's oldest tourist destinations, Cameron Highlands is not short of accommodation, from branded hotels and resorts to apartments and bungalows.
The choice is big, from high-rise, purposely built hotel and apartment buildings to charming English-style bungalows that come with landscaped gardens and lawns.
Okay, for your next Cameron holiday, why not staying in a colonial-themed lodging instead? If you're not a homestay kind of traveller and prefer staying in a full-service hotel, there's a handful of hotels housed in English-style houses. Try The Lakehouse Cameron Highlands, Planters Country Hotel or famously known as The Bala's Holiday Chalet or The Smokehouse Hotel & Restaurant.
Not many know that there is a third access road to Cameron Highlands besides the two already-popular routes via Perak: the old and winding route from Tapah and the newer and wider highway from Simpang Pulai. The 79km Federal Route 102, a.k.a Pos Betau-Lembah Bertam Road starts from Ringlet and ends at Felda Sungai Koyan in Raub, Pahang. Though a bit longer route especially for those returning to Kuala Lumpur, the road is significantly quieter than the older routes but has better view and driving satisfaction. Look out for the picturesque sight of Ulu Jelai Hydroelectric Dam and Power Station.
Like tea, you can't separate strawberries from Cameron Highlands. Like or not, strawberry is part of any Cameron visit, either you purposely include it in your itinerary in the form of farm visit or food tasting or accidentally "bump into" it at the markets or restaurants. If these still can't get you over the dainty fruit, try getting your hands "red" by signing up for a strawberry jam-making class. Hotels like The Lakehouse Cameron Highlands and Avillion Cameron Highlands do offer strawberry jam making classes.

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