By Mohd Mursi on February 16, 2016
The 300,000-hectare Royal Belum State Park – located in Perak Darul Ridzuan and approximately four times larger than Singapore – is home to one of the oldest rainforests in the world, even older than the famous Amazon. Being part of the The Belum/Temenggor Forest Reserve, Royal Belum is estimated to be 130 million years old yet remains untouched and home to a wide variety of flora and fauna.
Gaya Travel Magazine was invited by Tourism Malaysia Perak last October 2015 for a three-day familiarisation trip to experience the attractions available in Royal Belum State Park as part of ‘Dekat Je’ initiative, targeted for domestic tourists.
We arrived at the Pulau Banding public jetty in Royal Belum safely by bus after an approximately five-hour journey. All participants of the trip stayed on the boathouse, set on the man-made lake, which came about due to the damming of the Perak River for hydroelectricity project built in 1978. The lake, which is now teeming with freshwater riverine life, also gave rise to Banding Island, where Belum Rainforest Resort and Pulau Banding public jetty are situated.
The boathouse is available for travellers who come in a large group, with the minimum of 15 persons. Prices start from RM1,250 (1 person = RM85) for two-day and one-night package, going up to RM5,850 for four-day and three-night package, including meals. The boathouse is fully equipped with facilities such as double decker or queen size bed options, a satellite television, karaoke machine and bathrooms with heated showers. Besides, there are other activities available too such as fishing, kayaking, and jungle trekking. Travellers can choose which package they want and make reservation to stay at the boathouse through selected travel agents. The boathouse moves and docks at specific places within the lake.
The price for the packages includes permit and license to go into Royal Belum State Park – all travellers need the permit and license; otherwise, the authorities have right to take action against them for trespassing. Please ensure that you have a permit first before entering Royal Belum State Park.
After we settled in, we departed to the first attraction in Royal Belum State Park, the kelah (mahseer) sanctuary, first by speedboat that we took straight from the boathouse, then on foot. The short hike could prove challenging to those who are unfit before reaching the sanctuary. On a lucky day, travellers could swim around hundreds of mahseer in the cold refreshing mountain river.
After an enjoyable time swimming with the fishes, we returned to our boathouse to clean up and prepare for dinner. The boathouse provided an excellent barbeque dinner that night, which filled our tummies to the brim. Further into the night, it rained while we were resting – the sound of raindrops and cool weather lulled us to sleep soundly. Our boathouse docked safely at Sungai Tiang throughout the night.
On the second day, we departed for Kampung Damai, an Orang Asli (Malaysian aboriginal tribe) village inhabited by the Jahai Tribe. The village was once completely destroyed during the recent devastating flood that hit Peninsular Malaysia’s East Coast in late 2014, but now has been rebuilt. Upon arrival, we were greeted by a performance by the village chief and community.
At the village, we witnessed demonstrations like traditional Orang Asli cooking whereby rice, meat and vegetables are cooked in bamboo, including how traps are set up to catch animals like mousedeer, pheasant and certain monkeys as their food. Travellers to the village are encouraged to bring gifts such as candies, bread and biscuits as tokens of appreciation. The experience at the village was humbling.
We went back to our boathouse to have a quick snack before embarking on our most challenging expedition in our itinerary. The participants began departing on speedboats to Sungai Kooi. During the boat ride, it became evident that the rainforest and the lake is being effectively protected since they look totally untouched. Most of the rangers I’ve met said that the forest is still not fully discovered yet and there are research teams busy documenting this pristine ecosystem.
Once we reached at Sungai Kooi, we traversed a rather challenging terrain towards the waterfall. Travellers need to remember that when they hike towards the waterfall, they need to focus not just on the trail itself but also the wildlife and plants found along the way such as blue fern and flying lizard. It is said that Royal Belum boasts more than 3,000 species of flowering plants.
Before reaching the waterfall, around 400 metres away, we already could hear its sound. The best part is, when travellers reach at the end of the hike, they are greeted by mist of water and the sight of the majestic looking of Sungai Kooi waterfall, which is around ten storeys high. We spent around 20 minutes soaking up the refreshing atmosphere and taking photos, and two of us even dipped into the water. Travellers need to be careful because the bottom of the waterfall has many rocks and not suitable for a swim. If travellers were lucky, they will be able to see the rarest and biggest flower in the world, the Rafflesia.
After that memorable hike, we went back to the boathouse to prepare our journey to Malaysia’s premium eco-tourism resort, Belum Rainforest Resort. This four-star hotel located on Pulau Banding houses luxurious rooms and villas for an excellent getaway with family and friends. The resort faces the magnificent lake and surrounded by the tranquil rainforest. Guests staying at the hotel also have a variety of activities to choose from such as jungle trekking, fishing, visiting an Orang Asli village and more, which all can be arranged by the hotel.
With a heavy heart, we had to part ways with Royal Belum State Park to return to the city. On the way back, we swung by at another iconic attraction in Perak, the Ulu Lenggong UNESCO Heritage Site. We visited the archaeological gallery where we were briefed about the entire site, which is found to be an early human settlement. The gallery also houses what is known to be the original skeleton of the “Perak Man” that was discovered in one of the caves within the archaeological site – this is definitely an education attraction that travellers should not miss.
For further info, please refer to belumresort.com.