The grass always seems greener on the other side without us realising that what we have in our homeland is just as good or even better. Take Royal Belum for example. Do you know that there are Malaysians who do not know its where about let alone its existence? We seems to take pride in going to a far away land, we dream of cruising the Amazons and going to the Alaskan forest but we don’t need the Amazons because our Royal Belum Rainforest is even older than the Amazons.
Therefore we need not go that far to enjoy the gift of Mother Nature. Just get on board the ‘Casuarina Temenggor 1 Houseboat’ and cruise into the wilderness of the Royal Blum Rainforest with style.
Royal Belum State Park is a well protected forest in Perak. Situated in the area of Grik, Royal Belum Rainforest consists of the huge man made lake called Tasik Temenggor and Pulau Banding.
Tasik Temenggor was initially a valley near the Thai border which is part of the old rainforest. It was said that the valley was flooded by using the many rivers there and the Perak river being the main one in the early 70’s to combat the communist in that forest. The main island here is Pulau Banding. Royal Belum State Park is a huge park in the northern parts of Peninsular Malaysia. It is part of the even bigger Belum-Temengor Forest Complex encompassing 117,500 hectares of jungle. It was declared as the Royal Belum State Park by His Royal Highness Sultan Azlan Shah on July 31, 2003. Together with Taman Negara National Park it is one of the oldest rainforest in the world, dating back to 130 million years ago. Eco tourism is promoted here albeit in a controlled manner.
Casuarina 1 houseboat is under the wings of the government body PKNP. The houseboat has been in operation for three years. Among many other boathouses at Temenggor, it is the only one equipped with two speedboats and two floating boats incase of emergency. There are ten twin bedded cabins made comfortable with airconditioning. The first two bottom decks are cabins and each deck has four clean restrooms. The lowest deck are the galley where food are prepared and saloon where guests can karaoke plus the cabins. The 2nd deck are cabins and the cockpit. The third deck is where meals are served and guest can relax and enjoy the view of the lake which is embraced by the oldest rainforest in the world.
The crew from the TV stations of RTM 1, TV3 and the media including myself were guest of the houseboat for two nights and three days. It was the first time in a boathouse for all of us and it was also the best media trip for us and an unforgettable one. After embarking the boat, we were given a ‘prep talk’ by the professional guide who we fondly called Joe. Johari Zulkifli, 35 has been a guide for the Casuarina 1 for two years. He made sure that none of us had any chronic illnesses and he also advised us on the rules of the jungle. To go into the Royal Belum Rainforest, we need permits which in our case was prepared by the Casuarina Meru.
The cruise inside the State Park and the virgin forest of Royal Belum took about five hours from the jetty which was an adventure of a lifetime for all us. Beautiful would be an undestatement. The lake which is three times the size of Singapore is mysteriously gorgeous. There are many islands dotted on the lake and all are pristine rainforest which looks like a watercolour painting of red, orange, blue and green. The idyllic scene took my breath away. Mothernature is kind to give us this legacy and who are we to destroy them. The State government did the right thing by preserving this forest. Perak is set to be the main player in eco tourism by showcasing Royal Belum to the world.
The Chef served us their signature cucur udang for tea and then we were introduced to our first activity which is called ‘water confidence activity’. We experienced bamboo rafting and swimming in the lake. Unleashing the child in us, with our life jacket on we paddled our rafts and jumped inside the lake. It was surreal, floating in the lake which is lukewarm and not cold.
Come nightime, it was eerily quiet and the houseboat was parked at the Sungei Kooi area. The lake made no sounds and there was no coverage so we could not get the wifi like we used to. Therefore we enjoyed each other’s company and the next day after a sumptuous breakfast prepared by the Casuarina chef, we were taken by speedboat to the jungle of Sungei Kooi to see the waterfall.
It was our first jungle trek and it took about half an hour to reach the waterfall. There were restrictions here and a ranger followed us to make sure that we did not litter the jungle. The trees were like skyscrapers and huge while the rocks were old and mouldy. Be prepared to fight with leeches for we were attacked by leeches. The jungle is not for the faint hearted ones because of these leeches and unusual insects. It was not an easy climb but we managed by holding on to roots and ropes.
Then we were greeted by a ‘shower waterfall’ from 50 metres high above. It does not cascades like other waterfalls and to think that we were looking at the rock that is more than a million years old with waterfall was unbelievable. The huge roots of the trees were our seats and there were rare plants and rare insects. This part of Royal Belum is home of various birds and animals.
There are many species of hornbills in this forest and other kind of birds too. It is the animal kingdom here at Royal Belum and so there are ‘Salt Licks’ for the animals to get their minerals. Joe called it Hospital binatang and we did get to see it but there were no animals in sight. The salt Licks that we went to was at Sungei Papan. On our second night,the boat parked at an area called Simpang Empat.
Part of the package was a visit to the Jahai tribe village called Kampung Aman Damai. They still live in bamboo houses, bathe and wash their clothes in the lake, nothing changes for them, time seems to stand still.
Then we were taken by a speedboat to another waterfall called Ruok waterfall. It is also a fish sanctuary and this time it is not a long trek but the trail is rather slippery because of the mossy stones. The fishes were swimming all over the stream and and ready to be fed. Such a beautiful sight to see fishes near a waterfall and some of them would bite our feet. We often see fishes being fed in a pond but at a stream with a waterfall is surreal. It is really a great experience and we spent about an hour there.
That was the last activity. We were then served lunch the Casuarina way and after resting in our aircond cabin for an hour, we reached the jetty. We left the Casuarina Temenggor 1 with hope that we shall see it again. The only way to be part of nature is to stay in a boathouse so that we get to be one with our surrounding. For those who want to be in the wilderness yet comfortable, the Casuarina 1 is the best for accommodation and transportation all in one.
by | Raja Khalidatul Asrin