You probably won’t get much sleep on your first night in Taman Negara National Park – not because there’s an elephant on your chalet doorstep or the rain’s dripping through your tent, but because the rainforest is unexpectedly noisy after dark. High-volume insects whirr and beep at an ear-splitting pitch, branches creak and swish menacingly, and every so often something nearby shrieks or thumps. Taman Negara is a deceptively busy place, home to scores of creatures including macaques, gibbons, leaf monkeys and tapirs, as well as more elusive tigers, elephants and sun bears. Not to mention some three hundred species of birds and a huge insect population.
Many rainforest residents are best observed after dark, either on a ranger-led night walk or from one of the twelve-bed tree-house hides strategically positioned above popular salt licks. But a longer guided trek also offers a good chance of spotting something interesting and will get you immersed in the phenomenally diverse flora of Taman Negara, which supports a staggering 14,000 plant species, including 75m-high tualang trees, carnivorous pitcher plants and fungi that glow like lightbulbs. The rewarding six-hour Keniam–Trenggan trail takes you through dense jungle and into several impressive caves, while the arduous week-long expedition to the cloudforests atop 2187m-high Gunung Tahan involves frequent river crossings and steep climbs. With minimal effort, on the other hand, you can ascend to the treetops near park headquarters, via a canopy walkway. Slung some 30m above the forest floor between a line of towering tualang trees, this swaying bridge offers a gibbon’s perspective on the cacophonous jungle below.
Taman Negara (www.wildlife.gov.my) is 250km from Kuala Lumpur and can be reached by bus or, more enjoyably, by train and boat.