The main gateway to Taman Negara, the township of Kuala Tahan, 250km northeast of KL, is the location of the national park headquarters and the pick of its visitor facilities. It’s also where to get your bearings and seek advice before crossing the Tembeling River and heading into the forest: well-marked trails include relatively easy strolls along boardwalks to hilltops and a treetop canopy walk; tougher day-treks out to caves and hides overlooking salt licks in the jungle; or a ten-day return ascent of Gunung Tahan, Peninsular Malaysia’s highest peak, involving steep climbs, river crossings and camping rough. If you’ve never been inside tropical rainforest before, just listening to the bird, insect and animal sounds, marvelling at the sheer size of the trees and peering into a tangled understorey of palms, flowering lianas, luminous fungi and giant bamboo is a memorable experience. You don’t have to go far to encounter wildlife either; monkeys, elephant, tapir, mouse deer, seladang (wild oxen) and a host of smaller creatures can be found – with a dash of luck – within minutes of Kuala Tahan’s ranger station. If you’re not a hard-core hiker or wildlife spotter, you could also take advantage of opportunities for a river swim, low-key rafting or even angling.
Kuala Tahan is reached via the service town of Jerantut, somewhere to shop for supplies and change transport. Note that you can also enter Taman Negara further north at Merapoh and Kuala Koh – or even hike to either from Kuala Tahan in a ten-day traverse of the park. Both require more effort to reach and have fewer facilities, but they’re also less crowded than Kuala Tahan – though not necessarily easier places to see wildlife.