Malaysia // The interior //

Hiking at Kuala Tahan

The shortest hiking trails from Kuala Tahan are clearly signposted and easy to follow, but go any distance and trails deteriorate into slippery tangles of roots and leaf litter, and you’ll be relying on small, reflective markers attached to convenient trees, and the photocopied trail maps handed out by the national park headquarters. On treks ranging more than about 10km from base, it’s strongly recommended that you hire a guide. The Kumbang hide is the furthest you’re meant to go without one, and they’re absolutely essential for any of the longer trails. If you’re moderately fit, the hiking time estimates given out by the park authorities (and in the text) are pretty reliable; expect to average 2km per hour.

Except on the very simplest day hikes, you should inform park staff of your plans so they know where to look if you get into difficulty. You won’t be able to phone for help, as the mobile phone signal dies out just a little way from Kuala Tahan. Perhaps the most important advice is to know your limitations and not run out of time. Slipping and sliding along in the dark is no fun and can be dangerous – it’s easy to fall and impossible to spot snakes or other forest-floor creatures that might be on the path. If you do get lost and night is about to close in, it’s best to make your way down to either the Tahan or Tembeling rivers (assuming you’re near them); there is boat traffic on both into the evening, and if you are unlucky enough not to be spotted, you may be able to find a dry section of bank where you can spend the night.

Don’t be paranoid about encountering large wildlife on the trails – in fact, count yourself lucky if you do, as most animals don’t hang around after they hear you coming. There’s almost no way you can avoid getting bitten by a few leeches, however, and their numbers increase dramatically after rain; see section Cuts, bites and stings for general tips on keeping them at bay.

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