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Belum and Temenggor Forest Reserves

Lakeside Camps and Jungle Trekking

Together, the Belum and Temenggor Forest Reserves cover an enormous 2,000 square kilometres (772 square miles). They lie respectively north and south of the highway that cuts through the forest of northern Peninsular Malaysia from Perak into Kelantan, and they have been further separated since 1977 by the waters of Temenggor Lake, created by the construction of a dam for hydro-electricity. A combination of open water, excellent forest and rich wildlife provides the area’s attractiveness.

Access to the forest reserves is via the island of Banding, where there is a resthouse for visitors. Several small tourism businesses have been set up here, with floating chalets for fishing holidays. Recently, Banding has been identified for major tourist developments, but it is still possible to use the island merely as a take-off point for journeys across the lake.

Trekking from the Lake

The lake is nearly 100 metres (330 feet) deep near the dam, but only the top few metres of water are really suitable for fish. The productive parts are the little inlets formed where a stream plunges down a slope from the forest into the lake. The mixing of the water here encourages the growth of algae and other water-plants, so that fish and frogs, water snails and water boatmen all occur in abundance. Look out for otters, kingfishers and other wildlife in these secluded inlets.

From Banding, camping trips, fishing and forest treks can be arranged, which involve a boat trip across the lake. Several campsites have been established near to points where streams debouch into the lake. These sites offer all the advantages of a clean water supply, access to the lake for canoeing and cool, quite shady forest.

Starting to walk uphill from such a camp, the visitor will find very varied features. By the stream it is damp and humid, rocky, sometimes rather slippery, with a dense understorey of ferns, wild peppers, arrowroots, gingers and wild yams. The climb can be tricky, especially when clambering up or round one of the many cascades.

On the ridgetops, the scene is very different. Here there are more big trees, a scanty and open understorey with stemless palms, wider views and altogether drier conditions. Walking the ridges can involve long muscle-aching hauls, but it can be immensely exciting if you encounter recent traces of large mammals such as elephants or tigers.

The Fruit Tree Harvest

Wild fruit trees are amongst the specialities of the Belum area. There are durians, mangoes, jackfruits, rambutans, lemons and many others. Their abundance here helps to explain an equal abundance of animals, for monkeys such as Long-tailed and Pig-tailed Macaques seem to be especially common. Elephants use the ridges as travel routes, stopping to browse on the fallen fruit, rattans and gingers. Wild pigs grub amongst the leaf litter in company with ground-living rats and porcupines, taking advantage of seeds dropped from the canopy by monkeys, squirrels and gibbons.

August seems to be the best month at Belum for fruiting trees, and it is probably no coincidence that this is also the time when big concentrations of hornbills gradually come together and head for a common roosting area. Wave after wave may pass overhead, then settle briefly before moving on again. During a Malaysian Nature Society expedition to Temenggor in 1993, the best count was more than 2,500 hornbills on a single evening. Together with the impressive number of big mammals, the hornbill phenomenon makes the region one of tremendous importance for conservation.

Secret Life of the Forest

On the step hulls, bamboo is common wherever there has been an old landslide. Some of the bamboo stems can reach 15 centimetres (6 inches) in diameter, and these hollow canes are inhabited by a world of different creatures. Small beetles and some ants can bore holes into the bamboo and live inside. Larger holes permit the entry if Flat-headed Bats, which have flattened skulls that enable them to squeeze through very narrow gaps. If rainwater happens to collect inside the bamboo, it may form a home for mosquito larvae, but one species of ant is able to suck up the water bit by bit and spit it outside.

The forest around Belum and Temenggor is full of such oddities, and they are much commoner than the spectacular tigers or elephants which everyone hopes to see. You will find that getting down on your hands and knees to look for little creatures is worth the effort.

Arranging a Trip

The forests of Belum and Temenggor are contained within permanent reserves managed by the State Forestry Department. For the outsider, the simplest way of arranging a trip is to contact one of the established tour operators in the area, and allow them to obtain or advise on relevant permits. Some companies may have standing arrangements with the management agencies, or be willing to handle the permissions needed. Access to the Temenggor Lake is simple, and as tourism expands so travel and camping arrangements are becoming easier.

Visitors are best advised to head south from Banding Island. Guides are more familiar with this area, and navigation across and around the lake is easier. Most of the sightings of big mammals have been in this area, and from here you will have closer access to known salt licks and the limestone outcrops to the south.

Google Map link :

Northernmost part of the state of Perak, abutting border with Thailand, about 300 km (190 miles) from Kuala Lumpur.
Location in ProtectedPlanet
Hot by day, somewhat cool by night, similar throughout the year but with scattered rain and wet periods especially from October-February.  
When to Go
Any time of year.
By car, bus or outstation taxi. From Kuala Lumpur from the North-South Highway to Kuala Kangsar, then north to Gerik and east to Banding Island. From Penang, Gerik can be reached by road via Kulim and Baling.
Banding, an island in Temenggor Lake, is a public access point. Arrange with police station in Gerik for permission to venture into forest south of the highway at Banding; forest to the north is generally out of bounds.
Light clothing, a hat, walking shoes, poncho, sunblock cream and swimming gear. Camping or fishing equipment as required.  
There is resthouse accommodation at Banding, with food stalls. Several operators have made floating fishing lodges at Temenggor Lake, some have chalets on islands, all simple affairs. Boats can be arranged with such operators from Banding.  
Watching Wildlife
Arrange forest camping to look for birds and other wildlife; much has been seen in the area including elephants, Gaur, bears, tiger, deer, a full range of monkeys and gibbons, and (occasionally spectacular) congregations of hornbills. On the lake, look out for eagles and other birds in dead trees.
Visitor Activities
Walking, camping, fishing, birdwatching and boating.