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Cameron Highlands Wildlife Sanctuary

Hill Forests and Tea Plantations

Cameron Highlands, the smallest administrative district in the state of Pahang, rises to between 600 and 2,032 metres (1,968-6,667 feet), and includes the most nearly level highland plateau area in Peninsular Malaysia. The area was discovered by a surveying party led by William Cameron in 1885.

In the years after this discovery, Cameron Highlands was developed as a cool hill station and tea plantations, rest houses for holidays, and various other developments were established. The three main towns are Tanah Rata, Brinchang and Ringlet. Although lately continuing development has been quite rapid, it is largely concentrated on the gentler western flanks of the Main Range, leaving much of the steeper eastern slopes as yet untouched. Because of its importance, Cameron Highlands was gazetted as a Wildlife Sanctuary in 1962, covering 649 square kilometres (251 square miles). It is an outstanding example of the montane environment, with many known endemic species of plants.

Montane Forests

From upper hill dipterocarp forest at the lesser altitudes, there is a transition to lower montane forest rich in tropical oaks and laurels, then to upper montane forest with stunted mossy vegetation on the mountain summits. Rhododendrons, pitcher plants and lipstick plants can be found in the forest, growing on the ground or on other plants, and wild orchids are abundant. Endemic species of the tiny helmet orchids grow amongst the moss, and rare and threatened slipper orchids occur on the slopes lower down. All are protected.

The keen-eyed visitor will be able to find many species of interesting birds, including all but one of the 74 montane specialists found in Peninsular Malaysia. Some of these, like the Rufous-bellied Niltava and Chestnut-winged Minla, are confined to the upper montane environment, and so do not occur at the slightly lower altitude hill stations such as Fraser’s Hill.

Black panthers find the undisturbed forest ideal, and the closely related Clouded Leopard is also found here. Both these elusive animals are rare sightings, but their tracks can sometimes be seen. Wild cats, wild boar, the Serow or mountain goat, civets and other mammals are present. Other wildlife in the montane forest is too diverse to catalogue, but includes a great variety of beetles, butterflies and moths. Among the snakes is the poisonous but attractive Wagler’s Pit-viper, while the Silver Bronzeback and Copperhead Racer can sometimes be seen slithering away.

Trail Walking

There are several numbered trails that can be visited by even the most inexperienced trekker. They are concentrated mainly around the towns of Tanah Rata and Brinchang. One of the shortest walk is the paved footpath to Parit Falls, just outside Tanah Rata. Though the area is poorly maintained, it gives opportunity to see Slaty-backed Forktails, black-and-white thrushlike birds that favour rocks in the river, and Malayan Whistling Thrushes which are one of the few birds endemic to Peninsular Malaysia.

A longer trail leads from the outskirts of Tanah Rata to Robinson Falls. Look out for various wild flowers along the way, including the rare Malayan Violet. Some good sightings of birds can be made here. Green Magpie and Red-headed Trogon are occasionally seen in the adjacent trees. It is possible to continue on from the falls for a couple of hours to emerge near the Boh Tea plantation, about 12 kilometres (7 miles) from Tanah Rata. Cameron Highlands is locally famous for its tea, and this well-known estate can be visited. Amongst the tea bushes, birds such as Silver-eared Mesias can be seen with smaller wildlife such as Anglehead lizards, while Large Cuckoo-shrikes may perch in the taller trees.

Possibly the best of all the agricultural scenery is found at Sungai Palas, above the town of Brinchang. A steep walk from Brinchang to the telecommunications station at the top of Gunung Brinchang (2,032 metres/6,667 feet) will take you through tea plantations and lower montane forest to the stunted upper montane forest at the summit. An observation tower there gives splendid views of the surrounding peaks and vegetation, and of birds flying over the low forest canopy, but it is often misty.

Summit Routes

Gunung Irau is a mountain peak on the border between Pahang and Perak. The most accessible route to the summit begins at an open, sandy, roadside spot a short distance below the peak of Gunung Brinchang. This trail runs along the ridge of the saddle between the two mountains. The ascent and return can take most of a day, and leads through some of the most beautiful mossy forest available.

The mountain known as Gunung Swettenham is on the periphery of Cameron Highlands, and the ascent would usually require an overnight stay. This climb can be challenging for beginners but it is quite safe, though it is wise to employ a guide familiar with the trails.

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At 1,200-1,800 m (4,000-6,000 ft) on the spine of the Main Range, 160 km (100 miles) north of Kuala Lumpur.
Location in ProtectedPlanet
Warm by day, often cold at night, generally a temperate climate with some mist and drizzle at all seasons. Wetter weather tends to occur in April-May and November-February.
When to Go
Any time of year, but March-September is best.
By car, outstation taxi, bus to Tapah (or train to Tapah Road station). Then by road from Tapah to any of the main settlements at Cameron Highlands.
Not required.
Light clothing, walking shoes, and some warmer clothing for evenings. A poncho or hat as protection from rain.
A range of accommodation is available, mostly in the towns of Tanah Rata and Brinchang. Restaurants, shops, etc. Various signposted walking trails, from a few minutes to several hours, easy to strenuous. Maps are available at local shops.
Watching Wildlife
Forest birds and plants along the walking trails; especially look out for whistling thrushes and forktails along rocky streams; epiphytic ferns and orchids in the tall moist forest; elfin mossy forest on mountain peaks where many butterflies occur.
Visitor Activities
Forest and mountain walking, birdwatching, plant spotting, photography. Camping is not a usual activity here, though possible in some places for small groups. During travels, observe highland agriculture, flower growing. Tea estates can be visited; Boh tea factory open to the public on certain days, with guided tours.