In Taman Negara there are basically 2 things you can do: hikes and boat trips. Everything else is just a variation on these themes. That’s why most package tours might be disappointing. Not because agencies are mean or greedy (they’re actually very friendly and helpful), but simply because most activities are not up to standard. I mean: watching a video or a doing a night safari in a palm oil plantation is not very Stanley ‘n Livingstone.
Hike ‘n Seek
Unlike Bako National Park, there’s no endless collection of trails to choose from. In Taman Negara, it’s all or nothing. 2 hours or 7 days. 2 km or 50 km. So, after registering at the camp headquarters (RM 1/person – RM 5/camera or phone) you might end up doing the obvious tour: the wooden walkway up Bukit Beresek. Nothing wrong with that, it’s a lovely hike with 2 viewing points. You can choose to take the long, adventurous road back – but you better read my post ‘Lost in the jungle’ before you do so.
Keep the Canopy Walk (RM 5 – open: Sat-Thurs 11 am–2u45 pm, Fri 9 am-12 noon) for the way back, so you don't have to climb that hill twice. It does get busy here – so pass by around lunchtime for less people and less wobbling.
All aboard! The best boat trips
These come in endless variations. The most popular trip is 50 minutes of splashing, screaming and rapid shooting (RM 40 /person - NKS & Han Travel – daily at 10 am & 3 pm). This can be combined with a stop at the Orang Alsi (aborigine) village, where you can do something Orang Asli-ish like shooting blowpipes or making fire (RM 70 for the combo, not a good deal).
It’s better value to team up and rent a smaller, private boat at the Park Headquarters (any time, RM 120 for 4 persons). Stopping at the Orang Asli village is actually free – unless you want to give that blowpipe a shot (RM 5, still much cheaper than the combo ticket). And yes, you are going to get wet. So cover your cam.
Hiring a boat to the Lata Berkoh rapids (RM 160 per boat, fits 4 persons, 3 hours tour) is absolutely breathtaking. The trip through the reddish waters of the curvy Tahan River is probably the most scenic in Malaysia. Book at the Park headquarters as Han and NKS are charging 180 RM and more. Upstream takes about 50 minutes. Then it’s a short and easy 1.5 km hike to the actual rapids. Bring your swim gear and towel. Swimming in the natural pools is just priceless.
If you’re broke, you can stick to the 2 hours boat ride between Kuala Tahan and Kuala Tembeling Jetty (RM 35). For a free dip, just walk to Lubok Simpson (500 meters from Park Headquarters).
Where to catch some Zzzzzzz?
Also here the situation is pretty black and white. 5 stars or zero stars. The Mutiara or Fawlty Towers. We don’t expect the Hilton in the jungle, but there are some really scary places out there.
A very pleasant surprise is Delimah Guesthouse. 3 simple rooms with air con, mosquito nets, private bathroom, hot shower and breakfast, all for 90 RM. It’s one of the rare budget options in Malaysia with an actual charm and great hosts: lady-of-the-house Delimah and her husband Aki. The mosque is around the corner – so yes, you’ll wake up at the first prayer. Book early. Not via website, but old skool: +6019 996 5263 – and reconfirm 2 days before traveling there.
Mayday! The floating restaurants
Eating on the floating restaurants is often described as a ‘hit and miss’, depending on the available ingredients. Let’s be short here: it’s a total miss. All boats offer the same basic rice ‘n noodles menu with no Michelin Star ambitions. The pictures on the menu are very vague references of what’s actually being served. But hey, you can’t beat the view and the location is literally ‘Pieds dans l’eau’ – water at your feet. We thought the least bad was the NKS restaurant boat.
If eating cheap, basic food ain’t your thing, you can try the Mutiari. After last year's flood, the restaurant is finally renovated. The lunch buffet (with Western food options) is RM 40++. Great view, great service.