Taman Negara – Kuala Koh

by kaiconfusion

Taman Negara means national park in Malay and  was our next destination.
It is in fact Malaysia’s biggest national Park covering over 4343 square kilometers (434,300 hectares) of primary forest. This dense jungle has a reputation as the world’s oldest tropical rainforest and is believed to be  130mio. years old. Taman Negara is the home of some rare mammals, such as the Malayan Tiger, Sumatran Rhinoceros and Asian Elephant. Apart from these rather big animals it also inhabits as many leeches as there are stars in the sky. The park also is amazing when considered that Malaysia like so many other countries has cut down more than 60% of its rainforest. The logging industry is one factor another one is the palm oil industry, a major economy in Malaysia, which clear cuts huge rainforest areas to  replace them with oil palm plantations . On the way to the entrance of  the protected NP we drove along these plantations for mile after mile… .. .They do not just cause the death and extinction of many types of plants and animals and the vanishing of indigenous ethnic groups  they also lead to the destruction of the sensitive soils which can turn a fertile habitat for plants and animals into a desert. We saw big empty patches of former forest areas, where even oil palms didn’t grow anymore.
I have seen this process of land degradation in completion in Borneo. Disgraceful!

Bio-fuel is not always “green” or sustainable as an alternative energy […] Malaysia is now the world’s second largest producer of palm oil after its larger neighbor, Indonesia, while logging companies in the country have grown into multi-national corporations, increasing the wealth of their foreign owners at the expense of the forest peoples whose homes they destroy.[…]
Loggers claim they log sustainably. This is rarely the case. Opening up logging roads and dragging out felled trees devastates the thin tropical topsoil. After the second or even third pass to harvest all valuable tree species, the forest is ravaged. The soil erodes in tropical downpours; animals leave or starve to death; the silted rivers become devoid of fish. After the loggers are gone, the oil palm plantations move in.” (James Whitlow Delano How “Green” Biofuel is Destroying the Malaysian Rainforest and Disrupting Lives)
Thinking about other countries far away we should not forget that also Europe once upon a time was a mainly densely forested area what remains can drive one to despair.

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With Kuala Koh, we used one of the 4 national park entrances which is rarely traveled by western tourist and Malaysians go there mainly for fishing. We bought food and additional camping gear so we could sustain ourselves for a little while.
Camping in the park costs 1 ringgit a day per person that is 0,25€ cents a day. We were very pleased about the drastic change of location and were excited to explore our new surroundings…

Our self build accommodation at the camping ground served us well as a home for a week.

Camping ground fireplace, bush cuisine and chef…

camping along the Sungai Libir

Two nights we spend in the so-called Bumbun which is a high hide for animal observation an hour hike into the jungle.
We walked there with hopes of seeing big mammals since we found footprints of  Tapirs earlier and every night there was  a group of wild boar coming really close to our shelter digging for worms with their snouts on the camp ground.
Unfortunately even though we were pretty damn quiet for two days, we saw nothing but a wild goat for only one second.
The sounds of the jungle were still pretty amazing also without elephants and tigers…

From the high hide we  hiked once more through the hot and leeches invested forest to the last easier accessible place up river.
This place was absolutely beautiful. We were totally alone camping right next to the river.
We had the idea to build a raft and make it back that way. We had seen the native people of the area the Orang Asli using their rafts going down river. The raft is made solely from bamboo and vines. Working with bamboo is beautiful it is only really easy to get cut since it is unbelievably sharp when split. Bamboo is the fastest growing plant on the planet and is not a tree it is an up to 30m high growing grass! A grass with infinite uses. We made use of it as food, for shelter, as fire wood, for spoons and plaids, our raft and paddles, fishing rod and more. Really amazing plant!
The route were about 5 km down the river with a few bends, some scary rapids and submerged trees and rocks.

In the morning after breaking up camp we were ready to paddle. We were a little bit nervous cause we didn’t really know what
we had to expect from the river around the next bend. Although we knew the river has rapids, we knew they must be somehow passable, since we had seen the Orang Asli, the indigenous Malaysian people, using their rafts on the river.
We jumped on and the current took us with it. The first bend was calm followed by a long straight stretch of medium fast flowing water. It was wonderful to drift down that river and we were amazed that the raft kept us afloat.
All of a sudden rapids. A steep sudden bend. We paddled and paddled but the current was to strong and sucked us in, way to the right side of the river where there were big fallen trees in the water. No matter how strong we paddled we had to hit the tree full on. What a shit feeling, knowing you can’t prevent the inevitable. Crash! We hit the tree with full force.
I fall of the raft immediately, so did the backpack, hanging off from the side of the raft. Kathie at the back lost her paddle but managed to hold on. I quickly climbed back on, fortunately without having hit any rocks or trees under water, while we were doing a 180° spin so that our backs were facing into our direction of travel. I handed Kathie the replacement paddle and with all our strength we managed to turn the raft back in the right direction and us to safer water.
What an adrenalin rush! That was scary as hell but no one hurt, raft OK we could go ahead… We were being very careful now and took it real easy and slow. We could even enjoy the scenery. Apart from a few challenging tricky spots which we had to drift through with great care, everything went well and we made it back safe.
It felt like a real adventure I can tell ya! For sure not the last one of that kind.
Its is really addictive to be out there living in the nature – free.

Tell ya that raft, even though we could have built it more pretty with only freshly cut and straight bamboo, worked really well for both of us. Me at front, Kathie in the back and our backpack in the middle.
Looking at it I want to jump on it and go down that river again. There will be other adventures to come…


2 Comments to “Taman Negara – Kuala Koh”

  1. Enjoyed your post. Kuala Koh is the HQ for the Kelantan side of Taman Negara. It should be more beautiful than this, but plenty of illegal logging around and I daresay, inside the park, have ruined it quite significantly. The forest is clear cut all the way to the border of the park, and of course the loggers jump into the park and take out some more timber. Typical Malaysian mentality. This is why the Lebir river is not as clear as it should be, most likely due to logging sediment. Nonetheless, Kuala Koh really NEEDS people to visit it. Of all the entry points into Taman Negara, the Kelantan side of Taman Negara needs the most protection. Logging is the worst in Kelantan state out of all the states in Malaysia with substantial (or in this case, formerly substantial) forest cover. Perhaps it stands to reason that Kelantan is also not under the Barisan National government, but under PAS, an Islamic political party, that doesn’t give a damn about the environment because for Abrahamic religious people, as far as their concerned, “God gave it to us to do as we please”. Barisan National does take better care of the forests although both parties have BAD track records in forest conservation. Just maybe the lesser of two evils.

  2. Check this page out that shows the LATEST problems in Kuala Koh. The destruction is great.


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