Taman Negara National Park is the main national park in Malaysia and sits across the states of Pahang, Kelantan and Terengganu. The park is often simply referred to as Taman Negara and this is one of the best places to come in Malaysia if you want to get back to basics and enjoy some of the prettiest unspoilt flora and fauna in the country.
The park unfolds over some 4,343 square kilometers and was first established in 1925 when it was called the Gunung Tahan Game Reserve during the British colonial period. It was the briefly called the King George V National Park when it became the first official national park in Malaysia and was renamed Taman Negara in 1957 after independence. This is also one of the oldest areas of tropical rainforest in the world. On a trip here you can see an amazing selection of local flora and fauna, and this is also the home of an indigenous group called the Orang Asli who are the original inhabitants of Malaysia.
Here are the best things to do in Taman Negara National Park:
1. Have breakfast at Mutiara Restaurant
If you want to fill up on a big Western style breakfast before you spend the day trekking in Taman Negara National Park then head to Mutiara Restaurant which is one of the most popular international restaurants in the area.
Here you will find large breakfasts as well as salads, sandwiches, burgers and pizza.
There is also a delightful kids’ menu for younger trekkers and they also serve beer if you happen to stop by at the end of a long trek.
2. Hike to Bukit Teresek
The main part of Taman Negara National park is called Kuala Tahan and most of the hiking trails are found here.
If you want to go for an easy walk then one of the most famous and enjoyable trails is from the main Wildlife Headquarters to Bukit Teresek.
This trek takes you through lush rainforest and you can walk for around 1.7 kilometers and take in all the beautiful flora and fauna of the region.
The hike to the summit of Bukit Teresek takes around 30 to 45 minutes and the peak soars to a height of some 334 meters above sea level.
From here you can look out over neighboring Gunung Tahan and also look down over the rainforest canopy.
3. Hike to Gunung Tahan
The trek to Gunung Tahan is the longest in Taman Negara National Park and usually takes visitors seven days and six nights to complete.
The mountain is around 53 kilometers from the central park headquarters in Kuala Tahan and this is also known as the Tenor Trail.
As you would expect, this is the most difficult trail in Taman Negara National Park and should only be attempted with a licensed guide by visitors who have a strong level of fitness.
If you truly want to explore the inside of the park however away from the crowds then this is an experience not to be missed.
If you are looking for a (slightly) easier hike then there is also a trail from Kuala Juram to Gunung Tahan which is 32 kilometers long and takes four days and three nights.
4. Grab a drink at Lia Restaurant
One of the nicest floating rafts in Taman Negara National Park is Lia Restaurant which is known for its roti canai which is a kind of Indian flatbread which is served with a curry dipping sauce on the side.
This makes a great snack before you head off on a hike and you can also get some delicious fresh juices here which are the perfect choice if you have just got back from a hot and sweaty hike.
5. Go for a Night Jungle Walk
If you want to see the animals of Taman Negara National Park at their best then you will want to plan a Night Jungle Walk.
This allows you to walk from the main Wildlife Office to Bumbun Tahan which is also known as Tahan Hide.
Once you are at the hide you can wait for the nocturnal animals to come out and use the salt lick which is provided in order to restore the nutrients of the fauna here.
One tip is to bring your own torch for the journey to the hide, and some animals you may spot include deer, wild boar and tapir.
6. Visit the Kampung Orang Asli
Kampung Orang Asli is the settlement of the indigenous people of Taman Negara who are known in Malay as the Orang Asli (Original People). If you want to see how the Orang Asli have lived and hunted in the forest for centuries, then this is the place to come and the main camp is set up close to the river.
The Orang Asli in Taman Negara National Park are made up of two different groups called the Batek and the Semokberi.
On a visit to the village you can learn how they have hunted for centuries using blow pipes and you will even be shown how to make fire.
7. Go rapid shooting
Rapid shooting is one of the most exciting activities in all of Taman Negara National Park.
In order to take part you will board a wooden boat and can then float down the Sungai Tembeling River.
As you cruise along, you will encounter seven different areas of rapids and this can be quite a ride so make sure that you hang on so you don’t fall out of the boat.
You can either travel from Kauala Tahan to Kuala Terenggan or vice versa and hike or drive back.
All participants will be fitted with a life jacket but know that you will get very wet during the ride so dress accordingly.
8. Take a boat cruise to Lata Berkoh
If you are looking for a more relaxing boat ride as opposed to rapid shooting then head for a boat cruise which will take you up to Lata Berkoh.
This cruise takes place on the Sungai Tahan River and you will cruise upstream and can take in all the beauty of the flora and fauna here as you cleave through the middle of the gorgeous rainforest.
Lata Berkoh is known for being one of the prettiest spots in the national part and you can alight from the boat here and then take photographs in the pristine jungle before heading back for the cruise downstream.
9. Feed the fish at Kelah Sanctuary
If you choose to take a river cruise to Lata Berkoh then one place you can stop off is the Kelah Sanctuary for a spot of fish feeding.
The sanctuary is located at Lubuk Tenor on Sungai Tahan River and is the home of the kelah fish which are also known as Red Mahseer.
These are said to be some of the most majestic freshwater fish in Malaysia and you can feed pellets to them which will bring them up close so that you can take in all their beauty and grace.
10. Observe the animals
The best way to get a look at some of the amazing animals in Taman Negara National Park is by visiting a hide.
Most hides have a salt lick in front of them so that the animals will venture here, often after dusk, and the main hides include Tahan Hide, Tabing Hide, Cegar Anjing Hide, Blau Hide, Yong Hide and Kumbang Hide.
You can easily get to most of these by hiking through the forest along either the Keniam or Tenor trails.
All the hides are built in strategic locations where you will have the best chance of seeing animals.
11. Have lunch at Mama Chop
Mama Chop is one of the most serene of all the floating restaurants in Taman Negara National Park as it is located a little way away from the main strip.
They do an excellent lunch however so it is well worth seeking out if you are in the area.
The lunch menu is made up of vegetarian Indian fare which is great for any non-meat eaters and also makes a nice change of pace if you want something a little different from the standard dishes served in the rest of the park.
In the evening the menu changes and you can get equally delicious traditional clay pot rice dishes.
12. Go fishing
Taman Negara is a great spot if you want to go fishing and you can officially do so at both Sungai Tembeling River and Sungai Keniam River.
Some of the famous fish that swim in these waters are made up of local species such as kelah, baung, gohok, lampam, krai and tapah.
If you want to have the best chance of catching anything then it is best to visit in the dry months which run from February to September, rather than the rainy season.
Some of the prime fishing spots in the park include Rincing, Rawa, Lata Said and Kuala Perkai and many of these are between two and five hours away from the Kuala Tahan jetty.
These are suitable for intermediate and advanced anglers although amateurs may prefer the spots at Sungai Tembeling which are shallower.
13. Go spelunking at Gua Telinga
If you want to check out some of Taman Negara’s most beautiful caves then you need to head to Gua Telinga.
You should note however that the cave is sometimes closed for safety reasons as the inside is secured to make it more stable.
As such, make sure you check with the park authorities before you set off to the cave.
Gua Telinga is around 2.6 kilometers away from the Wildlife Headquarters which makes it the perfect place to visit if you are looking for a half day excursion.
After you have trekked to the cave, you will be fitted out with caving equipment including a helmet, lamp and battery pack and can then crawl and climb down into the main chamber.
Gua Telinga means Ear Cave in Malay due to its shape and one of the highlights here is the number of cave dwelling bats found inside.
14. Explore Gua Kepayang Besar
If you want to visit a larger cave in Taman Negara National Park then head to Gua Kepayang Besar which has a bigger central chamber than Gua Telinga.
It takes around two hours to trek to the cave from the central park headquarters but once there you can explore the inside of the cave at your leisure.
Some of the residents of the cave that you can expect to meet include bats, racer snakes, and a whole host of insects.
One of the big draws here is that you can even set up camp at the cave and stay here overnight for a truly unforgettable experience.
15. Hike to the Four Steps Waterfall
The Four Steps Waterfall is one of the most beautiful and easily accessible cataracts in Taman Negara National Park.
The waterfall lies to the east of Gunung Tahan and Gunung Gedong which plunge into the waters of Sungai Tahan.
The tributary of Ulu Tahan cascades into the main river artery and this is the main section of what is known as the Four Steps Waterfall.
16. Go bird watching
Taman Negara is known for having some 380 different species of birds which is the highest number in any part of Peninsular Malaysia.
You can visit bird watching areas in Kuala Tahan and Kuala Terenggan and from May to August the areas are covered in colorful species who come down to feed from the splendid fig trees that are located in the park.
Some of the birds that you are likely to see here include Yellow-vented Flowerpeckers as well as Green Boardbills, Blue-winged Leafbird and majestic Rhinoceros Hornbills.
Another claim to fame of the park is that you will find six different kinds of pheasants here including the Crestless Fireback and Malaysian Peacock.
17. Climb the Canopy Walkway
Perhaps the most famous attraction in Taman Negara National Park is the stunning Canopy Walkway which is conveniently located close to the park headquarters.
This has the claim to fame of being the longest suspension bridge in Malaysia and spans some 530 meters.
The canopy stands at a height of 25 meters but also rises to 40 meters in height in certain areas.
From the walkway you can take in all the majesty of the park including the wonderful flora and fauna.
18. Go on a night 4WD Safari
If you want to explore Taman Negara National Park at night but don’t fancy walking then there is another option.
This takes the form of a Night 4WD Safari where you will be driven through the tick forest in search of a range of nocturnal animals.
Some of these include leopard cats, snakes, owls, and even wild boar and you may also see monitor lizards and hornbills.
19. Learn more about the park at the Interpretative Room
Located at the main park headquarters is the Interpretive Room which is a great place to visit if you want to know more about the history of the park.
There are a few exhibits here and galleries but one of the best features here are the videos that are played daily.
You can catch a show at 9 am, 3 pm, and 5 pm every day and the videos will fill you in on all the information you need to know about the diverse flora and fauna of Taman Negara National Park.
20. Have dinner at Family Restaurant
Family Restaurant is one of the famous ‘floating restaurants’ in Taman Negara National Park which is located on the waterfront and known for serving one signature dish called kerabu.
This is a local delicacy which is made by finely dicing meat and vegetables with lemongrass to make a fragrant dish that is served with rice.
You can also get other Southeast Asian staples here such as banana pancakes.
21. Hike to Lubok Simpon
If you don’t have much time in Taman Negara National Park, or if you are newly arrived and want to get an overview of the area, then one of the easiest and best treks takes you out to Lubok Simpon.
The trail is perfect for beginners and it only takes around 30 minutes to walk along, although it is well worth it.
The trail may not be very long but it still takes you past pretty lush scenery and you can see a number of animals, birds and insects along the way.
22. Sleep at the Bumbun Kumbang Hide
If you want to see the animals in Taman Negara National Park up close then the best thing to do is trek to a hide and sleep there overnight.
One of the most popular hides is called Bumbun Kumbang Hide as this is far enough away from the main park headquarters to feel secluded but it is also not too far to trek.
The journey takes around four hours and the trail stretches for some 11 kilometers.
Once you get there however you can sleep in the structure and peep out as day turns to night and observe the animals that emerge from the forest to nibble on the salt lick.
23. Trek to Gua Luas and Gua Daun Menari
Located close to Bukit Batu Luas are two caves called Gua Daun Menari (the Cave of the Dancing Leaves) and Gua Luas (Wide Cave). To get to the caves is around a 4 kilometer trek from Kuala Keniam which should take about two hours.
Both caves have a large chamber that you can explore although you may not see the main entrances which are located in the cave roof.
As such you may want to bring a guide with you.
24. Visit Kuala Keniam
Kuala Keniam is located around 25 kilometers away from the main park headquarters and you can get there via a scenic boat ride in around two hours.
The main draw in Kuala Keniam is the Department of Wildlife Research Center and the MARA University of Technology and many people stop off here on their way to some of the bigger caves in Taman Negara National Park such as Gua Daun Menari and Gua Kepayang Besar.
25. Have a bite to eat at Wan’s Floating Restaurant
Another of the delightful floating restaurants in Taman Negara National Park is Wan’s Floating Restaurants which is famous for its noodle dishes.
A favorite dish in Malaysia is called kway teow which are flat noodles which are then flash fried with meat and vegetables.
Portions here are large and filling and this is the perfect spot to dine at after a hard day trekking in Taman Negara National Park.