Tigers, Rafflesia and Hornbills – Royal Belum National Park

Tigers, Rafflesia and Hornbills – Royal Belum National Park

On a recent adventure, our family decided to drive from Penang across Malaysia to the Perhentian Islands. We were desperate to hit the beach and snorkel in the famed beautiful clear waters alongside the graceful sea turtles. 

As this is a near 6 hour drive with our 5 year olds twins we decided to break the trip halfway with an adventure in Royal Belum rainforest. We stayed in Belum Rainforest Resort, an eco- lodge right in the middle of Belum-Temengor Rainforest. This spectacular rainforest is a staggering 130 million years old and boasts 150 different types of mammals, including asian elephants, tigers, leopards and water buffalo. There are 67 species of snakes, some of which are venomous. Amongst its giant insects and arachnids is a massive Tarantula known as the Tahar Bird-Eating Spider, so all we had to do was choose the best way to catch some of these wonders.

The lodge is situated on an island in the middle of one of the lakes which has spectacular views.  The Royal Belum State Park is home to all 10 species of Malaysian hornbills and dubbed the ‘Hornbill Capital of the World’ and throughout our time here we were fortunate to see many of those varieties thriving in their natural habitat.

The following day after rest and replenishments it was time to explore the jungle. We boarded a boat from the resort jetty and off we went. The boat was very well looked after and had all the necessary equipment. The two staff, a driver and a guide, were very professional and looked after us and they boys very well.

We were hoping to see the world’s largest flower, the Rafflesia arnoldii and knew it takes luck to see one in bloom.  It was to be our lucky day (more about that and the tiger later) and after a steep climb up a hill using ropes to assist us, we were able to see this amazing example of nature in its glory. 

We were really impressed with how the guides balanced showing us this special flower and protecting it and its environment from our visit.   

It was amazing to be invited to Rang Asli village. Their settlement is only accessible by water. In return for their hospitality, we purchased taro from the villages. Our boys are learning about the different ways people live in our world and how to respect different cultures. It was a delight to see them give away a favourite toy to the children they were playing with. 

Driving around the various islands on perfectly calm blue waters was a real treat. We hopped off the boat and climbed our way around on rocks to the beautiful Sungai Ruok waterfall. Our boys are gutsy little travellers and in some places it was quite a tricky walk to get to with young children, but our guide and driver were again a great help. When we got the waterfall the guides started a fire to discourage any nasties and in the heat the water felt amazingly cold. We had the added benefit of a free foot spa courtesy of the local fish species, Garra Rufa and quite enthusiastic they were too. It was interesting to note that they were only interested in our feet, obviously the boys skin is too smooth and not tasty enough.  The boys were in fact disappointed not to get a chew.   

As wildlife lovers, we were excited about the opportunity to visit the Jenat Papan Salt lick. The type of soil holds natural mineral deposits and plays an important role in the diet of many animal species, especially Asian elephants. As we disembarked we saw a group returning quickly from the path to the salt lick and getting back on to their boat. The guides spoke rapidly to each other.  A tiger had been spotted at the salt lick by the group and due to the danger, no visitors would be allowed for the following three days. The guide explains that when tigers have been seen or heard in the past they let out a distinct noise to deter human visitors. Our reaction was mixed, disappointment from not being able to visit the salt tick and a sense of wonder of being so close to a tiger in the wild. Instead lunch was had with exciting tales of tigers and leopards the guides had encountered over the years.  Our guide also recounted a story of being stalked on one off his 3 day treks by a leopard and after this experience it has taken him over two years to feel comfortable to return to guiding overnight again. At this amazing spot you can actually stay in small bungalows and visit night hides for animal spotting and we have decided to return for this experience. 

To get into Royal Belum you will need valid entry permits, it’s necessary that you arrange these by submitting your passport at least two weeks in advance. Your motorboat will stop at a checkpoint at the beginning of the journey to clear the entrance. 

Contact us to help you arrange this amazing adventure into an ancient rainforest.

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