Unusual Taman Negara activities

Taman Negara activities will keep hikers occupied, but this blog post aim to focus on two aspects :

1)  Me as a proud Father
2) Teamwork and brotherhood of rescue party

My kids never failed to surprise me during our hiking trips. From Gunung Panti to Belumut , the latest Taman Negara hike with Wei (no 1) was no exception.

Kids’ resilience, stamina, and appetite for adventures always exceed my expectations. And we parents can only validate these traits in an outdoor setting.

Family bonding Taman Negara
Family bonding Taman Negara

The Taman Negara activities (itinerary) from Meetup group SANL (Singapore Adventurous Nature Lovers) highlighted “1 Cave and 1 Tent”, package include hiking in a primary Rainforest, rapid shooting etc, I was sold.


..we are not going to forget Taman Negara anytime soon.

… an incident happened on the first night, and my boy suddenly realised he was on his own. Well, not exactly, as he can still seek help from fellow hikers (mostly Aunties and Sisters).

#Skillset –  We just need to open our mouth and ask for HELP.

Without my constant nagging ( Yup, I am guilty), Wei not only hiked to end-point with a heavier load, he even managed to make new friends. Way to go Young Man!

Photo credit SANL

The experience and memories which we brought home from the “130 Million years old” Rainforest was priceless! I have no doubts the skills which Wei picked up (independence, teamwork, networking) during this trip will mold his character into a better person.

My original intention was just to bond with him, Father and Son.

.. but ideal was dashed on the first night. Someone in our group had been injured and 7 guys were mobilised for stretcher party.

.. Part (1) – The rescue party

0700 Day 2 – As I transferred some of my baggage over to him. I remembered telling Wei “I will see you at camp site tonight“.

In actual fact, I was worried about him but I still needed to instill confidence.


Alas, it was a promise which I could not fulfill 🙁
For the next 24 hours, my group struggled to lift someone to safety.

It was tiring for us to lift and drag the stretcher and “R” to our rendezvous point, Gua Luas (Gua in Bahasa means Cave)

3 km – Distance was a mere 3km away, but it was tough to navigate the forest floor with a stretcher.

Taman Negara Map
The two caves (Gua) Luas and Kepayang are 4km apart.

We were at the mercy of the Rainforest. Muddy grounds and thorns, thick roots and trunks, leeches and insects. FORTUNATELY, the Rain left us alone!

AROO! (haha) We kept joking about that Spartan slogan to keep our spirits high and kept fatigue away.

Lost count of the number of times we slipped and lose our footing or got stuck in mud. We were bogged down by narrow paths at some sections.

6 Hours -Progress was miserably aching and slow. We took 6 whole hours to carry “R” to Gua Luas!

What kept me going was the urge to finish my task and get back to my son quickly. I was still worried for him.

We were also concerned about the main group, who had to help carry our load and hike to the camp site.

The gals formed 75% of our hiking group, posing here infront of cave Hotel before they set off on their own journey.

Photo credit SANL

You go Girl! Hiking through water and mud, small thrills for the seasoned hikers. Do read till the end for Xia’s blogpost account from the main group 🙂

Photo credit SANL

As I am drafting this blog post, four of my toe nails are still bruised (black nails), and I injured my left knee again.

My fellow stretcher party did not have it easier. TS, Leon, George, Jason and wife, Keewan and Freddy. (Special mention to two guides Farook and Captain America! and the other guides)

The first 7. Leon stayed overnight with casualty.

Other gossips :
– Leon secret stash kept us high (this is a secret among the 8 of us haha)
– Behind us, we can always hear “Darling Darling are you ok?” so mushy
– Infront, we got a 50 year old TS putting us to shame.  He was the pillar  who always single-handedly pull the stretcher across obstacles (clap clap!)
– George must be wondering how his wife is coping with the main group
– Jia Hui was R’s companion throughout. She attended to R, slept the least and carry a heavy load herself. Salute!

All of us were tired, but none dare to give up

We kept each other motivated (sometimes with lame jokes) when we were exhausted. The intensity of this 3km stretch was equivalent to my recent Sundown Marathon!

During a run, I can estimate my own pace and aim for the next milestone. Deep in the Rainforest, where is the next milestone?

A “Kodak” moment, but you will also see our tired face behind the smiles.

Photo credit SANL

1,2,3 Lift ! We could only managed 50m or 20m at every stretch, before our wrist, back, and shoulder needed a rest again.

Too much doubts…

We did not know whether a rescue team (the Park Rangers) would reached us in time.
Our food and drink were running low, and we ourselves might be affected by hunger and cold in the night.

To make things worse, Jason and Freddy were injured and 7 men went down to 5. Fortunately, Captain America help us in the last 500m.  Otherwise, we would have taken longer to complete our task.

1600 Day 2 – Finally reach Gua Luas, the waiting game begins

A quick 1 hour nap to recharge.  All our arms, shoulders and back, every joint was aching. Guides had prepared hot tea and plain porridge.

2336 Day 2– Fortunately, 16 of the Park Rangers filed towards us in the middle of the night. We were tired but elated to see them.

…we saw Bright Lights and HOPE!

By this time, R has also recovered slightly, and able to articulate her needs. This was a vast improvement when she first collapsed from fits.

RELIEF! Relief! Relief! Smiles all around at the cave 🙂

Taman Negara Rangers rescue
Park Rangers saved our lives!

The Rangers brought us dinner, humble Nasi Ikan Bilis and 100 plus but this was The best meal I tasted throughout our 3D3N trip.

0030 Day 3 – With R secured in Rangers’ hands, the 8 of us made our way to the jetty. We trekked another 4 km in 4 hours through the night.

0400 to 0600 – Slept at broken house near Jetty. We were KO and I woke up thrice shivering uncontrollably due to cold and exhaustion.

0630 to 0700 – Rangers (R and Jia Hui) caught up with us, and we all ferried back to the main group.

Exhausted but super relief!
Photo credit SANL

Above is the timeline for our rescue actions. I hope my own actions to save another person would embed in my kids, the capacity to reach out to help others, and to emphatise.

.. Part (2) This was our original itinerary

2000 Day 0 – We took an overnight bus from Marsiling. We took 2.5 hours to cross both SG/MY custom due to long Labour Day weekend.

0700 Day 1 – Breakfast at Jerantut (Pahang). Click for train map of KTM (Singapore to Jerantut).

Breakfast at town of Jerantut , after 7 hours bus ride.

1000 – Kuala Tahan Jetty ( official name for this location is Jeti Taman Negara, GPS coordinates 4.383445, 102.401541 ).

Kuala Tahan Jetty

This is the start point for most visitors to Taman Negara. We need to take a boat across to Taman Negara National National Park HQ.

1 hour of admin work.  Registration and declaration (of your belongings) to ensure we do not leave rubbish behind. Get ready RM 5 for camera “tax”. Final briefing from our guides etc.

Spotted many with Magnum ice creams, our last indulgence hee hee.

Taman Negara National Parks HQ
Where is Taman Negara
Taman Negara is HUGE (Pahang even bigger).

Map below, Pahang and Taman Negara surrounding. Cameron Highlands is 4 hours away in the West, and Kuantan 2 hrs to the East.

Taman Negara National Park is 4000 km2 , that is about 60 Singapore!

Point 2 is Cameron Highlands (4 hour away)

1145 – Our group of 40 convoy upriver in 4 long boats, we are going deep into the heart of Taman Negara. More land and River details here.

Boat ride up Taman Negara

Meandering up Taman Negara’s Tembeling river. 90 minutes later, we reach the trailhead for our hike (GPS 4.517222 102.475000 estimated)

Photo credit SANL

1310 – Disembark at broken house, this is our hiking start point.

Suspension bridge with a lot of holes! This mark the start of our Hike.

Hiking Fun and explorations

Orang Asli can use extracts from “ipoh” tree for their poison darts (and blow pipe).

Guide Farook knowledge sharing.

We keep seeing the majestic Malang tree, huge tree stump and white trunk reaching for the sky.

Photo credit SANL

What goes up must come down, and there are plenty of slopes for hikers to overcome. Our supposedly 8km hike was actually 12km. The first 3 km was relatively easy, minimum obstacles.  Path was flat and easy to walk.

Lovely NATURE!

The trails were ok for me, but my load was heavy. We needed to carry our dinner and lunch and enough water for 2 days. I had four 1.5l water bottle and 5 cans of food with me.

Streams come and go, offering refreshing respite. I am puzzled why everyone is so scared of mud and water, trying their best to keep their boots dry (haha). These diversions were creating unnecessary bottlenecks and delays.
Taman Negara activities

Rich ecosystem, fauna.in Primary forest.

We came across so much Elephant dungs and footprints (look at the size!), hope we do not cross path with a herd!

Taman Negara elephants
Endless Elephant dungs and footprints!

Besides the constant perspiration from the humid Rainforest, we had to watch out for leeches too.  Everyone was bitten at least 5 to 10 times eeeks!

leeches hiking
Before and after, buffet for leeches

We sprayed everything to get rid of the disgusting leeches, salt, vinegar, lighter or even 风油 (medicated oil)! Once the leech dislodge from our leg, we could flick it away. We were wondering why the leeches seem to latch onto the same wound, and they love to suck from the gals’ tummy area!


1630 Gua Luas – First checkpoint after 3 hours.

One of the checkpoint, Gua Luas.

The group might have taken too much time to reach this point. With a few hours left before sunset, we quicken our pace to reach the next Cave (4.5km away).

It would be tedious and dangerous to navigate with headlights in total darkness.


1845 Gua Kepayang Besar, our “hotel” for the night

Gua Kepayang for one night stay.

The cave stay was a surreal experience, I had never slept in a cave before and this one was big enough to swallow 100 campers easily.

Photo credit SANL

Self designated toilet for males and females and make do with basic necessities. The only comfort was our bedsheet and headlight.

We quickly change and power-bath (a first for Wei again) before settling down for dinner. By now, we could hear Thunder and Rain lashing outside the cave!

Take note temperature will drop around 2 or 3am in the Rainforest or cave, we had campfire to keep us warm and dry.

Light sleepers will have problem dozing as we can hear people chattering (and echo of laughter) across the wall. Scores of bats will stare back if you dare to shine the light towards the ceiling.

Warm dinner prepared by our guides. We did not need anything elaborate, we would prefer to rest for the night.

Dinner in cave.


2000 Day 1 – We knew something was wrong when one of the hikers (call her “R”) had not reached the cave yet. Discussions were ongoing between our guides and organisers on how to extricate R.

She had a seizure (fits) and was immobilised. A group of hikers had stayed on with her to help stabilised her condition.

2200 – The rest of us get ready to rest for the night.

~~~ ~~~

0100 Day 2 – I set off with a team to resupply those stuck outside. I would hate to be in their situation, floor is wet after the rain, and it would be hard to have a proper rest.

0400 – Reached back cave at 4am and slept 2 hours before being activated for stretcher party

0730 – The 8 of us set off for our evacuation mission. We knew it would be tough, but we all volunteered as it was something we needed to do. There was a risk that R’s condition might take a turn for the worse.

..  most of us underestimated the efforts needed

We play rescue workers for the next 6 hours. Transferred “R” 3km to our rendezvous point.

A life was in our hands. We could not afford to give up halfway. There were doubts whether we could make it, but we just got to grit our teeth and carry on.


1600  – Reach cave Gua Luas, finally.



Camp site, back to civilisation.

Meanwhile, the other group had already reach camp site (Danz Eco Resort, GPS 4.390373, 102.411227 ).

0800 Day 3 – Rescue party finally reach camp site.

There are two accommodations options, camp and capsule . Capsule looks nice and posh from outside, but we prefer tent for a more authentic experience. A pity I did not get to admire the stars of Taman Negara.

Do you prefer Aircon comfort or bashing in the humid Rainforest?
Tents around our camp site. We love the outdoor feel, compared to “aircon” capsules

Camp site come with its own “beachfront”.

1100 Day 3 (Last Day) – I had hope to scale the canopy walk with Wei but he was not interested. Sucks, denying my  last opportunity to bond with him at Taman Negara :p

Photo credit SANL


Proud of you, my Son !

Back at camp and happy to see Wei well taken care of. The Aunties only had positive feedback about him. Helpful, Independent, Rugged 🙂

You know I could not be by your side because I had a higher calling, but you stood up to the test and completed the hike with the aunties.

You have shown me your independence, maturity and most importantly confidence. Although we miss certain activities this trip, seeing you grown up makes everything worth it !


Me and Wei, the tent which I never got to sleep in.


We would like to explore Taman Negara activities again, sharing some tips for fellow hikers :

a) Taman Negara is relatively easy, but distance is longer. If I compare to Gunung Belumut (1000m 6 hours up/down, difficulty rating of 3/5) , Taman Negara is (2/5).

b) Use headlamp instead of torchlight. Always free your hands, so you can break a fall or grab a branch for support.

c) No matter how short is the trek, bring extra water and night light. I did not bring night light for the rescue as I had assumed I would reach camp site before Sunset. It is very slow and dangerous to navigate without lights at night (and eerie too)

d) Get a Travel insurance (coverage during trip, and medical expense post trip)

e) Whistle – We can only shout so long before our voice is hoarse, whistle will produce audible sound for Rescuers

f) Proper hiking shoes, (or ask about Kampong Adidas) from Malaysia towns provision shops. We need good grip.

g) Pack your bag , use ABC. A for “Accessibility”, B for “Balance”, and C for “Condense”. Google and YouTube for tips, use hip (not shoulder) for support. (sample video)

h) Anti-mosquitos, spray/patches. I brought saturated salt-water in those cheap Daiso spray-containers to counter the leeches.

g ) Raincoat is a must for trekking, protect yourself and your bags

h) Ziplock bags to keep items dry

i) First aid pouch

j) SG (Coach 8 hours) -> Kuala Tahan Jetty (Jerantut) > Taman Negar Park HQ -> 90min Boat up river – Hike start point

L to R. George, Farook me and son.

Thank you to all our Guides and Rangers! Things could have easily got out of hands, if you guys had not rendered assistance 🙂

‘Teaching is best caught not taught’.

Hoping my kids can pick up some positive traits too.
– Help others but take care of yourself first
– Always look out for each other
– In stressful situations, teamwork is everything
– Naysayers will be there to discourage you, focus on the positive side

Click to see more Taman Negara activities photos on our Facebook album . Follow SengkangBabies Hiking trails here or #skbHiking)

*Read Xia’s blog account from the main group’s perspectives, their boots and “adidas” were never dry hee hee 🙂

** Keewan’s One-More-Night Taman Negara video 🙂

Check out some other bonding activities with my kids.
– Boon Kang 3D2N (Farm at Koref), our hiking explorations
Taman Negara with Boon Wee, 2D2N Broga Hill and Sky Mirror with Boon Yee

Hiking Gunung Belumut, our first 1000m summit

Love the morning Sun rays! It was also how my heart was fluttering at the thought of another hike. We attempted to hike Gunung Belumut last Saturday, our first 1000m mountain 🙂

Before this, our highest peak is Gunung Panti.

The numbers for Belumut.
4hours up, 3hours down.
15km to and fro, with the peak at 1100m.
To make it more challenging, rain fell 3 times!

We left home at 0445 and reach our breakfast venue at Kluang Rail coffee (GPS 2.033543, 103.317584). It is a real train station famous for coffee and toast (Opens at 0700).
20160716 Gunung Belumut

Nasi lemak (and Mee siam) only cost RM0.90 sen each! And there is only chili and white rice but the chili is solid! We suspect train passengers will buy these fantastic food for their meals.
20160716 Gunung Belumut1

A half an hour drive away, we reach the base of Gunung Belumut (GPS 02.06715 103.52507).

From a distance, we can see Kluang is surrounded by mountains. Mist constantly floats down to cover the road, heightening our anticipation.
Gunung Belumut GPS

Make shift carpark among the palm oil plantation.

Hiking can be a good analogy for Parenting, or rather what I wish my kids to learn through Life.

Hiking can be dangerous, a single trip, slip or twist could mean fractures, sprains or even death. Like any sports, we need to exercise caution, take care of each other, anticipate dangers and be alert.

We need courage to step out of our comfort zone, and that’s when we learn more about ourselves.

I always tell them. Death comes to everyone and there is nothing to fear (or feel morbid). If our time is up, even crossing the road can be dangerous.

Life is really short (how many 20 years do we have), and our human body is so fragile. I only hope we will have minimum regrets at the very end 🙂
Gunung Belumut hike

The “Before” photo, all eager to hike Gunung Belumut.
Starting bridge and pond, make us wish to dip inside the cooling water.
20160716 Gunung Belumut4

From the beginning, a lot of fallen trucks lay in our path and we need to go under or over. Taller guys will need to constantly bend down under the trunks, I lost count of how many times my backpack stuck the ‘tree trunk belly’.
Gunung Belumut checkpoints

The map call Gunung Belumut a “recreational” forest, but we were sweating buckets and we had to climb on all fours at times.
It is always refreshing to reach the next “flat” ground.

Catch up with our breathe and water parade in preparation for the next slope.

20160716 Gunung Belumut7

Besides the hike, we need to enjoy the surroundings too. Termites trail, and a huge leaf (to wrap Nasi Lemak haha)
20160716 Gunung Belumut12

Pear-shape tree, ferns and mushrooms. The root on the right looks like a hammock.
20160716 Gunung Belumut16

Checkpoint 1 (around 3.3km mark). It was uphill up 60 degree gradient for the next 600m!
20160716 Gunung Belumut6

Kids helping each other over the obstacles, or finding an easier path to climb. Sometimes, I purposely keep quiet and let them figure out the next step or ‘rope’.

Kids are always tougher than we give them credit for 🙂
Gunung Belumut review

Sense of achievement? Perhaps, but they do treasure the companionship and jokes along the way.
20160716 Gunung Belumut13

Checkpoint 2 (around 4.6km), some weird rock formation here. Looks like a walled fortress or a stage 🙂
(Checkpoint 1 to 2 is only 1.3km, but steep terrain means we need 50 minutes to reach CP2)

Face towel was useful to stop the perspiration and block some rain too.

Our guide say this was the 80 degrees wall, we had to climb up by navigating in a zigzag manner, left to right to left again. Make use of the roots.
Gunung Belumut with children

It lead us to a rock face, and we need to skirt behind and up.
Gunung Belumut experience

The rain started falling after checkpoint 2, and we were caught in 3 downpours! Besides the slippery and muddy slope, our pants and underwear were all soaked.

Checkpoint 3 is around 5.6km mark, I did not see the sign or landmark.

Hike higher, and you will see moss-covered branches and rocks. I was looking forward to some moss carpet, common in higher altitude.
20160716 Gunung Belumut10

A fake summit (around 8km mark), the real summit is 20 minutes more to the left 🙂
Gunung Belumut fake summit

Finally the summit. But Gunung Belumut summit view is actually not spectacular and it was crowded.
Gunung Belumut height

We completed the hike in 4 hours plus. I was so excited that I forgot to sing Boon Kang a Birthday song haha. I had plan this hike as an advance Birthday gift for him 🙂 (We did sing a short rendition on the way down, see video below)
Gunung Belumut with family

We u-turn to have our mini lunch at the barren “fake” summit.
Our hiking brunch and lunch include :
– x4 1.5l water
– x3 100plus
– x6 banana
– x4 bread, baked beans and tuna (do not bring pork up hills and mountain in case we offend some spirits)
– x6 butter biscuits
– x4 sandwich

It was a heavy load to bear for up to 5 hours! We start our descend at around 2pm.

There are a lot of “drains” to wade across. They become mini waterfalls when the rain fell. As we climb lower, it became darker and we were glad to exit at around 1730.

Although we were slightly behind time, it was crucial that we be extra vigilant and watch our steps. Kept reminding the kids that we might get careless when we are tired, and a slip would only make the situation worse.

Hiking is a good way to bond and see the kids’ characters. We must help each other, motivate and encourage the weaker ones.
I would rotate the “leaders” so that everyone has a chance to lead and identify the markers ahead.

Kids would volunteer to share the load around so that no one is overly stretched. Hiking is a team effort and we need to reach the summit together.

Most importantly, always remember to have Fun!
We hope Mommy and princess can join us soon 🙂

Video (link) : Photos cannot capture the kids’ persistence to conquer Hiking Gunung Belumut

Proceeded to checkin at our hotel for the night at Rail Hotel (GPS 2.023473, 103.311938 ). I was worried that legs will be too numbed to drive back to Singapore :p
Rail hotel Kluang

King sized bed for RM150, including breakfast voucher of RM24. Recharge before driving home the next day. I knock off at 10pm while the kids were still playing games.

From the map below, Gunung Belumut is between UK Farm and Koref.
Kluang surroundings

Do your staircase training before attempting Gunung Belumut, my calves are still straining after two days.
If you are first time hiking, go for the 500m (or below) Johor mountains first (Panti, Arong, Pulai, Lambak). All are within 2 to 2.5 hours rive from Singapore, and a good start for children. In Singapore, Bukit Timah Hill (163m) and MacRitchie Tree Top walk would be a nice warm up. (Panti is 3 times harder than Bukit Timah, and I felt Belumut is easily 2 to 3 times harder than Panti)

Our hike was made possible with Facebook group “Freewill Hikers“. Guides and permit are needed for hiking Gunung Belumut (For our group of 45, we need to pay RM 40 per head).
We first hike up Gunung Panti (500m) with Free Hikers too, do join their group for future events.

More hiking photos uploaded on our Fanpage album.
Read all our hiking stories here.

ps.. Follow our Instagram tag #SengkangBabiesJohor for more JB adventures