Taman Negara (literally meaning National Park in Malay) is the largest tract of rainforest in Peninsular Malaysia and the world’s third oldest, dating back 130 million years. This vast swathe of jungle covers 4,343 sq km and sprawls across the Malaysian states of Pahang, Kelantan and Terengganu.
Malaysia’s biggest national park is home to monkeys, gibbons, elephants, panthers and sun bears, plus hundreds of species of birds and insects. If you want to tackle some real jungle trekking, encounter rich wildlife and connect with the Orang Asli (indigenous peoples) who also call the rainforest their home, a trip to Taman Negara in Malaysia is a must.
Guide to Taman Negara National Park, Malaysia
Taman Negara Map & Resources
Best Time to Visit Taman Negara
It’s hot and humid year-round in Malaysia’s tropical rainforests and rain can occur at any time, so whatever time of year you visit Taman Negara, both sun protection and a rain jacket are essential.
February is typically the driest month and it’s cooler which makes for more pleasant hiking conditions. Anytime between March and June is also a good time to visit Taman Negara.
July to September are the hottest months and also the busiest so are best avoided if possible. November to January are the wettest months.
Practical Information for Visiting Taman Negara, Malaysia
Taman Negara Entrance Fee & Opening Times
Visitors need a permit to enter the national park, which costs just 1MYR (less than $1USD). This can be bought at the park headquarters at the entrance near Kuala Tahan. You will also need to pay for a camera licence, even for a smartphone, which costs 5MYR (just over $1USD).
The canopy walk is an additional 5MYR but may be included in the cost of a tour if you book one. Crossing the river from Kuala Tahan to the park costs 1MYR each way but will be included in any tour price. The park is open year-round.
How Long Should You Stay in Taman Negara National Park?
Most people visit Taman Negara to hike and how long you stay depends on how long you wish to trek. There are routes to suit all levels of endurance, from self-guided half-day hikes to week-long guided treks.
One of the most popular routes is the two-day hike that involves camping overnight. This option allows enough time to feel immersed in the jungle without sacrificing too many nights of comfort.
Should I Visit Taman Negara Independently or With a Tour?
Most people tackle the treks in Taman Negara with a guide, but it’s also possible to hike some of the shorter routes independently. This is the cheapest option but it also means that you will be restricted to the shorter trails – the overnight treks require you to go with a guide.
It’s possible to book day tours from Kuala Lumpur which will take the hassle out of transport and finding a guide, however, this is the most expensive option. It also means the experience will feel rushed and lacking in the sense of freedom and excitement that comes from spending a couple of days in the rainforest.
The most popular option is to travel to Taman Negara independently and then organise a guided trek on arrival, either at Jerantut or in Kuala Tahan. When you consider that the tours include food, guides and river transport (depending on the trek) the prices are very reasonable. Plus, if you opt for an overnight trek you’ll be saving money on accommodation too!
Staying Safe in Taman Negara National Park
Taman Negara is an awe-inspiring place that can lead you to feel like you’ve stepped back hundreds of years into an untouched jungle. Exploring the rainforest is exciting and exhilarating but precautions should be taken as it can be a dangerous place if you’re unprepared.
1. Beware of the Wildlife
Elephants, sun bears and panthers call the jungle home and while seeing these animals in their natural habitat sounds thrilling, close-up encounters can also be dangerous. If you’re heading deep into the jungle, and especially if you’re spending the night, it’s best to take a guide. They will know how best to avoid dangerous animals and also what to do should you come across them.
2. Keep Your Bearings
Getting lost is not something you want to do in this vast and wild jungle. If you strike out alone, stick to the trails. However, these are not always well-marked so make sure to take a map and a compass. If you’re not confident with finding your own way, always hire a guide.
3. Stay Hydrated
The heat and humidity in the jungle are oppressive and you should expect to sweat. A lot! Make sure to take plenty of water with you to keep hydrated. Dehydration can cause tiredness and disorientation which means you’re more likely to get lost or miss your footing when hiking.
4 Take Sun Protection
Despite the shade offered by the forest canopy, there are still sections where you will be exposed to Malaysia’s tropical sun. Make sure to apply sun protection and bring a hat.
5. Dress Appropriately
Wear quick-dry clothes that wick away moisture, which will help keep you dry in humid conditions. Bring a rain jacket or poncho to protect against regular downpours. Proper shoes are essential for trekking in the rainforest – hiking boots that provide ankle support are best, but hiking shoes or sneakers with good grip are a decent alternative.
6. Be Aware of Leeches
Although they are not dangerous, leeches are unpleasant. While they are impossible to avoid altogether, you can take some precautions against them. Wear long sleeves and trousers and tuck them into your socks. Spray your shoes and socks with insect repellent which can act as a deterrent.
If you find a leech attached to you, don’t panic, as it is not harmful. Either leave the leech to take its fill of blood (which will take around 20-30 minutes), after which it will drop off, or use a credit card to remove the sucker from your skin and flick it away.
Where to Stay Near Taman Negara National Park
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The main gateway to Taman Negara is the small, sleepy town of Kuala Tahan. Situated to the south of the park just across the River Tembeling, it is a convenient access point and comfortable base from which to explore. As it’s such a small place, the accommodation is limited and all are basic, but there are a few decent budget options, including two good hostels.
Wild Lodge offers 4, 6 and 8-bed mixed dorms with comfortable beds and privacy curtains, a stone’s throw from the entrance to the park. The bathrooms are clean and have hot water – something you will appreciate after a night in the jungle! The rooms have a good view across the river and over the park beyond.
Agosto Hostel has a social space that’s great for solo travellers to meet trekking buddies and there’s no WiFi here, promoting socialising. The dorms are capsule style and basic but clean and the host is highly rated by guests.
D’pinggir Guest Room has budget double rooms at decent prices. The staff are highly rated by guests, as is the location and WiFi. Situated a 5-10 minute walk from the river, the rooms are close to the bus station and shops and restaurants.
Taman Negara River View Lodge has budget double rooms in an excellent location on the river, close to the jetty for easy access to the park. Basic but clean, these rooms offer good views and value for money for those looking for a private room.
Liana Hostel has budget twin rooms with a river view and air conditioning. Offering exactly what you need for the night, the accommodation is good for those sharing a room on a shoestring budget. The location, staff and value for money are all highly rated.
Other, less popular, entry points to the park are Sungai Relau on the western edge of the park, Kuala Koh to the north and Tanjung Mentong to the northeast.
It is possible to stay inside the park itself; the only option is Mutiara Taman Negara. The resort offers bungalows and chalets but it is an expensive, luxury option.
Things to Do in Taman Negara National Park
1. Take a Hike
The number one reason for visiting the park is to trek in the unspoiled rainforest. There are a variety of trails from short walks that are possible to hike independently to week-long trails to the highest peak in Peninsular Malaysia. Here are some of the most popular routes:
- Bukit Teresek Loop – A relatively easy trail that begins near the park headquarters and can be completed in just a few hours. The trail is signposted and takes in the canopy walk before continuing to the peak of Bukit Teresek, which stands at 335m and offers rewarding views over the park.
- Lata Berkoh Waterfall – This 8.8km hike leads to Lata Berkoh, a series of cascades over boulders in the Tahan River. It’s also possible to take a boat here but your efforts for hiking will be rewarded with a cooling dip in the pool.
- Kuala Terenggan Trail – A 9.5km hike that starts at Kuala Terenggan (accessed via boat along the river). The walk back to the park headquarters takes around seven hours along the banks of River Tembeling and is a popular route for those heading to the Bumbun Kumbang hide.
- Keniam Trail – One of the most popular treks in the park, this trail covers 16km over two days and involves camping overnight in a cave. After experiencing the canopy walk, you’ll head an hour upstream by boat to begin the trek which is a challenging hike through thick jungle.
- Tenor Trail – Taking three or four days to complete, this is one of the tougher hikes and not one of the most popular. Those that venture this way will be rewarded with experiencing some of the remotest corners of the park.
- Gunung Tahan – The most challenging of the available routes and only for the fittest hikers, this trail leads to the summit of Gunung Tahan. A round trip from the park headquarters takes approximately seven days to complete.
2. Summit Peninsular Malaysia’s Highest Peak
Gunung Tahan stands at 2,187m above sea level and is the highest peak in Peninsular Malaysia. The week-long expedition will challenge even the hardiest hikers. Dense jungle, river crossings and carrying your pack of supplies will certainly test your endurance in this tropical rainforest.
3. Spot Wildlife
Keep an eye out for the hundreds of species of animals, birds and insects as you hike through the jungle. If you’re camping overnight, your guide will be able to point out some of the forest’s nocturnal residents or if you opt for a day hike you can choose to join one of the guided night jungle walks as well.
There are also hides dotted around the park near the salt licks, frequented by the park’s nocturnal wildlife. Tahan Hide, the most popular, is just a five-minute walk from the park headquarters.
4. Walk Amongst the Forest Canopy
One of the must-do activities in Taman Negara is to experience the Canopy Walk. Suspended 40m above the forest floor, the 530m long rope bridge gives you a new perspective of the rainforest and is a great place from which to spot some of the jungle’s flora and fauna.
5. Meet Orang Asli
Visit one of the local tribes of Orang Asli (indigenous people) that make their home in the jungle. A typical visit will involve learning how to make a fire and testing your skills at shooting a blow dart.
6. Rapid Shooting
Take a boat ride and discover the joy of rapid shooting. As the boat glides along the river, the regular rapids, where the water flows quickly over rocks, make for an exhilarating, and wet(!), journey.
7. Visit the Nearby Kenong Rimba Park
Southwest of Taman Negara you will find the quieter, but no less interesting Kenong Rimba Park. This park has a huge amount of wildlife and several two or three-hour loops out to caves which are believed to house elephants. A more challenging trip is the five-day Gua Batu Putih trek, ending in a serene crystal-clear stream.
Getting Around Taman Negara National Park
Taking a boat along the Tembeling River is a convenient way of moving between areas in the park. For example, you will need to take a boat to enter the park from Kuala Tahan and it’s possible to move between the park headquarters and the canopy walk by boat, as well as heading further upstream to Kuala Terenggan.
Hiking is the number one activity in the Taman Negara National Park and the thick jungle interior has no roads. The only way of getting around is on your own two feet.
How to Get to Taman Negara National Park
Kuala Tahan is the main gateway to Taman Negara and to get here you’ll need to travel via Jerantut, an untouristed town that serves as an access point to Kuala Tahan. Public buses run here from Tanah Rata in the Cameron Highlands (3-4 hours, 65-95MYR approx. $14-20USD) and Kuala Lumpur (4 hours; around 100MYR approx. $22USD).
Once here you’ll need to wait for the connecting bus to Kuala Tahan, which takes another hour. An alternative is to take the boat from Jerantut to Kuala Tahan (departing from Kuala Tembeling jetty). While scenic, this option is more expensive and takes around 2-3 hours.
It’s also possible to travel to Jerantut by train from Kuala Lumpur on the so-called Jungle Railway for 37-50MYR ($8-11USD) via a connection at Gemas (KL to Gemas is 2 hours 30 mins, 30MYR ($6USD); Gemas to Jerantut is another 4 hours).
Where to Go Next:
Cameron Highlands: A few hours west of Taman Negara is one of Malaysia’s most popular tourist destinations. This is a great place to come to escape the humidity of the cities. If you still have energy, then you can take on some hiking trails or simply relax and sample the famous tea and strawberries.
Kuala Lumpur: Head south to Malaysia’s bustling capital and enjoy the contrast to the steaming rainforest. Spend a few days living the big city life, eating street food and soaking up the buzzing atmosphere.
Perhentian Islands: Journey over to Malaysia’s east coast and spend some time relaxing on the Perhentian Islands, which are home to some of Malaysia’s finest beaches. Perhentian Kecil is a backpacker favourite that offers great opportunities for diving and snorkelling.