To get to Taman Negara National Park we took a bus from KL to the river at Kuala Tembeling where a boat was waiting for us. Getting to the park was a little adventure in itself as it took us 3 hours by boat to get to the village of Kuala Tahan, passing water buffaloes and monkeys along the way.
Getting on the boat with baby
Transport is, by far, the part of travelling I hate the most, and travelling with a baby makes everything even more stressful. In Malaysia the roads are generally nice and, even if I have seen far worse drivers in the world, I think they are still pretty crazy here. So taking the bus or a taxi (without a car seat of course) is always tough on my nerves. What about a small boat on a brown river with a rapid current? Of course I don’t travel with a baby life jacket (and they didn’t have any baby ones) so we got in the dugout canoe-style boat with no baby life jacket hoping for the best. The ride was a bit tense and I held baby very tightly on my chest. If you really can’t deal with the idea of taking your kids on a boat without a life jacket… well carry your own because they are rare here.
Staying at Kuala Tahan
When we reached the village of Kuala Tahan we were very welcomed at one of the floating restaurant. We had a booking at Park Lodge homestay for 3 nights. You cannot book online as they don’t have any website and the only way to reach them is through phone call or Whats app. Upon arrival at one of the floating restaurants in Kuala Tahan, someone called the homestay for us and 5 min later the owner was there with his old car waiting for us.
I cannot emphasise enough on how much we loved it there! The room was simple, we had free coffee for breaky, and there was plenty of space for the little one to run around. The couple who runs the homestay was extremely nice and we had the feeling of visiting grandma and grandpa. There were chickens to chase, cats to play with, and monkeys jumping in the trees; everything to keep baby entertained.
We spent 3 nights at Taman Negara but if it was only the two of us I would have spent only 2 nights as there is not much to do in the village itself. There are plenty of short walks to do in the jungle as well as multi-day hikes that take you (or not) to traditional villages, camping in the jungle along the way. We decided to do the canopy walk the first day; a suspended bridge that takes you for a walk on top of the jungle trees. We went there in May which is outside of the tourist season and we were alone on the walk. Apparently it gets pretty crowded there in July and August but for us it seemed very empty! It was a very easy walk to do with baby on our back and it would have been very pleasant but that day baby was not very cooperative… so we didn’t see any animals either as they seem to hide from crying infants.
The second day we did another loop of about 5 km (really not the end of the world and perfect for baby!) that took us deeper in the jungle. Instead of staying on a wooden path we walked along the jungle floor where it gets really muddy but much less frequented. We stopped many times to listen to the sounds of the jungle and look at unique insects. Fortunately for us, baby was very happy that day so we could venture a little further away.
What to look for
There are plenty of bugs and animals to see! Monkeys, mouse deer, snakes, tapirs, really weird looking insects, birds, butterflies, plants, etc. Do not hold your breath too much about seeing tigers, rhinos, and elephants as they are extremely rare to see around the most frequented areas. With kids though, and especially if you need to sing “Row row row your boat” about 20 times to keep everyone happy schnappy… I would keep my expectations pretty low!
What to wear?
This is the rain forest. And it’s pretty wet and humid at all time! There are tons of bloody leeches and I would not recommend wearing your best lululemon looks even for a short walk. Despite what the locals might say there are a lot of mosquitoes too. Long pants and long sleeves are definitely recommended for adults and kids. Long socks and hiking shoes are good to have (some paths are pretty muddy and wet so running shoes would be too slippery). And most importantly, do not set out without your mosquitoes repellent!
Yes you read right, in some parts of the world there are terrestrial leeches. You might be used to the ones that dwell in lakes and rivers, but in Australia I discovered land leeches. These vampire parasites thrive in wet terrain and I hate them thoroughly. Those bloody bastards are not dangerous, just really annoying. I have found that putting tea tree oil on my feet and shoes works best to keep them away. A little salt or tea tree oil will get you rid of them if they are already sticking to your skin sucking your blood…