Tag Archives: Belum-Temenggor

Temenggor Lake – Nature’s Gateway

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Our tedious 200-km ride from Ipoh was amply rewarded on our arrival at the Banding Lake Jetty. Situated on the western extreme of Temenggor Lake, the jetty is both the entry and exit point for guests of Belum Eco Resort which is located on one of the many islands dotting the lake.Temenggor Lake _ Nature_s Gateway 1

Temenggor Lake _ Nature_s Gateway5 Temenggor Lake _ Nature_s Gateway4 Temenggor Lake _ Nature_s Gateway3 Temenggor Lake _ Nature_s Gateway2With a surface area of 15,200 hectares, Temenggor Lake is the largest man-made lake in Perak. The manifestation of this lake is the result of the damming of Temenggor River in the mid-1970s for the construction of the Temenggor Dam.

The panoramic Banding Lake, which greets motorists traversing the East-West Highway, is only 217 hectares in size. The body of water provides an overview of the natural charms of the Belum-Temenggor Forest Reserve. Believed to be over 130 million years old, the rainforest is one of the oldest in the world – older than both the Amazon and the Congo.

Steven, a management staff of the Belum Eco Resort, was on hand to receive us. The trip to the resort requires a 20-minute ride in a boat specially built for the purpose of transporting guests. The layout of the boat provides guests with a 360-degree view of the surroundings, the placid water, the submerged trees and the denizens of the lake who surface either to breathe or to make their presence felt.

Belum-Temenggor is home to a wide variety of flora and fauna including 14 of the world’s most threatened mammals which include the Malaysian tiger, Asiatic elephant, Malaysian sun bear and tapir, all of which are high on the endangered list. The depth of the lake is over 200 feet at the deepest point. The lake floor was once valleys and gullies of the Belum-Temenggor Forest Reserve. Inundating this region was part of a strategic cum tactical plan mooted to deny passage for Communist terrorists plying the mountainous routes in and out of Perak.

We were briefed on the activities arranged for us for our 3D/2N sojourn at the Belum Eco Resort. The resort, incidentally, is located on one tiny island at the heart of Temenggor Lake. Guests have the option of staying in a houseboat or in one of its 12 chalets built along the fringe of the island. The chalets blend in with the environment, true to its concept of being eco-friendly. The tour package comes with organized activities to keep guests occupied throughout their stay at the resort.

Pulau Talikail

Pulau Talikail is the first on the tour itinerary. The island is in fact a sunken mountain whose lofty summit was once the tallest in the Belum-Temenggor forest. Today only some 600 feet remain above water. Atop the hillock is an 80-metre watch tower where one can survey the lake and its surroundings uninterrupted. Reaching the top requires a 45-minute walk along a well-defined track built for the purpose. The trek to the watch tower was a breeze as the sight of the flora and fauna literally took our breath away. This reinforces the statement that there are merits in maintaining the ecosystem for posterity. Our future generations must feast their eyes on this beauty of Nature.

Water Sports

On returning we joined the rest for tea at the terrace of the resort. It consisted of the usual snacks that are normally laid for afternoon tea. We had a good helping of fried meehoon and curry puffs and washed them down with piping hot black tea. It was most exhilarating considering the time of the day. The next item on the itinerary was water sports. The choice was limited: swimming and kayaking. We decided to laze on the deck chairs and watch the day go by.

Island Hopping

The following day’s activities were more exciting. I looked forward to island-hopping which was emphasised by our tour guide. The highlights included a visit to Kampong Chuweh, an Orang Asli settlement within the Temenggor Complex, a trek to the Sungei Enam waterfalls and finally a visit to Pulau Besar where Rafflesia, the largest flower in the world, grows in abundance.

Kampong Chuweh is a quintessential Orang Asli village, one of the few in the area. The inhabitants, quite used to tourists ogling at them, are never shy and will respond when spoken to. The Asli children, like all children, will cringe when approached but in Kampong Chuweh they remain coy when teased and will open up without much coaxing. We took some snapshots of them and of an enterprising octogenarian, Anjang Pisang, who was apt at hand-crafting rings, bangles and tobacco pouches from rattan. We bought some of the knick knacks that he offered for sale.

The Sungei Enam waterfalls are slightly off the beaten track. It is located about two kilometres from the lakeside. Thirty minutes of footslogging is forgotten as the beautiful landscape compensates for the tiresome journey. The cool mountain water cascading over the rocks is a sight to behold. We took a dip in the deeper end of the pond where few dare to tread.

Pulau Besar, as the name suggests, is big in comparison to the rest. It is home to a small variety of the Rafflesia indigenous to the region. We were lucky as we needed to only walk a short distance up the slope to reach our first blooming Rafflesia. This parasitic flowering plant grows profusely on Pulau Besar as there is little or no threat to its existence.

Conclusion

Our 3D/2N stay came to an abrupt end when we suddenly realised that it was time to leave. The one impression that will remain etched in my mind is the sensitivity of the ecosystem in the area. The flora and fauna in the Belum-Temenggor Forest Reserve need to be preserved at all cost. Lose them, and we stand to lose our identity as well.

 

Rosli Mansor

Continuing the Introduction to Belum and Temenggor, Part 2

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By Ian Anderson

Eyesore in OA Village
Next came the Orang Asli Village which is an absolute disgrace and not worth the journey. We are sure that at one time this was an untouched sanctuary where the people lived as they have for centuries. But today the village is spoilt by an ugly, government built, water treatment and distribution plant, right in the centre of the village consisting of bare steel girders with tanks on top. It could not be uglier if it tried. Now of course, providing clean water for the people is a noble and necessary thing to do, but when it is done with no thought for nature or the village environment then it becomes an eyesore. We implore the government to be more thoughtful of the environment in their future projects on the islands.
Rafflesia and Leeches
The trek up to see the Rafflesia was wet, a little steep and suffered from a galaxy of friendly leeches who attached themselves to the ankles with gay abandon. The children screamed and cried, but nonetheless made it to the top to see their first Rafflesia, although not yet properly open. One smart trekker had brought the salt and the leeches were soon vanquished although the bleeding continued. Next time we shall wear Leech socks!

From Talikali viewpoint

Permits Needed
Pulau Talikali was quite different. The walk was steep in places and there were plenty of signs of elephants, wild boar and others. Fortunately we did not meet face to face with any of them, but there was no doubt they were around and probably heard us coming. The view was breathless; as we were by the time we got to the viewpoint on the top. At this point you may be wondering why we did not actually visit the protected Royal Belum Forest and State Park, said to be the final frontier of our disappearing virgin rainforests. The answer is two fold. First we did not know what we were to find in the area and took this short trip as an introduction to future trips and secondly we had not allowed ourselves the three weeks that are often required to arrange a government permit to visit the park. But rest assured, we shall be back for a longer trip soon that will take in more of both Temenggor and the State Park, for there is so much to experience.

Banding Island's useless jetty

Litter and Useless Jetty
Turning to more general aspects of our trip, we were very disappointed in a number of things. First, our joy at arriving at Pulau Banding Jetty soon turned to dismay when we saw that, despite the huge red sign that prohibited littering, there were polystyrene food packets, plastic bottles and paper covering the entire jetty area with Roti Canai curry sauce all over the seats. Nothing short of disgraceful and if we understand correctly the stall holder who sells these offending items is responsible to the government for the cleanliness then he is just not doing his job. From all accounts punitive government action is long overdue in this area.
Secondly the solidly constructed boat jetty cannot be used as its designer did not taken into account the rise and fall of the water and apparently being designed for low water is completely submerged. We therefore boarded our boat over the muddy, litter-strewn bank. A standard floating jetty, in use all over the world is what the government should have spent our money on! Why didn’t they? Surely Perak must have someone with knowledge of such basic requirements. One wonders how the contractor qualified for the job.
Future Ecology Threatened
Then as we made our way around the lake over the next three days we were surprised to see how many islands are occupied by government departments, we believe as private recreational facilities. Add to these the small tour operators who provide campsites and floating chalets with doubtful control of effluent, litter and use of the lake and again, we worry for the future of the ecology of the area. Unless properly controlled, more people invariably means more pollution, degradation and destruction of nature’s gifts, all in the name of profit. Malaysia really needs to take a leaf out of Australia’s or New Zealand’s book as to how to control reservoir and forest activities without stifling tourism.

Logging barge Temenggor

But if the above is not bad enough the worst is yet to come. Logging! Yes this desecration of our ever diminishing rainforest continues unabated and as we understand it, perfectly legally, the evidence being in the barges on the lake and lorries that abound on the road, carting away the giant trees that Mother Nature took so many decades to grow. Of course there are promises that this will all stop soon, but there have been many earlier, empty, promises which have allowed the destruction to continue, changing the whole face of Malaysia by displacing people, destroying the ecosystems, driving animals into extinction and turning green lands into almost barren deserts.
Take Action Now
So what can we, who proudly call ourselves Perakians, do to stop all these problems? The answer is simple. First support the MNS and WWF as strength is in numbers and secondly, employ democracy. Let your government representatives know your feelings. We shall not be accused of sedition or being anti-government as long as we do this sensibly and within the law. Can you imagine the effect on your local Exco representative if he was to receive 50,000 individual letters from unhappy constituents? Surely he would act on your behalf or face the rest of his life regretting his inaction. Our failure to take action now will only result in more destruction.