Tag Archives: Rafflesia

Vanda Miss Joaquim

Facts to Stir Your Curiosity


Did you know that some of the most bizarre of plants, animals, birds, fish and objects are indigenous to Perak? It may sound strange but that is the profound truth. Incidentally, a little known orchid which is found predominantly in the disused mining ponds of Kinta is the origin of Singapore’s National Flower, the Vanda Miss Joaquim.

            Fireflies that help make Kg. Dew a major draw among visitors to Perak consider the berembang trees their habitat. The destruction of these trees that once lined the banks of Sungai Sepetang and its tributaries will negate the state government attempts to rebrand Kg. Dew as the firefly destination of Perak rivaling that of Selangor. Actions to rehabilitate the banks of Sungai Sepetang and to encourage the growth of the berembang trees are underway. A sum of RM11,740 was given to the Malaysian Nature Society recently to initiate rehabilitation works.

            And did you know that the once thriving colonies of hornbills in Belum-Temenggor may go the way of the Dodo bird if actions to preserve the birds’ natural habitats are neglected. Logging and poaching are two major contributors of the hornbill’s fast-dwindling population.

Vanda Miss JoaquimVanda hookeriana

The commonplace orchid Vanda hookeriana, which makes the wetlands of Kinta its home, is the origin of Singapore’s national flower, Vanda Miss Joaquim. The Singapore orchid was hybridized with the use of the parent specie Vanda hookeriana by Agnes Joaquim in 1899. The disused mining ponds in the vicinity of Kota Baru, Gopeng are home to this orchid variety which can be found amongst floating islands of aquatic vegetation formed by ‘Hanguana malaysana’. It was referred to as ‘Kinta Weed’ probably due to its abundance and tenacity in thriving in such a harsh environment. (Photographs contributed by Johnny Loh)

Rajah Brooke Butterfly

Trogonoptera brookianaRajah Brooke’s Birdwing (Trogonoptera brookiana) of the Papilionidae family is a distinctive black and electric-green birdwing butterfly found in the rainforests of the Malay Peninsula, Borneo and Sumatra. The butterfly was named by the naturalist Alfred R. Wallace in 1855, after James Brooke, the Rajah of Sarawak. Its wingspan is 15-17 cm.

There are more than 140,000 species of Lepidoptera in the world, only 20,000 species are butterflies, the rest being moths. Malaysia has around 1,200 species of butterflies.

Butterflies have a rather short lifespan; whenever the trees and plants where they lay their eggs and metamorphose, are destroyed, they are reduced in number.

Remember, butterflies are part and parcel of Nature’s food chain. While they pollinate flowers and plants as adults, when as caterpillars they are food for most birds and insects.

The Rajah Brooke can be found in abundance in the forest of Ulu-Geruh, Gopeng. Call Orang Asli guide, Pak Insan at 012-400 7564 to guide you to the many spots in the area.


Rafflesia pricei, Rafflesia tengku-adlinii, Rafflesia keithii, and Rafflesia arnoldiiRafflesia is a genus of parasitic flowering plants. It contains approximately 28 species, including four incompletely characterised species as recognised by Willem Meijer in 1997. All four are found in the Malay Peninsula, Borneo, Sumatra, Thailand and the Philippines.

Rafflesia was found in the Indonesian rainforest by an Indonesian guide working for Dr Joseph Arnold in 1818, and named after Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles, the leader of the expedition. It was discovered even earlier by Louis Deschamps in Java between 1791 and 1794, but his notes and illustrations, seized by the British in 1803, were not available to western science until 1861.

Species native to Malaysia include Rafflesia pricei, Rafflesia tengku-adlinii, Rafflesia keithii, and Rafflesia arnoldii. Some Malaysian species, such as R. keithii, begin blooming at night and begin to decompose only two to three days afterwards. The budding period lasts for six to nine-months.

Did you know that the Belum-Temenggor rainforest is home to three such species?

Spawning Ikan Loma

Thynnichthys thynnoidesDid you know that we have our own version of the famous Salmon right here in our backyard? Ikan Loma (Thynnichthys thynnoides), a type of freshwater fish found aplenty in the Perak River, especially in the Chenderoh Dam area, will make its migratory journey to Sungai Rui to spawn.

While the salmon have to put up with brown bears and other natural predators in their perilous journey upstream, the poor Loma have to contend with overzealous humans who would scoop and net the egg-bearing Loma either for commercial purpose or simply for the heck of it. Pickled Loma (pekasam) is a niche market in the wet market of Lenggong.

Most of the Loma survive the perilous journey with some dying after spawning. However, more are killed by irresponsible humans than ever. Overfishing may one day cause the demise of this migratory fish whose only mission is to ensure the continuation and survivability of its kind.

The Loma annual migration takes place during the rainy season (September to December). The best place to see the fish is at Dataran Sg Rui located within Kampung Sg Rui, 13km from the town of Gerik. For details on the Loma call the Gerik District Council at 605-7911 686/7912 305.

Perak’s Hornbills

Hornbill is a name for members of the Bucerotidae family, birds of tropical and subtropical forests. Their name is derived from their enormous down-curved bills surmounted by grotesque horny casques. Measuring 2 to 5 ft in length, they are the largest of a species of birds that also include the kingfishers.

Omnivorous, hornbills eat fruits, berries, insects, and small animals. They have loud, far-carrying voices and a variety of calls, including brays, toots, bellows, and cackles. They are noted for their unusual nesting habits; presumably as a defense against monkeys and snakes. The female is sealed into the nesting cavity by the male, who feeds her through a bill-size aperture for a period of 6 weeks to 3 months while she incubates the eggs. This practice, and the fact that hornbills mate for life, has made them the subject of superstition among native tribes, who use them (or representations of them) in religious rituals as symbols of purity and fidelity.

The hornbill, Buceros bicornis, ranges from India to Indochina, Peninsular Malaysia, Sumatra and Borneo. Incidentally, this bird is being anointed as the state emblem of Sarawak and is known by its name, Burong Kenyalang.

Did you know that the Belum-Temenggor forest is the only location in the world where you can spot all 10 species of hornbill that inhabit Malaysia? They consisted of the white-crowned hornbill, bushy-crested hornbill, wrinkled hornbill, wreathed hornbill, plain-pouched hornbill, black hornbill, Oriental pied hornbill, rhinoceros hornbill, great hornbill and helmeted hornbill.

Gamat – Sea Cucumber

Gamat or sea cucumbers are echinoderms from the class Holothuroidea. They are marine animals with a leathery skin and an elongated body containing a single, branched gonad. Sea cucumbers are found on the seafloor worldwide. The number of holothurians species worldwide is about 1250 with the greatest number being in the Asia Pacific region.

Some varieties of sea cucumber are said to have excellent healing properties. There are pharmaceutical companies  based on gamat. Extracts are prepared and made into oil, cream, or cosmetics. Some products are intended to be taken internally. A study suggested that the sea cucumber contains all the fatty acids necessary to play a potentially active role in tissue repair.

Another study found that a lectin from the gamat impaired the development of the malaria parasite transmitted by transgenic mosquitoes.

Did you know that most of Perak’s gamat products are made from gamat sourced from the waters off the island?

Ipoh Tree

Most are aware that Ipoh derives its name from the Ipoh tree.

The sap from the Ipoh tree (Antiaris Toxicarial) is being used by the Orang Asli to poison their blowpipe darts.

In the old days the Ipoh tree could be found everywhere but due to its poisonous nature, many of these trees were cut down, as the city expands outwards.

In China, this plant is known as “Arrow Poison Wood” in the colloquial language. It is regularly used to poison arrow tips for use during warfare.

Presently, five Ipoh trees are found within city limits. One is in front of the Ipoh Railway station, the other is at Taman D.R. Seenivasagam and three are found, of all places, on the fairway of the Royal Perak Golf Club.

A signboard, describing the tree, is placed near the trees for curious onlookers.

Rebana Perak

Did you know that one of the many traditional musical instruments of the Malays is the Rebana Perak? And as the name suggests this instrument has its origins from Perak.

Rebana Perak is a kind of drum whose frame is made of wood, especially from the nangka (jackfruit) tree and other riverine species found along the Perak River. The drum’s cover is made from cow or buffalo hide. These two animal skins provide a distinct sound which is far superior to goat skin.

Rebana Perak is normally played in groups of 8 to 10. This is, however, not the mandatory number. The group is being divided into three sub-groups with the sole purpose of drumming a melody peculiar to the occasion.

Continuing the Introduction to Belum and Temenggor, Part 2


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.

Our Introduction to Temenggor/Belum Forest and Lake



After promising ourselves for more than 12 months that we would visit Temenggor/Belum, we finally got around to confirming a booking just after Christmas and took off for the trip on 31st January. The following describes our experience.

The first problem was where to stay as there are many tourism internet sites extolling the virtues of possible places – campsites, houseboats, floating chalets and more – but local advice was that there were only two places to be seriously considered if we wished to experience genuine attempts at ecotourism, the Belum Rainforest Resort on Banding Island or the Belum Eco Resort on Temenggor Discovery Island. A visit to each website made it abundantly clear that this would be an easy decision to make as they are as much alike as chalk and cheese.

Rainforest Resort

Belum Rainforest Resort
The Belum Rainforest Resort, owned by Tan Sri Mustapha Kamal’s Emkay Group, is almost exactly what you would expect from any good quality resort in Malaysia with nicely fitted, air conditioned, en suite, hotel rooms providing telephone, mini bar and the like, just a few steps away from Reception and the Dining Room. But we discovered that Banding Island is, in fact, not an island but part of the Temenggor mainland projecting into the lake and the resort is close to the main road, easily accessible by vehicle and well above the lake, thus allowing only glimpses of the water from most areas.

Therefore you really do not get the feeling of being close to nature. To some extent this is combated by cladding the external concrete walls with bamboo, a landscaped garden of rare local herbs and fish ponds rearing rare and almost extinct fish for eventual release into the wild.

However the resort’s great advantage is their close relationship with both the Malaysian Nature Society (MNS) and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), who provide eco-advice and the occasional lecture for visiting parties of young people. With trepidation we understand that additional chalets are planned as are development of homestead land parcels, a Rest and Recreation area and the establishment of two five-star boutique resorts north and south of Pulau Banding. Despite the resort’s good record of caring about the ecosystems so far, we wonder if all these developments are necessary or whether they will bring any good to the area (other than profit for the developer). Such “development” usually translates into “destruction” and we fear for the future of Pulau Banding. Rates at the Rainforest Resort range from RM350 to RM500++ for one twin/double room and breakfast for two. All other meals and excursions are at additional cost. Promotional rates may be available, but there is a surcharge during weekends, school holidays, eve and public holidays.

Arriving at Discovery Island

Discovery Island
Totally different in every aspect is Belum Eco Resort on Discovery Island. First of all it is a real 6-acre island 7 km by boat from the Banding Island Jetty. Secondly, the accommodation has none of the luxuries of the Rainforest Resort – just small, twin-bedded, timber or bamboo chalets with atap roofs, each with a fan and an open-air balcony, the latter incorporating a shielded, but open to the elements, shower and wash hand basin. The toilets are in a spotlessly clean communal block just a few metres away, ensuring that all effluent is piped to an effective sewage treatment system rather than into the lake. Here you really are close to nature without any sign of civilization or pollution – you are in a world of your own and believe it or not it is mosquito-free! Additional facilities include an open sundeck below the breezy open air dining area, above which is a beautiful general purpose lounge where multi-media presentations about the lake and its wildlife are given. A shortcoming for the not-so-fit is that these general facilities and the chalets are a short walk from each other and require some 80 steps to be negotiated, 40 up and 40 down, to match the contours of the terrain. Being adventurous and really wanting to get a feel for the area we chose Discovery Island and booked their 3-day, 2-night package. It costs RM550 per person all inclusive. Pick up and drop off was at Banding Island jetty. We did not regret our decision for one moment.

View from our balcony

Discovery Island is owned and run by a father (Steve Khong) and son team who started several years by renting out houseboats on the lake and then moved on to the island on a longish lease. They have done everything they can to build the resort without spoiling the environment and have carefully constructed the buildings without cutting down trees or making them glaringly obvious to other users of the lake. All garbage is regularly removed from the island and many other eco-friendly practices are carried out. They have six young male staff, very capable in maintaining the resort, running the boats safely and providing tasty, quality local food whilst also fulfilling any special dietary arrangements necessary. Father and son eat with the guests thus maintaining the quality. Notwithstanding, it is fair to say that there are several improvements that could be made and Steve has some great plans for the future, finances allowing.

Treks and Campsites
Their 3-day, 2-night package, is based on the principle of free play in the mornings with swimming, canoeing and fishing available and short treks in the afternoons. Generously an unprogrammed extra was also thrown in FOC – a very memorable, early morning, boat trip to view the hornbills. Each day is rounded off, after dinner, with multimedia presentations on the locality and wildlife. The treks were reasonably easy although in part very steep, and on the first day they included Pulau Tujuh and its seven waterfalls, Kampung Chuweh, an Orang Asli Village on a separate island and Pulau Besar with its Rafflesia site. Day 2 took us on a short, (50 minutes) steep climb up to the viewing tower on Pulau Talikali. The view was well worth the climb. Our guide was reasonably knowledgeable about the flora and fauna but could only speak Malay which could be a setback, although it was no problem to us.

Considering the treks in more detail, it seems that the Rainforest Resort also use Pulau Tujuh for their treks and camping and have built some permanent structures, toilets and pondoks. Our local guide was very careful to steer us around these and off the normal track and it was clear that he considers them as off-limits to us and not for use of anyone other than the Rainforest Resort. This seemed strange as the islands are government land that should be completely available to all. After all heritage and nature belong to everybody! How can one resort lay claim to public property at the expense of others? We do hope that this is not the old story of those rich in cash and contacts using their position to trample on others less well endowed as so often happens. That is certainly not the spirit of 1Malaysia!

Next issue: Orang Asli village, Rafflesia and more…