We woke up around 7:45, eager and ready to begin our day. First things on the agenda for the day: eat breakfast and get ready for our canopy walk tour. Taman Negara has the largest, most extensive canopy walkway in the world. It sits 45 meters above the forest floor and extends through the canopy for 510 meters around the forest. Even though neither Trent nor I are particularly fond of heights, we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to see the forest from this vantage point.
We wandered down to Wan Floating Restaurant for a breakfast of scrambled eggs, toast and coffee and a vegetable omelet. Once our appetites were satisfied, we met the others in our group and boarded the small boat that would take us to the entrance of the canopy walkway. Our guide Ibrahim began to debrief us on what today’s tour would hold: first we would hike through different parts of the forest to two different vantage points and then we would finish our tour with the canopy walkway. He also informed us that we would only be able to walk half of the walkway because of a large crack in one of the foundational trees supporting the walkway. We believe that this was caused by the recent flood there that happened in January. Although we were disappointed that we wouldn’t be able to walk the entire length of suspended walkway, we were thankful that they were concerned with safety and were addressing and fixing the problem.
We set out up many steps and began the hot, sweaty hike. My legs were already screaming as they were sore from a run a few days prior, but I was excited about this adventure and once my adrenaline kicked in, I was fine. As we walked and explored, Ibrahim told us many different things about the jungle. He showed us HUGE worker ants (these ants were nearly as long as my thumb!), lizard holes, how they make paint with clay, and pointed out many different plants and animals.
He showed us a small hive of bees that builds their home from people’s sweat. It sounds gross, but he says it makes the honey sweeter. The resin can also be burned for long periods of time and in fact gives off a very sweet scent, which is why it is used to make incense.
We looked at jungle ginger- which is good to put on stings and insect bites. He explained to us the different types of liana (the big hanging vines found in the rainforest). He even invited me to demonstrate the Tarzan move on one of them (Tarzan has much more impressive moves than I did). Interesting fact- there are two different kinds of liana- rough and smooth. People who live in the forest use liana to drink water as it hollow and catches and stores fresh water inside (but you have to be able to tell the difference between the two). The rough liana turns the water bitter and will make your stomach ache; the smooth one which will not.
Ibrahim also taught us how to signal for help if we were to get lost in the jungle (this has happened in the past when people have gone exploring without a guide). First, you find a large tree with a very wide base and super tall roots. Then you take a large stick and hit the roots three times. It makes a very loud, hollow sound that resonates throughout the forest. We also saw butterflies, lizards, bats, and some huge cockroaches!
We reached the first viewpoint which looked outside of the actual park across the Teresek River. We snapped a few photos and stopped for a few minutes to rest. Hiking in that kind of humidity really tires you out!
Then we came to the second viewpoint which overlooked Malaysia’s tallest mountain, but it was too cloudy to see it. This view overlooked the park, which extends over 4,343 square kilometers!
Finally we came to the last part of our tour- the canopy walkway. We were told the rules of the ropes and then we climbed up the stairs to where we would begin. You are not allowed at any time to stop in the middle of the walkways, and it is important to maintain that only a few people are on each walkway or platform at once. This ensures that the weight is evenly distributed and that the trees that support the walkway are never under too much pressure. Since the walkway is only suspended by ropes, the distance also keeps us from swaying all over the place. I let Trent go first so I could snap a few photos of him as he set out across the connected walkways. At each platform we would switch who went first and who manned the camera. It was pretty cool to be up so high, although it was terrifying to look down!
We found the canopy walkway to be equally terrifying and exhilarating. Because of how hard we had to focus on trying not to sway, it was hard to fully enjoy the views around us. I would have loved to stop to really look around and snap some photos but the rules strictly prohibit this. I understand the reasons behind it (safety, keeping things flowing), but still, it would have been nice to actually be able to take in the sights around us from that height. We saw firsthand what our guide had told us about how they carefully constructed the canopy walkway without damaging any trees in the process. The entire walkway is held in place by ropes secured around the trees, not a single nail was put in the trees. Really, it was quite impressive!
When we finished with the walkway, we headed back down to the boat that would take us back to home base. We arrived famished! Hiking wore us out! We ate lunch at Mama Chop’s Floating Restaurant and had vegetable curry and chili chicken, both of which were very good. Then we went back to our hotel, showered, changed and took a long, satisfying nap!