Feeling a little hemmed in? Need a break from work? Visit Belum Eco-Resort.
My friends and I wanted a break from the city and from work. We wanted to breathe fresh air and be in the midst of nature.
After doing our research on the Net, we came upon the perfect place for this — Belum Forest Reserve.
The six of us travelled up north from Ipoh to Banding, Perak on a Friday morning. The road we took wound through orchards and evergreen hills, and we stopped at a number of places to enjoy tea and coffee, and scenic views along the way.
Upon reaching Banding, we noticed signs warning travellers of wild elephants crossing the road. How interesting! By noon, we had reached Banding jetty, gateway to the rainforest of Belum.
The emerald-green Temenggor Lake was a sight to behold. At the pick up point, Steve Khong and his son Tom, from the Belum Eco-Resort, were already waiting for us and another two groups from England and Australia. After giving a short briefing on the park’s regulations and safety, they handed us our lifejackets.
Travelling by speedboat, we saw evergreen rainforests all around and dead tree stumps protruding from the water. Temenggor is actually a dammed lake.
Soon we came to a magnificent arched-shaped island — Khong Island a.k.a Belum Eco-Resort. We saw two houseboats docked near the shore. As we made our way up the island, the resort staff welcomed us.
The pathway leading to the chalets was lined with bamboo, orchids and ferns of many varieties. We walked past waterfront chalets decorated with Orang Asli ornaments. Lunch was served in the charming Rafflesia Restaurant overlooking Temenggor Lake. After a hearty meal, we left for our first adventure of the day — a visit to Pulau Talikali.
There, we trekked some 30 minutes through a densely forested path to the viewing tower on the isle. On the highest deck of the viewing tower, we were rewarded with a breathtaking bird’s eye view of Temenggor Lake. We saw rolling hills and sparkling lakes stretching out across the horizon.
The forest floor was a botanical treasure, too, with its carpet of colours bursting out from beneath. On closer inspection, we saw that they were different varieties of fungi and fern. There were even strange-looking insects in their midst.
Our guides pointed out the famous Malaysian aphrodisiac, the Tongkat Ali, which seemed to grow abundantly here. Our guide, Tom, pointed out many medicinal plants and explained their uses.
After that, it was back to the resort for tea. To burn off the extra calories after the hearty tea, we took to canoeing around the scenic island, played a game of water polo, and finally settled down to do a spot of angling. Toman and sebarau are plentiful in these waters but angler are encouraged to practise catch-and-release.
Dinner was a colourful affair. We had more guests joining us, including a family from the Netherlands. We were like a delegation from the United Nations sitting down to a meal of steamboat at this waterfront restaurant in the wild.
After dinner, the resort people held a multimedia presentation on Temenggor Lake and the hornbills in the conference room. Steve, being a generous man, offered to take us out for bird-watching the next morning.
We were up at the crack of dawn. We did not want to miss the boat and the glorious transformation of the sky from darkness to myriad hues as the sun rose over the horizon. Making for the patio, we settled into the deckchairs. Away from the concrete jungle, we were enjoying life at a leisurely pace.
The air was fresh and invigorating. Mist shrouded part of the forest and we could hear the gibbons on other islands chattering away loudly in the early hour. Dawn was breaking and we saw a silver lining behind the clouds.
The silhouette from tree stumps projecting out from the lake made Belum even more bewitching. With a cup of hot coffee in one hand and a camera in the other, I really could not ask for more.
Soon, it was time to bird-watch. We hopped into the speedboat, the cold gentle breeze caressing our faces as Steve transported us to Pos Chiong. We could smell the sweet scent of pollen from the rainforest. The silence was broken by a strange call from the sky — it was a flock of Rhinocerous hornbills.
There were 16 of them gliding past, graceful as you like, poetry in motion. In the distant hills, we heard another series of hollow pop notes followed by a harsh cackling laugh — it was the call of the Helmeted hornbill, a beautiful and rare species. Alas, we only managed a brief glimpse of this pair of birds before they disappeared into the forest.
That day, we managed to see a few more flocks of hornbills, as well as eagles and other species of birds. On returning to Khong Island, Steve proudly showed us their two residential hornbills. These Oriental Piped hornbills were perched high above in the Meranti trees. Sarawak may be the Land of the Hornbills, but did you know that Perak actually boasts more species of the bird?
Our agenda for the afternoon? Island-hopping. The first isle we stopped at was Pulau Tujuh, where we trekked into the forest and clambered over fallen logs colourfully emblazoned with fungi. We also saw begonias and ground-living orchids. Soon the gushing sound of a waterfall could be heard, and before long, we were frolicking in its crystal-clear water.
Kampung Cuweh, home to the Jahai tribe, was our next stop. The children, shy but with infectious high spirits and charming smiles, peered out at us from their attap houses on stilts.
An orang asli elder demonstrated the art of using a blowpipe while his wife showed us how they made beads from Jacob’s tear, a plant they grew in the garden. These are rare beads which the Jahai people string together into ornaments that they believe give them protection.
A parasitic affair with the “Queen of the forest” was next on the agenda. As we headed for Pulau Besar, Tom once again briefed us on the rules. Photography was encouraged but collecting souvenirs from the jungle was frowned upon, he reminded us.
The forest floor was wet and alive. We saw fresh elephant dung on the trail, and that got everybody excited. Then they pointed out the Terastigma vines to us. Rafflesia buds in different stages of growth protruded from them. We combed the area with the utmost care, mindful not to cause any damage, when at last we found the beautiful lady in red: Rafflesia cantelyi.
The bloom was already six days old but we had found our pot of gold! With great care, we inspected the withered bloom as we competed with carrion flies to be near her.
Time passed quickly, and soon we were back in the boat, speeding back for dinner. We were served Western-style food, and it was superb. After dinner, another multimedia presentation was made — this time on the Rafflesia.
Later, we once again made for the patio to take in the tranquillity and wonders of nature. The jungle was enveloped in darkness, and, droning away, the insects orchestrated the evening’s soundtrack. Thousands of stars lit the nocturnal sky. Ahh, the simple pleasures of life.
We felt like we rediscovered ourselves in this enchanted place where time seemed to stand still. – By Yoon Lai Wan
For further information, call the Belum Eco-Resort at 012-524 9184 or visit: http://www.belumecoresort.com.my/