Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Taman Negara

If you have had the good fortune to have visited there, those two words - Taman Negara - will have shaken a multitude of thoughts and emotions awake within you. It is, quite simply, one of the best places on earth to experience birding in the rainforest. Slap bang in the middle of peninsular Malaysia, it is a vast reserve. I visited back in 1994. As part of a three-week birding holiday with two friends, we spent 10 days at Kuala Tahan, the reserve HQ, staying in a level of luxury that would be scoffed at by the likes of Rajah Brookes and Sir Rannulph Feinnes.

To reach the HQ required a three-hour drive from Kuala Lumpur to then catch a boat that required a further two hours to speed its way along the river. There were a series of trails that snaked away from the HQ, and the bravest of birders could walk for days to reach the park interior (to see Crested Argus required such a trek with a guide). However, if trekking was not your cup of tea, then the birds came to you. There were many times during our stay that sought after species turned up in the HQ gardens.

Highlights, there were many...

A Masked Finfoot sitting motionless amongst emergent vegetation as we paddled to within twenty feet of it in a canoe... A Hooded Pitta standing on top of a fallen log allowing fantastic views... A male Great Argus strutting across the Jenut Muda trail like a silent carnival float... finally catching up with a Banded Pitta (one of the best looking birds on Earth) after five days of chasing their calls... an Oriental Dwarf Kingfisher that perched two feet from my nose as I silently sat in a ravine... a Bathawk flying skua-like over a clearing as dusk fell... the same clearing echoing to calling Malaysian Eared Nightjars,,,

I could go on. And on. If you get the chance, go. I've never regretted it.

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