In 2010 I was in Singapore for work, so I spent the weekend in Taman Negara on Peninsula Malaysia to try again for the Tapir that had eluded me in 2004. Time was of the essence, so I skipped the slow but scenic river trip from Kuala Tembelling and took a bus from Kuala Lumpur to Jerantut (2.5 hours from the Pekeliling bus station in KL) and then a taxi from Jerantut to the national park (less than an hour, less than 20 euros). This is much quicker than the usual bus and boat combination offered by most tour operators, and cheaper too. If you were really broke you could take the ancient bus from Jerantut to the park that leaves a few times each day, though if it is capable of travelling at more than 30kmh you’d need to be concerned that the wheels would drop off. With a hire car it would be easy to drive to the national park as the tarmac road is excellent all the way, though perhaps it might flood in the rainy season.
I stayed at the Taman Negara Lodge so I had a place to sleep and wash in the day time, but phoned ahead to the park to reserve a space in the Kumbang hide for the two nights I stayed there (the National Park office’s number is 09 266 1122). It is less than 2 euros a night to stay in the hide and in retrospect I wish I had phone ahead to book all 10 places so I could have avoided having to share with a gaggle of noisy homo sapiens. Actually I might be being a bit misanthropic as the second night wasn’t too bad and in fact I was glad to have some other people to share look out duty. But my misanthropy was fully justified during the first night when a group of four backpackers decided to light a campfire below the hide (how they got the rainforest wood to burn is difficult to fathom) and then sat outside talking until gone 9 p.m.
I took a boat to and from Kuala Terenggan both nights and walked the 45 minutes to the hide from there. Strangely enough there were no leeches this time (the leeches in 2004 were as bad as they get). And although there were Australian quantities of flies at dusk, after dark there were no bugs of any description other than the fireflies flitting around the clearing.
I stayed up all through the first night and at about 11 p.m. was rewarded with a magnificent male Tapir. He stayed at the salt lick for over half an hour, with an animal (probably the same one) returning again for ten minutes at about 2 a.m. I didn’t see anything else other than some Dusky Langurs at dawn the next day.
After sleeping all day I returned to the hide at dusk. I don’t think I would have been capable of sitting up all night again, and slept for a few hours on and off during the night. Some of my fellow hut dwellers were also staying up but I guess no one was on look out from about 3.30 a.m. – 5 a.m. At about 3 a.m. a Tapir arrived but for less than 5 minutes. And that was it.
Unfortunately no Sun Bear, which seem to be quite regular here. The guys on Indri Tours saw one (see their report here) and according to the sightings board in the park one had been seen from the hide a week or so before me. But needless to say I was delighted with the Tapir after spending eight years looking for them. Other than that I didn’t see – or look – for much else in the park. Low ’s Squirrels were very active around the hotel and during my stay someone reported seeing a Pangolin around the park HQ. So they do exist.