By Anita Anandarajah
New Straits Times Press
December 2, 2000
We gathered at 7.30am at Level 2 of the Putra World Trade Centre
where the conspicuous 4WD safari tour coach was already waiting
for us. We certainly attracted attention wherever we went as the
vehicle was decorated with paintings of animals.
A detailed itinerary had been prepared to ensure that we were constantly
entertained. And there were so many meals! I think we spent most
of the time eating in the true Malaysian spirit of Malaysia Boleh
(Makan)! We were served chocolates and mineral water on the bus.
A movie also was shown - 007 no less, perhaps to instil a sense
After 1 1/2 hours, we stopped at Ulu Bernam for a breakfast of
nasi lemak, telur dadar and teh limau ais. Many burps later, our
journey commenced. The view along the long and winding Sabak Bernam
trunk road was breathtaking - at least to the jaded city-dweller
- with lush greenery on either side and rays of sunshine filtering
Sumatran Rhinoceros Conservation Centre (SRCC), Sungai Dusun Wildlife
Reserve, Hulu Selangor
This centre is home to eight endangered Lesser Two-Horned Rhinoceroses,
which make up half the world's population. We were given a tour
by resident veterinarian Dr Zainal Zahari Zainuddin, who provided
an insightful view of the life and habits of the animals.
Who would have imagined that a 700kg rhinoceros named Seputih could
prance around like a puppy? And did you know that these tame babies
Sadly, the rhinoceros faces the greatest threat due to the high
demand for its hooves, horns and skin which are used in traditional
Chinese medicine preparations. The centre aims to conserve its small
population of Sumatran rhinos and to provide a temporary home to
Wildlife Conservation Centre, Sungkai, Perak
The conservation centre sits on 20 hectares of protected land 60km
south of Ipoh. It was gazetted as reserve land by the State Government
Visitors may view the Sambar deer that are specially brought into
an enclosure for public viewing. The deer are bred for the purpose
of restocking for licensed hunting. They are also propagated to
facilitate research which helps create public awareness on conserving
The centre's head of projects Mohd Samsudin Mohd Suri pointed out
the rare birds, including hornbills, partridges and pigeons, at
its aviary. Look out for the majestic Green Peafowl (Pavomuticus),
said to have last been sighted in Malaysia in the 1960s. The Malaysian
peacock, Crestless Fireback/Merah Mata (Lophura erythropthalma),
commonly found in the lowlands, is also an endangered species.
The seladang are allowed to roam free in their enclosure, which
is covered with thick undergrowth and overhanging vines. Those lucky
enough to spot them would be amazed by their sheer size - the beasts
stand at 2.1m on all fours!
We arrived at historical Pasir Salak to kompang beats, and were
greeted like royalty with smiling kampung folk lining the road.
Cosy wooden chalets by the Sungai Perak lent a rustic charm to the
Pasir Salak Riverine Resort, where we were to spend the first night.
A cultural dance and huge array of Perak delicacies were laid out
for dinner. The way to dinner was lit by kerosene lamps. This, plus
a joget competition, teh tarik dance contest and roti canai-making
session, made for a great night out in rural Perak. The next morning,
we took a cruise down the river, after which came the highlight
- the historical complex, which features a traditional Perak house,
a museum and a watch tower near where J.W.W. Birch was murdered.
Bota Kanan River Terrapin Wildlife Conservation Centre
We had the opportunity to hold live terrapins! River terrapins
or tuntung are bred in captivity at Bota Kanan. Any visitor will
be captivated by these creatures which feed on kangkung and bananas.
Words cannot describe the beauty of these limestone caves. The
dust trail that leads from the main road through the kampung to
the caves is an experience in itself. The serene plains dotted with
seladang on a sunny Sunday afternoon were a lovely sight.
Kuala Gula Bird Sanctuary
This is a small Chinese fishing village about 50km from Taiping.
Birdwatchers will find Kuala Gula a haven as it is host to some
166 species, including migrant birds. Between August and April,
more than 200,000 migratory birds stop over at the sanctuary.
The Milky Stork (Mycteria cinera) is one of the vulnerable species
found here. Gliding down the river in a catamaran with breakfast
served on board is THE way to go. If the timing is right, one can
see thousands of birds taking flight from the shoreline of the mangrove
swamps and mudflats. Binoculars are provided.
The highlight of the tour (Gua Tempurung aside) are the dolphins
in the Straits of Malacca! Yes, we were lucky to encounter four
friendly dolphins who tailed our boat for a short while. The village
is the defining characteristic of Kuala Gula. A walk through is
recommended, to watch fishermen hauling in their catch of shellfish,
prawns, crab and fish for the day.
Matang Mangrove Forest Reserve, Kuala Sepatang
Every Malaysian should feel proud of the Matang reserve as it is
internationally known as the best-managed sustainable mangrove forest
in the world. The bakau minyak and bakau kurap species are cultivated
to produce firewood, charcoal and structural foundation piles.
Mangrove ecosystems play a vital role in preventing coastal erosion.
They are also a source of nutrients for marine life. A trip on the
boardwalk through the forest is a must to see the beautiful stilt
roots of the bakau.
Charcoal Kiln Factory, Kuala Sepatang
A short distance from the mangrove reserve is the charcoal factory.
It smelt like a great big barbecue! The one we visited is owned
by Chuah Chow Aun. We were briefed on the various stages of charcoal-making.
Chuah said his charcoal is exported to Japan where it is still in
great demand for cooking and generating heat in saunas, among other
The kilns look like giant igloos, each measuring 6.7m in diameter
and 7m high. Bakau minyak timber is smoked in the kilns for up to
30 days to get the end product - charcoal.