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Kenong - The Cavers' Paradise

By Forest Ang

.........I think it was a binturong.........

It was in 1986 when I made my first trip to Kenong Rimba Park, which, then, was only a Forest Reserve. I vividly remember the many leeches that we encountered. I had the opportunity to see the largest eatable frog in my life, about one and half feet from head to toes. Now, after 18 years, Kenong is still a wild country. With so many wild animals around, it is a must-visit destination for nature lovers.

Our journey to Kenong started at 5.00 pm from Penang and we reached Kuala Lipis precisely midnight. We checked into the Centre Point Hotel and dozed off for the night. I meant morning.

Day 1

We woke up to see a misty Kuala Lipis town. Being in the center of Peninsular Malaysia, Kuala Lipis is indeed surrounded with much green. We were informed earlier to take a train at 7.30 am from Kuala Lipis to Batu 9 and from there we are expected to take 15 minutes long boat rides to Tg Kiara. From there, we will track to Kenong Resort.
However, the weather permits, the operator decided to change the plan and instead asked us to check out from the hotel at 9.00 am. We were glad to have an extra hour of sleep. After some delay, we hopped onto a van and a 4WD at 10.00 am. The operator stopped at the wet market to buy some vegetables and food. We reached the resort at 11.20 am.
We checked into the hostel. We were being briefed. Lunch will only be served at 1.00 pm. The guide took us to the first cave called Gua Hijau. This is the cave filled with bats. The guano was everywhere. Cave cockroaches and other little crawlies were everywhere. A flick of the guano will expose many of them. We managed to see cave centipedes too.
On our return to base camp, we stopped by a small cave and were surprised to see many red spotted frogs Rana signata. We also saw a frog without the red and a giant toad too. We observed a dark looking creature in a crevice but could not identify it. Later, during our night walk, we managed to spot the same creature, which was a dark cockroach. This cockroach is different from what I have seen in so many of my caving trip.
We came back for our lunch at 1.00 pm.
After some rest, we continue with our cave exploration. We were taken to Gua Buta, Gua Harimau and Gua Gajah.
For Gua Buta we have to hike up about 20 meters to find an opening that leads into a larger chamber. Here we spotted cave racer on the floor apparently agitated by our present. We noticed that this cave has not been well explored by tourists. There were also fossils with small pieces of broken rocks and some shells. We saw the cave centipede devouring a whip spider. It is a slippery cave and there were mud flowing in the cave. It would have been very slippery and dangerous if it rains.
We had our dinner at 8.00 pm. That night it was drizzling, and we opted for an easier night walk just to the Gua Hijau. We were lucky to see 3 species of glow worms, a baby gecko, a grasshopper, a frog and of course the dark cockroach I mentioned earlier.

Day 2

Breakfast was served at 8.00 am. At 9.20 am when all of us were ready, we trekked to Gua Bt Telahup, Gua Bt Tangkup and Gua Bt Tangga. Out first stop was at Gua Bt Telahup. A small cavern with some light coming from the roof. We saw the water levels forming on the wall of the cave. Probably this place was immersed in water for a long period.
Out next stop was to Gua Bt Tangkup. It was a tunnel-like-cave. We could feel the wind blowing from the other end of the cave. It was a big chamber. It resembles a two-lane road passing through the mountain. "Wow!" someone called out and it was indeed a beautiful sight to see the sun's rays coming through the ceiling hitting the floor. We quickly scrambled up to have some pictures taken. But, alas, as soon as we were at the spot, the intensity of the rays weakened...and then it came back like playing hide and seeks with us. Quickly we took more pictures.
As we came out of the cave, the edges of some boulders were smoothened by the elephants. The boulders were actually along the path where the elephants have to squeeze through in order to pass through the cave.
Our last cave was Gua Bt Tangga. It was a camping site for those wishing to camp outside. It was a safe place to camp as there were several chambers above with a ladder to take us up. We went up and found it a safe hiding place from the elephants or even tigers.
We continued along the side of the cave and make some steep climb up to the top. There was some kind of plateau above with two main cave-like structures. We could get a glimpse of the jungle beneath us from a vintage point. A non-poisonous 1.5m long cave racer was found dead along the path. Its head was presumably beaten or bitten by some other animal. Probably it has been dead for two days, as we could smell the odour. We made our descend and continue to the back of Gua Bt Tangga which our guide reluctantly took us there. It was a view that we were glad to see. Very neat steps were seen, just like we were in a stadium with the step seats. It was a dry month and we saw several foot prints on the soft dried river bed. Our guide identified it as from the cat family. We continue back.
On reaching Gua Bt Tangkup, our guide took us to the side of the cave to see a huge ficus tree with roots reaching down from the side of the limestone hill. It has straight roots and our guide demonstrated the Tarzan's act of sliding down from one of the roots. A small cave was found beside the roots. We took a look and found it to be a perfect cave house as it has "window" and "door". We found a glittering stalactite. It would probably be "alive" during the raining days.
We continue back to base camp as we were getting hungry.
Shss.., our guide stop. I saw a quick brownish animal leaping off from the undergrowth and as quickly as the leaping animal, a little roar was heard that could be a leopard or a baby tiger! Nothing was confirmed.
We had our lunch at 1.30pm. At 2.30pm our guide took us for a challenging climb to Gunung Kesong, the hill in front of our resort.
The climb started near the trail of Gua Buta. It branches out into the right and followed a steep ascend. The climb had the same difficulty as the famous Pinnacles' climb of Mulu National Park. However, the distance is about 1/10 th of the Pinnacles climb. This would be a good training ground if you need to scale the Pinnacles. At some part, the climb was 90�. The limestones were as sharp as the blades. When we reached the peak, we had only several minutes to take two group photos as we can hear thunders from the distance. We scrambled back and as we reached the junction to Gua Buta, 3 of us decided to check out Gua Buta again. I was leading and suddenly heard a movement and I looked up to see a long bushy black tail disappearing behind the limestone boulder. I think it was a binturong. It could not be a bear as the tail was too long and bushy. I thing it could not be a squirrel too as the giant squirrel is usually found on the tree.
There were not many things to see at our second exploration at Gua Buta. It was raining as we came out of the cave. We went back to our resort and washed ourselves.
The evening was spent chitchatting as it was drizzling.

Day 3

We spit into two group, with Jungle going out by 4WD as he need to take his van to fetch us at Bt 9.
We started early as the walk will take us 1.5 hours. It was an enjoyable walk as we passed through the elephants' territory with dung along the path. Eventually we came to the villages. According to our guide, the elephants raided the farms around the villages. We reached the jetty at 11.00am. We took a long boat to Bt 9. It took us 15 minutes to reach Bt 9. Along the river we were showed the Ketum Tree. The concoction of the leaves can be abused and could cause addiction. The Government is doing research to see whether to ban the tree. I am not sure how they are going to do it but for one thing, these trees grow wild in the jungle.
We had our lunch at Kuala Lipis and head back to Penang via Gua Musang-Cameron Highlands' new highway.

For gallery of Kenong Rimba Park Click Here


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All photographs by Forest Ang unless mentioned.
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