This was our April 2023 break over the holiday of the Myanmar New Year holiday called Thingyan. Our trip started with a flight to Kuala Lumpur with the novelty of actually leaving the airport. We have been through KL Airport so many times that we probably know it better than Heathrow but just never got to leave before. We were immediately struck by the large number of skyscrapers on the way to the hotel.
The closer we got the more it seemed like a New York skyline. We stayed at the Ramada Inn which might sound a bit 70’s but was actually surprisingly good and right near a street of bars and restaurants where we ate dinner and drank beer with no sight of any ‘freelancers’ which is definitely a step up from Bangkok.
he place we were going to sent a car to the Ramada Inn to pick us up the next morning but we managed to get a great breakfast from a local place around the corner first. The car was 30 minutes late – cue uncontrollable melt down from guess who. The guy finally showed up and was either hell bent on making up the lost time or simply hell bent. After 5 years in Asia I can honestly say that was one of the scariest rides we’ve ever had – and it was 3 hours!
Our destination was Taman Negara National Park north of KL and we were staying at a resort actually in the park – Mutiara Resort. Once you get there you can book yourself in for a range of activities and we immediately got ourselves on the evening boat ride down the river and a bird tour the next morning. Before the evening excursion, we thought we’d take a little walk to get things going. There was this one destination which was less than 2 km called ‘something’ hill. The paths there are all man made raised walkways although in varying degrees of decay such that you really had to watch your step. What we hadn’t realised is that the ‘hill’ turned out to be basically a 750 m straight staircase with about a b’jillion steps (that’s a Lindsey amount btw). The only saving grace was seeing a few gibbons albeit briefly. Following that little walk being WAY more than we bargained for, the boat trip was very pleasant with the highlight being two or three river otters catching fish.
Dinner and breakfast was included and we quickly discovered that if you ordered a bucket of beer you paid less per beer so that ended up being our ‘go to’ order. Less of an Easter basket and more of an Easter bucket! The bird guide the next morning was a local guy and far from a pro but did manage to get quite a good number of birds for me. Having never really birded in Malaysia most of the birds were new. The highlight was a Rhinoceros Hornbill but it was too far away for good photos. There was an Australian couple and their friend on the bird trip with us and very kindly, they invited us to join them on the birding morning the next day that they had pre-planned with a professional guide coming from KL the next morning. This was particularly lucky for me as Lindsey had been going on at me for ages about organising something like this myself but I simply never got round to it. Much to her chagrin there it was all organised for me.
That afternoon we went for a cooling swim at a nearby swimming spot on the river and then came back to our room when I started editing my photos for the day. Lindsey had been on our porch with me eating some fake Pringles we had bought before but had just left when a monkey jumped up on the table and swiped the Pringles from under my nose. I tried to grab them but to no avail and then could only watch as he munched them down while sitting on our roof!
The guided trip turned out to be excellent with many lifers for me and highlights being 2 very colourful birds – the red-naped trogon and red and black broadbill. The other excursions we did were a boat ride and a night walk. The highlight of the boat ride was that while we were at the swim hole in the water we noticed what looked like it might be a water monitor lizard or possibly a snake in the water with us. It turned out to be a massive water monitor lizard which we were able to see when it nonchalantly got out of the water. I would say it was over a meter at least. The night walk would have been OK but was marred by a family with three unruly kids. Highlights there were snakes, scorpions and a civet cat that I got a glimpse of.
On our last day we decided to go to the nearby hide just inside the park. Our initial hope had been to see a tapir which are around there but when I asked the front desk excursion guy what our best chances were of seeing one were he basically laughed in my face. We arrived at the hide at the same time as another guy who was also a birder. I would say we sat there for about 20 minutes or less before the other guy gave up and left us, wishing us luck. We were about to leave ourselves about 2 minutes later when all of a sudden we noticed an elephant coming to the watering hole / salt lick. The night guide said he has seen an elephant about 3 weeks ago so we knew that they weren’t that common to actually see even though they are around. There were actually two but only one actually came out of the forest. It stayed there for about 20 mins and while he was there no one else joined us which was amazing considering we had seen other people there every time we had been there previously. The staff at the park office and resort were all genuinely surprised we saw them so we must have been super lucky.
A wonderful end to a great little excursion. Over to Lindsey for the next part of our trip to Singapore…
Interesting birds and a fun adventure. I always think of KL as very urban (not that I’ve been there) so it’s interesting to hear this kind of wildlife is only a few hours away.
We’ve been wondering how you fared during the recent cyclone? I guess you’re both OK since you’re posting!