Cradled in an ocean of green, the Belum Rainforest Resort on the lake island of Pulau Banding in Gerik, Perak is the eco-luxe gateway to the Belum-Temengor Forest Complex, which includes the 130-million-year-old virgin jungles of the Royal Belum State Park. With a total area of nearly 300,000 hectares, the vast forest complex is four times the size of Singapore, large enough to be home to 14 of the world’s most endangered mammals like the Malayan tiger, Sumatran rhinoceros and Asian elephant. There are also over 3,000 flowering plant species, including three species of Rafflesia, the world’s largest single flower. Despite its exceptional biodiversity, the forest complex receives only a fraction of visitors compared to popular eco-tourism destinations in Malaysia like Taman Negara or Kinabalu, thereby providing a more intimate experience of an old-growth rainforest and greater chances of spotting animals in their natural habitat.
The second phase of the resort features modern deluxe suites, traditional chalets, a VIP villa and an infinity pool. Simple, spacious and elegant, the deluxe suites at the new annex building are straight out from an IKEA catalogue. The lake-view rooms have an interesting floor plan wherein the bedroom and bathroom share one continuous space but can be separated by sliding wooden panels. The garden-view units feature bathtubs on the outdoor porch facing nothing but lush greenery. (Curtains, however, may be drawn for added privacy.) The rooftops provide a wide and open area for barbecues and get-togethers, or just a quiet place to simply admire the sunset over the rainforest. Despite its streamlined industrial look, the new buildings exude a rustic charm by inviting the surrounding foliage to take over the architecture. Rough walls and cable wire fences allow ivy and other creepers to climb the structures, thereby keeping the buildings cooler during the day, and providing shade in the outdoor common areas.
While couples may enjoy the deluxe suites, bigger families may prefer to stay at the traditional chalets – also a new addition to the resort – which are by no means “traditional”, and are similarly furnished as the other rooms in the compound, but offer much more space and privacy. Built along the lower slope of the resort grounds, the stilted chalets are modern versions of kampung houses with lovely views of Temengor Lake through the thick vegetation. Next to the chalets, an infinity pool offers an indulgent place to lounge, read a book, or cool off from the tropical heat.
The resort also caters to those looking for some VIP treatment. Tucked away at a secluded corner of the resort, a new eight-bedroom villa can accommodate up to 18 people (plus two extra rooms for the maid and driver), furnished with plush sofas, chandeliers and a private infinity pool that overhangs through the surrounding trees. And, of course, no VIP treatment is complete without 24-hour butler service. At this point, why not toss in business with leisure? The resort also provides facilities for business functions such as meetings and seminars, fully equipped with WiFi connectivity, OH projectors and LCD screens. The tranquil atmosphere is conducive for conducting planning, brainstorming or teambuilding sessions, far away from the chaos and distractions of the city.
Resort guests may enjoy sumptuous meals at Sindai Café or Hornbill Restaurant, with the latter providing a seating capacity of up to 170 persons. The all-day menu in both establishments may offer a modest selection of Asian and Western fare but every choice is hearty, well portioned and full-flavoured. At Hornbill, the signature chicken curry and rib-eye steak smothered in black pepper sauce were excellent choices. With its bamboo ceilings and ochre-coloured earthen walls, the smaller Sindai Café offers a laid-back place to enjoy views of the lake while sipping a fruit cooler or savouring light meals like spicy pad thai and delectable deep-fried prawn dumplings. Sindai makes for a wonderful stopover for those travelling through the East-West Highway, as it’s open to walk-in visitors who would like to enjoy a meal or some refreshments.
For all its modern amenities and culinary delights, nature is the main draw of this sprawling hideaway. One may take a quick stroll around the resort to enjoy the manicured landscape. Next to the Hornbill Restaurant, a small pond holds native fish like mahseer and carp. Following a nearby pathway, an herbal garden with over 50 plant species used for ornamental, culinary and medicinal purposes – pepper, nutmeg, sour plum and tongkat ali, just to name a few – serves as an introduction to the beneficial properties of plants and the surrounding rainforest. Guests can simply pick up a brochure at Hornbill Restaurant that will walk them through the garden, or ask the friendly resident arborist for a guided tour.
The magic of the place, however, lies beyond the verdant island of Pulau Banding. Of course, no trip to Belum-Temengor is complete without exploring the rainforest itself. Created by the construction of a hydroelectric dam, the manmade lake of Temengor provides convenient access to the otherwise impenetrable jungles of Belum-Temengor. Private boat trips around lake can be arranged through Belum Rainforest Resort, departing from its private jetty. A full-day cruise of the olive-green lake will take you to the Temengor Forest Reserve, or the more pristine Royal Belum State Park, which requires an advance notice of at least seven days.
Speedboats shuttle visitors to vibrant jungle trails to behold the splendid Rafflesia in full bloom; spot wildlife at salt licks; swim with ikan kelah (mahseer) at a fish sanctuary by a sparkling waterfall; and visit the quaint bamboo villages of the Jahai or Temiar orang asli (aboriginal people). Fascinatingly, Belum-Temengor is the only existing forest that’s home to all ten species of hornbill found in Malaysia. During the fruiting season from August to October, these magnificent tropical birds congregate in the forest reserves, and special boat trips can be arranged to watch them at their feeding grounds.
Besides boat tours, the resort offers other water-based activities for guests to enjoy the serenity of the lake and the surrounding forests, such as kayaking, bamboo rafting and angling for ikan toman (giant snakehead) and ikan sebarau (hampala barb). Larger groups can rent a houseboat – or “floating hotel” – which can accommodate up to 16 persons for longer trips around the lake that can last up to a few days. Whichever way you choose to enjoy and explore the rainforests of Belum-Temengor, the Belum Rainforest Resort will make it a most pleasurable and awe-inspiring experience of Peninsular Malaysia’s best-kept eco-tourism secret.
Accommodations start at MYR 700 for a Superior Room, inclusive of service charge and GST. Find discounted room rates here!
How to Get There
Belum Rainforest Resort is located 40 km away from Gerik, Perak along the East-West Highway on Pulau Banding (Banding Island) – the gateway to the Belum-Temengor Forest Complex. From Kuala Lumpur, it’s six-hour drive to the resort by private or rental car.
By public bus, there are five-hour trips from Kuala Lumpur to Gerik (also spelled Grik), where you can then charter a taxi to the island for MYR 60. From Penang, buses heading to Kota Bharu via the East-West Highway can drop you off at the resort entrance in roughly four hours by asking the bus driver in advance.
This blog post was made possible through Perak World of Wonders, a media tour held last March 23 to 26, 2016. The event was organized by Gaya Travel Magazine and Tourism Perak in celebration of “Visit Perak Year 2017.”