Royal Belum, The Gem Of Perak

Last update: 08/04/2014

By Sakini Mohd Said



GERIK (Bernama) -- The scenic panorama of the Temengor Lake will mesmerise anyone traversing through the East-West Highway, which connects Gerik to Jeli in Kelantan.


At 15,200 hectares wide, it is the largest man-made lake in Perak, surrounding the Belum-Temengor Forest Complex.


Historically, the area was originally the site of a Malay and Orang Asli settlement.


The lake, built to facilitate the Temengor Dam project in the 1970s, is the gateway to the Royal Belum State Park, a treasure trove of biodiversity.



UNIQUE ROYAL BELUM



The state park is located on the northern side of the Temengor Lake. It is believed to be over 130 million years old, making it one of the world's oldest rainforests and is among the country's latest eco-tourism destination.


The Royal Belum State Park was gazetted on May 3, 2007, and covers an area spanning over 117,500 hectares, with nearly 90 percent of it being the Belum Forest Reserve (132,000 hectares), which borders along Thailand.


To the south of Belum is the Temengor Forest Reserve, which is over 200,000 hectares wide.


It is quite a long drive to the isolated location of the state park from Ipoh town, but that has not deterred tourists from visiting the place.


Records show that 13,207 tourists visited the Royal Belum last year, an increase from 11,033 the year before.


To get to the Royal Belum is another challenge. Land transportation can only bring you as far as the public jetty in Pulau Banding. From there, one would need to continue the journey through Lake Temengor on a speedboat to the state park.



OLDER THAN AMAZON



The Royal Belum is a treasure trove for rare species of flora and fauna.


The forest is believed to be older that the Amazon rainforest in South America and the Congolian forests in Central Africa.


It is estimated there are 3,000 species of flora, 64 species of ferns, 62 species of moss and 23 types of river fish living in the wild at the Royal Belum.


It is also the home of the world's most threatened mammals such as the Malaysian Tiger, Malaysian sun bear, Sumatran rhinoceros, white-handed gibbon, Malayan tapir and Asiatic elephant, making it a priceless national treasure.


Hornbills, usually associated with Sarawak, can also be found in abundance at the state park.


A Perak State Park Corporation ranger, Azizul Hakimie Ahamed told Bernama that out of the 31 species of hornbills from eight genres identified in Asia,
interestingly 10 species from six genres that could be found in Malaysia were also found at the Royal Belum or Temengor Forest Reserve.


"In contrast, only eight of the species can be found in Sabah and Sarawak. This makes the state park an attraction for bird lovers," he said, when accompanying an expedition at the Royal Belum organised by the Natural Resources and Environment Ministry.



BIRD WATCHING PROGRAMME



In recognition of this, the Perak government organised a bird-watching programme for the first time this year in conjunction with the Visit Malaysia Year 2014.


Perak State Park Corporation Administration Officer Noor Ilyani Abd Rani said similar programmes have been held in the past but was organised by NGOs.


"This year, we will be organising the programme along with the state government, between July and September," she said.


The hornbills can usually be spotted around those months flying in large numbers.


Among them are the Plain-Pouched species, which will migrate in groups to the Royal Belum from Thailand in search of food.


The birds will usually be seen flying in a "V" formation. It is a rare and fascinating sight.



THE RAFFLESIA FLOWER



The largest flower in the world, the Rafflesia, can also be found at the state park.


Many usually assume that the rare flower can only be found in the mountainous regions of Sabah and Sarawak.


There are three Rafflesia species in the Royal Belum: the Rafflesia kerrii, Rafflesia cantleyi and Rafflesia azlanii, named after Perak ruler Sultan Azlan Shah.


State Park Corporation Tourism Ranger Mohd Yusri Abdullah Sani said that visitors had a 60 to 70 percent chance of seeing the flowers bloom because they could be found at 12 identified locations in the state park.


"It would only take you 15 to 20 minutes to reach the location of the Rafflesia flowers in the Royal Belum, compared with other locations," he said.



AN ANGLER'S HAVEN



Besides that, the Royal Belum is also an angler's haven for larger-than-usual freshwater fish such as the "baung" (Mystus catfish), "temoleh" (Jullien's golden price barb), "toman" (giant snakehead) and "tengas" (copper mahseer).


"The farther into the forest you go, the bigger the fishes. Anglers see this as a challenge," he said.


Indeed the Royal Belum a priceless gem of not only Perak, but the nation as well.

-- BERNAMA