Monday, February 24, 2014

Royal Belum Rainforest: One of the True Eco Destinations of the World

This rainforest is many million years old. In fact, it is older than the rainforests of the Amazon and Congo, which makes it one of the oldest rainforests in the world. This is also the place where the world’s largest flower, the Rafflesia is found. It has more hornbill species than the rainforests of Borneo. And, a lot of flora and fauna species are still being discovered here. Well, these are some startling facts about the Royal Belum rainforest that is a part of the Royal Belum State Park in Malaysia.

Rafflesia - the world's largest flower at Royal Belum, Malaysia
This park located on the northern edge of peninsular Malaysia is a part of the Perak state and borders neighboring Thailand. The best part about this state park is that it has been strictly maintained for research purposes instead of revenue generation or tourism. This has led to safeguarding most of the flora and fauna of this place and that is one of the more unique things about this rainforest and hence leads to a special rainforest experience.

The super dense and green Royal Belum Rainforests of Malaysia
It is home to the Malayan tiger, the Asian elephant, the very rare tapir, the sun bear, a lot of primates including the white handed gibbon, lots of cobras, pythons and all the species of hornbills of Malaysia. While it might not be easy to spot the mammals during every entry into the forest, it is pretty common to sight the Rafflesia flower and the hornbills.

One of the many waterfalls within Royal Belum State Park, Malaysia
Three varieties of the Rafflesia flower are found here, which include the Azlanii, Cantali and Liana. During my visit here, I was lucky to see the Liana species in full bloom. Apparently, it needs perfect conditions to survive and blooms for 5 to 7 days every year. The pristine ecosystem of Royal Belum ensures that the Rafflesia grows here in huge numbers. Apart from being one of the world’s largest flower, there are some other things that are special about this flower like it smells like putrefying flesh, which attracts flies for pollination and the fact that it is a parasitic flower that grows from one vine. While I was there at Royal Belum, the wildlife guide explained to me that the pregnant Elephants would eat the Rafflesia as a medicine to reduce their stomach and labor pain.

Dense Tropical rainforests of Royal Belum State Park, Malaysia
As you see, this rainforest offers tremendous avenues for that perfect wildlife and nature experience. But, it is also fairly tough to get access into this park as the number of visitors per day are limited and so are the places to stay. Either one can stay on the Royal Belum rainforest resort on Pulau Banding or you can stay at the basic camps inside the forest. Both these options are fairly pricey, but the experience is worth the money.

The cabbage that blooms into the Rafflesia flower at Royal Belum State Park, Malaysia
Since it is only possible to visit the rainforest by boat, bookings and planning needs to be made in advance. The boat, the park entry permits and the accommodation will get covered as part of this planning. Additionally, all you need are comfortable cotton clothing, some insect repellant, sunscreen, a wide-brimmed hat, a pair of binoculars, a camera and lots of excitement.

About the Liana Rafflesia flower
Apart from the flora, the fauna and the sheer beauty of the rainforest, as a tourist, we can do a lot more additional things. There are waterfalls that we can trek to and also bathe in. There are carnivorous fishes at the fish sanctuary that we can feed and see the entire water turn red with their color. There are aboriginal people that we can meet and interact and last, but not the least, we can simply go all around the rainforest area by boat and admire one of nature’s best creations.

Houseboat on Banding Lake, Pulau Banding
This is one of those places that as a wildlife lover and nature enthusiast I would keep returning to. If you wish to visit this place, I would recommend this place with multiple thumbs up. Royal Belum is one of those places that you should have in your travel bucket list under the special destination or experience category.


  1. Poornapragna GudibandeFebruary 24, 2014 at 4:43 PM

    Thanks Sankar for the lovely pictures of the park. I was curious to read about the Rafflesia flower after i saw the picture. It looks like the complete ecosystem is pristine.

  2. Nice to know about this wonderful rainforest. Beautiful article, Sankara.

  3. Its looking very interesting! All the picture are awesome!But seen the first one!

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