Kayaking on Lake Kenyir in Malaysia
The heat and humidity were stultifying. Our clothes hung damp on our bodies, rivulets of sweat dripped down from our foreheads and myriad insects buzzed annoyingly around our heads. The smell of damp vegetation mixed with the sweet scent of flowers assaulted our nostrils. Fallen and rotting trees were steaming in the late morning sun. A 10 metre high waterfall crashed into a deep shady jungle pool. Dappled sunlight played on the water and was reflected in an animated light show on the underside of the jumble of boulders each the size of a small house.
It was the perfect place for a dip, some lunch and another cooling dip. Ideally lunch is the time to find somewhere shady to sit out the humid heat of the midday Terengganu sun. The jungle pool was perfect and well worth the short climb from the inlet where we had tied the canoes to a dead tree stump.
Lake Kenyir or to give it it’s Malay name Tasik Kenyir was created in 1985 by a huge hydroelectric dam in the mountains close to the Taman Negara National Park in the northern part of the Malay Peninsula. The lake covers 369 square kilometres and has over 340 islands created as the rising water surrounded peaks and highland areas. There are hundreds of streams and not a few rivers that feed the lake. Many of these cascade into the lake as waterfalls. Many were inaccessible except by the more intrepid jungle explorer but are now accessible to canoeists willing to scramble their way over rocks and push their way through virgin jungle.
Some waterfalls are more accessible and attract visitors in boats or the ubiquitous houseboats that ply the lake. Air Terjun Lasir is the most spectacular of all the waterfalls around Lake Kenyir but development is minimal; there are no kiosks just a pathway, viewpoints, picnic tables and toilets. Emphasis all round the lake on eco-tourism and efforts are made to ensure that what development there is does not adversely affect the environment.
Several “forests” of dead trees rise up out of the water; a result of the rising water levels. The submerged and semi-submerged trees are a real hazard for all but canoes and kayaks making these inlets accessible only by paddle craft. We decided to explore some of these less accessible places.
The dead trees provided great perches from which fish-eating birds watch their prey. They towered above us as we paddled through the forest of death. We hardly spoke; only the dipping and dripping of our paddles broke the silence.
Drab birds with great songs and colourful birds that only squawked could be seen and heard in the forests as we drifted by. Every so often we would hear the unforgettable whooping of gibbons and occasionally see them swinging among the treetops. The sickly sweet smell of rotting vegetation occasionally drifted across the few metres of water mingled with the powerful perfume of some unidentifiable flower.
The inlet narrowed and the sides grew steeper and as a result the dead trees disappeared giving us a clear view up the inlet. At the far end a huge boulder the size of a lorry blocked our view but we could hear the unmistakeable sound of crashing water. Edging around the boulder we discovered a tiny beach of coarse sand littered with fallen rocks, rotting trees and other jungle detritus. Above us jungle plants with cascades of yellow and white flowers clung to the sides of the ravine.
Already the sun was at its midday zenith so we decided to explore and, hopefully, find a cooling jungle pool. We secured the canoes to fallen trees and scrambled through the shallow water and over a mini jungle obstacle course on the beach. The sodden and rotten logs were steaming adding yet more moisture to the humid atmosphere.
After a short climb we found what we were looking for. Just above a waterfall was a wonderful jungle garden in dappled shade surrounding a pool. Everywhere there were butterflies. Some were tiny and almost unnoticeable while others were “in your face” with their iridescent wings.
On our return we drifted past a steep-sided, jungle clad headland. High in the trees as we approached a troupe of Macaques were feeding. They leapt from the tree to tree in seemingly impossible feats of acrobatics. After this display of treetop gymnastics and as we floated silently we caught a glimpse of a cloud leopard; so called because its spots resemble clouds. What a thrill.
Asian elephants and moon bears as well as gibbons and other varieties of primates have also been seen around the lake. Kayaking on Lake Kenyir allows you to approach the lake’s many wildlife species without them taking flight.
For those with an adventurous spirit Tasik Kenyir is the perfect place to take the… road less paddled.
This article originally appeared on Travel Wire Asia’s website www.travelwireasia.com where I have written as a guest blogger. If you enjoyed this article and would like to find out more about travelling to Malaysia, please visit the Tourism Malaysia website
This article was written as a result of a trip as guest of Tourism Malaysia. As always I retain editorial control and write from my experience