Tahan

Facts

  • Elevation: 2,187 m (7,175 ft)
  • Prominence: 2,140 m
  • Ribu category Tinggi Sedang
  • Province: Peninsular Malaysia
  • Malaysian state: on the border of Kelantan and Pahang
  • Google Earth: kml
  • Rating: 1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (2 votes) Add your rating
    Loading...
  • Other names: none.

Photos

Bagging It!

At 2,187m, Gunung Tahan is the highest peak in Peninsular Malaysia and is located in the Taman Negara National Park. It is also the highest peak in the Tenasserim Hills chain (Banjaran Tanah Seri), a 1,700 kilometre-long granite ridge older than the Himalayas which runs all the way down from mid-Thailand to southern Peninsular Malaysia.

It’s probably this region’s most challenging trek and the word ‘tahan’ means ‘endure’ which is certainly rather apt! There are two main trailheads, with one route being longer and requiring a lot more time than the other. The views from the higher slopes of Gunung Tahan are excellent, as the vegetation is mostly low-growing shrubs rather than tall trees.

Elephants and tigers still live in this region, though the chance of seeing any is very, very small. You will almost certainly meet plenty of sweat bees although they are relatively harmless unless they get stuck inside your shirt. If you are especially lucky you might spot one of the elusive golden cats on your trek.

The newer, shorter route is 18 kilometres long (ignore the blatantly incorrect 32km signs!) and starts at Kuala Juram, which is a 40-minute 4WD journey from the Park Office at Sungai Relau which is itself just under 7 kilometres from the small town of Merapoh. A return hike is usually done in 4 days and 3 nights although as of 2022 you are required to book and pay for 5 days and 4 nights. This is to avoid less fit hikers rushing or hiking in the dark in order to make it down for their transport.

The route is as follows: Sungai Relau (290m) – 4WD to Kuala Juram (205m) where the trail properly begins – Kuala Luis (240m) – Lata Luis (520m) – Kem Kor (685m) – Permatang (785m) – Kubang (1,375m) – Belumut (1,450m) – Bonsai (1,675m) – Kem Botak (1,935m) – Tahan summit (2,187m). Days 1 and 4 are fairly short half-day affairs but combined with the time consuming National Park administration and bag checks can end up filling entire days. Days 2 and 3 are more challenging with the lengthy and muddy trek from Kem Kor to the summit and back. Underestimate at your peril!

The other, traditional trail (which is regarded as the most beautiful) is allegedly 53 kilometres long (this may be as inaccurate as the 32km claims for the shorter route) and starts in Kampung Kuala Tahan and a return hike typically requires 7 days for a traverse to the Sungai Relau side. There are numerous river crossings. The route is as follows: Kuala Tahan (80m) – Kuala Melantai (140m) – Kem Tengah (415m) – Gunung Rajah (595m) – Kuala Putih (160m) – Kuala Teku (205m) – Bukit Sarsi (845m) – Gunung Pondok Dua (Wray’s Camp, 1,095m) – Kem Pangkin (1,265m) – Gunung Tangga (1,510m) – Gunung Reskit (1,635m) – Gunung Tangga Lima Belas (1,750m) – Gunung Gedung (2,066m) – Padang (1,800m) – Tahan summit (2,187m).

Obviously, the best hike to do is a traverse from one side to the other and most who do this seem to opt to start in Sungai Relau and finish at Kuala Tahan so that the lengthy Kuala Tahan route is more descent than ascent. This is supposedly around 71km in total and apparently the standard National Park requirement is that it is done over 7 days. Some groups may need longer.

The below is a brief overview of a return itinerary starting on the Merapoh / Sungai Relau side, with additional information on the traverse.

Day 0: Get to Gua Musang or Merapoh by train or bus. Consider staying at Merapoh Adventure Homestay – a spacious house suitable for a group of up to 10 people.

Day 1: Sungai Relau-Kuala Juram-Kuala Luis-Lata Luis-Kem Kor (685m). 4 hours of hiking after all the admin is done. 8km.

Get to the Park Office in Sungai Relau for a safety briefing, a time-consuming and thorough check of all your unpacked belongings before entering the National Park forest (this is checked again at the end to ensure that zero litter is left in the forest – be aware you may be fined). Travel 13km by 4WD along the National Park road to the Kelah fish sanctuary at Kuala Juram (205m) and begin the hike towards Kuala Luis (240m). This includes 4 river crossings with ropes, the deepest of which is at Kuala Luis itself. Start the proper climb here to Lata Luis (520m), the waterfall and then Kem Kor (685m) which you should have reached in around 4 hours plus breaks. Most groups doing either the traverse or the shorter return trek tend to stay at Kem Kor for the night, in both directions, as it is a large site with many flat areas just next to the river. However, stronger groups could potentially reach the much smaller Kem Kubang if they manage to get the administrative issues dealt with swiftly and can therefore start early enough. Not only would this mean an easier second day, but also less noise from other groups at the every-busy Kem Kor.

Day 2: Kem Kor-Permatang-Kem Kubang-Belumut-Bonsai-Botak. 7-9 hours of hiking. 9km (or 10km to summit).

A long and arduous day, especially for those with large backpacks. After a river crossing just beyond Kem Kor, it is a further 3 hours or so to Kem Kubang (1,375m). There are a couple of ladders in place on especially steep terrain just before reaching Kubang. From Kubang, it is about 30 minutes to Belumut which is much less ‘mossy’ as the name might suggest and much more ‘muddy’. From Belumut to Bonsai is a further 3 hours of squelching through deep mud. From Bonsai, the terrain improves and the views open out in all directions. Bonsai to Botak is 1 hour on increasingly stony ground and Botak to the summit is a further 1 hour, though most groups camp at Botak and use head torches early the next morning in order to the reach the summit for sunrise at around 7am. The last water source is at Camp Botak (1,935m) but if you can make it to the summit (one further hour) then it is obviously preferable for sunset photos should you have fine weather in the late afternoon. Sections of mud exist all the way to the summit so sandles are not recommended even just for the final hour to the summit.

Day 3: Summit-Botak-Belumut-Kubang-Permatang-Kem Kor. 6-10 hours of hiking, depending on weight of backpacks and fitness levels.

Those returning to Sungai Relau tend to be at the summit for sunrise on Day 3 before the long trek back down to Kem Kor. The time requires varies widely based on the strength of each hiker after the previous challenging day.

Day 4: Kem Kor – Kuala Juram.

The short 4 hours back to Kuala Juram to meet the 4WD back to the Park Office for bag checks.

Day 5: Spare Day.

The traverse: For those continuing over to Kuala Tahan on Day 3 after the summit, camp spots will depend on the strength of the whole group. From the summit to Gunung Gedung is around 4 hours. Gn Gedung to Gunung Reskit is 1.5 hours. Gn Reskit to Gunung Pangkin is 3 hours  and Gn Pangkin to Wray’s Camp (1,095m) is 1 hour. Wray’s Camp is named after a member of the 1905 Herbert C Robinson expedition here who were the first recorded hikers to have reached the peak, requiring two weeks in total. Unfortunately, Mr Wray was stuck here with diarrhea and didn’t make it to the summit. Wray’s Camp to Kuala Teku takes around 3.5 hours. Kuala Teku to Kuala Puteh (160m) requires around 5 hours and no less than 7 river crossings (some sources state 9 river crossings!) Watch out for leeches here. Next, ascend to Gunung Rajah (about 2 hours), and on to Kem Tengah (a further hour). From Kem Tengah to Kuala Melantai takes around 4 hours and involves crossing the 27 minor hills of Bukit Malang. It is then around 5 hours to reach the Park Resort from Kuala Melantai. Stay the night at the National Park Resort before transport home, probably using bus or train from Jerantut.

Bagging information by Dan Quinn (June 2022)

Trail Map

Peta Jalur Pendakian Gunung Tahan
For a high quality PDF version of this and other trail maps, please download from our Trail Maps page.

Local Accommodation



Booking.com

Practicalities

  • Getting there: A bus from KL to Merapoh and Gua Musang takes a little over 5 hours. Merapoh and Jerantut are the closest train stations, with an overnight train between Johor and Gua Musang operating (via Gemas) in both directions in 2019. To reach Merapoh from Gua Musang takes about 40 minutes by car.
  • Guides and GPS Tracks: Want a PDF version for your phone? Looking for a guide? Need GPS tracks and waypoints? Gunung Tahan information pack can be downloaded here.
  • Trip planning assistance: Would you like Gunung Bagging to personally help you in arranging your whole trip? Please contact us here.
  • Permits: National Park guides are mandatory and your items will be checked by staff to ensure no litter is left behind on the mountain. The trail is closed from November to mid-February every year. As of 2022, it is only possible to book via 2 local travel agencies / tour operators typically with a basica price of RM230 per person (minimum 10 people): Sgi Outdoor – 017-907 4241 (Pn.Fauziana) and RA Adventure-013-6056941 / 017-7065470 (Ms. Laila).
  • Water sources: On the Sungai Relau-Kuala Tahan traverse route available at Kem Kor, Kubang, Botak, near Wray’s Camp, Kuala Teku, Kuala Putih, near Kem Tengah, and Kuala Melantai.
  • Travel insurance: We recommend World Nomads insurance, which is designed for adventurous travellers with cover for overseas medical, evacuation, baggage and a range of adventure sports and activities including mountain hiking.

Local Average Monthly Rainfall
Average precipitation (rain/snow) in Gua Musang, Malaysia

Location

10 thoughts on “Tahan

  1. Finally got to Gunung Tahan after it being near the top of my ‘to-do’ list for several years! It has to be said that the administrative side of things does not make this appealing, and now in 2022 you must book through only 2 local tour agencies who quote a price for a group of 10 or more (you can go as a smaller group but you must still pay for 10) and the Merapoh/Sungai Relau/Kuala Juram return trip is now officially 5 days yet really most enthusiastic groups can complete it in 4, and the super-fit in 3.

    The journey up to Merapoh from the south is very scenic with all the cliffs. A popular area for caving. Merapoh itself is very small so anything specialist you will need to get elsewhere prior to arriving. The restaurants tend to be good quality though, ideal for an evening meal. Look out for hornbills in this area – we had one in the neighbouring field next to the Merapoh Adventure Homestay (recommended accommodation at RM300 for the whole building or RM35 per bed if shared with other groups). Call Nizam +60193721812.

    We booked via SGI Outdoor, who actually have an office very close to the homestay, and despite them getting the dates wrong on the form and some of our names spelt incorrectly it all went smoothly in the end, though one does wonder what the advantage for the Park is of private companies arranging the treks. Anyway SGI can be contacted on +60179074241. You will need to pay a deposit (via Wise or local Malaysian bank transfer) and the rest of the fee two weeks prior to your trip.

    After a great night at the homestay, sorting out our gear and getting reading for the adventure ahead, we drove down to the Park Office for 0830. Note that without a private vehicle it will be an additional expense to find someone in Merapoh to drive you down to the Office. Best sorted out in advance. You can leave your car at the Office car park.

    Next the unpacking begins, so that a staff member can walk round with a clipboard and count everything you have (plastic bags, batteries, clothes and so on). Then you can repack and wait for a safety briefing. Once with your guide and any porters (same price as a guide) you will then finally be allowed to start, so onto the 4WD for the pleasant journey to Kuala Juram. And once there, probably another 10 minutes at the wooden shelters before you can officially start the trek, over the old bridge next to the 32km sign (wrong, as mentioned in the write-up more like 18km one way).

    The trail starts fairly flat but with some fun river crossings. The 4th major crossing is Kuala Luis, where I was very lucky to spot and photograph a rare golden cat. One senior guide said he had only seen one once in 15 years. So keep your eyes peeled here. It was obviously looking for fish in the river, of which there are many. One of our party had a brief swim at almost every river we came across, including the delightful waterfall spot. Kem Kor was already busy, but the cicadas here are incredible, what a symphony. Unfortunately one large group was making a huge noise until way after midnight so I didn’t get much sleep. And you really do need a good sleep in preparation for Day 2.

    One thing to be very aware of…. in 2022, almost half of Park guides had been ill with a stomach issues of some sort, including our own. I, too, came down with it and had no appetite and was incredibly weak on Day 2, not ideal for such a trek, especially with a large backpack that I had packed for 5 days assuming we really would be forced to camp 4 nights when it turned out 3 was sufficient. Anyway, wash all of your pots, plates and so on thoroughly, and boil all river water. Was it from rat urine? Possible. Be careful here. On Day 3, another member of our party came down with it and was feeling weak and with zero appetite. So of 7 of us, 3 got ill, nearly half. This is a very serious issue indeed.

    Even without the illness, Day 2 terrain is tough – thick mud in places. So it really does feel like 32 kilometres once you make it up to Botak! But earlier in the day, near Permatang, listen out for siamang (gibbons) – we had quite a chorus in the distance.

    Botak is brilliant, with panoramic views, lots of pitcher plants, loads of great opportunities for photos. It reminded me a little of Gunung Murud in Sarawak. You may seen Gunung Rabong to the north near Gua Musang from the viewpoint to the left of the camp area and possibly the Titiwangsa range in the distance to the west. Being not far off 2,000 metres elevation, it can get chilly at night so spare dry clothes are much needed here. One large group was doing the traverse in the opposite direction over 7 days, and there were some children in the group – well done indeed!

    I was very slow up to the summit the following morning, still recovering from the illness. The view was pleasant but perhaps better looking back down to Botak than to the other side of the summit. Not much is left of the beirut in this exposed spot, just a few pieces of separated metal. The King of Pahang was up here in August 2020 to leave his footprints (literally) in a block of cement. Take nothing but photos, leave nothing but footprints!? And after breakfast our descent times varied from 6 to 10 hours back down to Kem Kor!

    Day 4 was easy but a couple of us had pretty sore feet by this time. We had another night in Merapoh before heading up to Gua Musang for a Pizza Hut lunch!

  2. More bad news for fast, responsible hikers in Malaysia. As of 2022, if you want to hike Tahan from Merapoh the fastest you are allowed to go is 5 days and 4 nights, an extra day added from the previous 4 days and 3 nights, and obviously a lot more waiting around at camp for fit hikers, and a bit more money for the authorities involved. It never seems to go in the right way in Malaysia – Kinabalu is basically a corporate hike now, and Tahan… well, the ‘endurance’ is the admin before the hike itself!

    I sent a message to the Park office enquiring about booking a trip, and nobody bothered to reply. It seems they are farming the booking out to third parties who take an extra cut, so you need to negotiate hard to get a good deal unless you have some local contacts in Merapoh. One recommended company I contacted said a group of 10 was the standard. Why? Money is the answer. A group of 10 is never good for the environment nor other groups. Noise, erosion, and idiocy are the only things that win when you make it beneficial for groups of 10 to visit and make it almost impossible for small groups to visit. Indeed, this ‘contact’ wouldn’t even give a price for a group of 4 except to say that it would be ‘mahal’ (expensive).

    • A week later and the booking process is as opaque as ever, with no further information, unless you join a huge group of 20 hikers who will make you do awful group photos to promote their ‘brand’ and make you pay a premium for unnecessary, trivial things like a certificate of completion. Nobody seems able to answer the simple question of ‘how much does it cost?’ unless you go via a profiteering third party and have 10 folk ready to join you. I’ve had to email several officials to get some clarity on the matter, as it seems the process is even more convoluted than it was before. This is my third attempt at Tahan (!) First was aborted due to dreadful management of a large group of local hikers who failed to communicate basic information meaning I waited in a shopping mall for 8 hours and got no sleep at all (they decided to drive at midnight from KL for some unclear reason, but didn’t tell me this plan). Second was cancelled the week that countries closed their borders in March 2020 due to Covid. And now, let’s see if it will be third time lucky for June 2022! Even by Southeast Asia standards, this is a really really weird process.

  3. Well, as Indonesia struggles to control things and Jakarta plans a second lockdown from Monday 14th September (almost guaranteed to completely cripple businesses already struggling), Malaysia seems to be closer to normality again with Gunung Tahan opening for hikers from September 15th, almost 6 months after being closed.

  4. 3 spaces available for the Merapoh route on March 20-23rd 2020. This is the shortest number of days (4) you can complete the trek according to the rules of the park authorities. We will be a small group of maximum 5 participants plus local guide. Cost around RM315 for admin, guide, 4WD to start. Extra if you need a porter, tent, food etc.
    Need to be in Merapoh for a very early start on March 20 and will be down hopefully by late afternoon on March 23. Please reply here or email danpquinn at gmail dot com if interested.

    • Hi I just saw the post goday. Is it still available? Just me one person. A lady near 50fifties

      • Hello there. Full up now, I’m afraid, although I’ll let you know if anyone drops out at the last minute.

        Feel free to join the mailing list, as I have numerous hiking trips to Malaysia planned over the next twelve months or so.

    • Hi, are there any more hikes planned between March 29-April 11,2020? I’m most interested in doing the 7-8 day traditional trail.

  5. I had planned to hike Gunung Tahan at the end of August (another Independence Day hike after the Indonesian one on West Kalimantan’s Gunung Saran) but yet again my 2018 summer of hiking provided considerable disappointment and frustration, so much so that over the last few weeks I have been wondering why I am doing the project when there is more pain than pleasure! I am still undecided as to whether or not I will carry on in this region of the world, but hopefully my anecdote will encourage folk thinking of joining these huge groups of 30 or more hikers (usually Malay) that hike regularly in Peninsular Malaysia to be very careful and perhaps even avoid them altogether and find a small group that is well-organized.

    This was going to be my first hike in Peninsular Malaysia, and a kind of celebration of extending the coverage of the Gunung Bagging site to include this region too (which we are currently implementing), so it was extra annoying that it didn’t work out. Especially as I’m sure it is a great mountain.

    The trip leader initially told me we would start on 29th August at 8am at Taman Negara and initially mentioned a train leaving at 1500 the day before, presumably to Gua Musang. I decided to book the first flight out of Jakarta to KL for that morning, knowing what Soekarno Hatta Airport is like, in order to be sure I would avoid any major delay issues and could get to the station in good time, and purchase some food etc.

    This means getting up at 2am, but I assume we will get to the trailhead in good time for a decent night’s sleep the night before the trek actually starts. Once I have booked the flight, he then tells me I will be car-sharing with another hiker. I get in touch with the other guy, very friendly, but says to meet at 6pm in Cyberjaya, well outside KL, closer to the airport. Not ideal – it means I will have to spend the day waiting with a huge rucksack. And I do indeed do this – about 8 hours at a shopping mall! All this information is passed on not via email but in snippets via WhatsApp, including a huge group chat which is basically hundreds of unimportant chit-chat messages, with a few important bits hidden in the middle somewhere. I had to mute them.

    Anyway, at 6pm he arrives as planned, but is not ready to leave and says we can go to his house and we will leave at 9pm, and pick up 2 other hikers on the way. I am not best pleased, but he is a friendly guy, so I don’t worry too much about us not reaching Taman Negara until gone midnight (it is about 3.5 or 4 hours from KL by car).

    Fast forward to 12 midnight and we are still picking up the 4th and final hiker in KL! Instead of everyone meeting somewhere convenient for all, we have been driving around various suburbs collecting people. I have been awake since 2am and it is clear we will not get to Taman Negara until at least 4am (the next day). Therefore no chance for proper sleep the night before starting a 4-day trek. I could just about do this if I had had a decent rest the previous night, but having been up since 2am I know this is going to be impossible and potentially dangerous.

    As happens so often in Indonesia and Malaysia, I am exhausted and haven’t even started the hike! The mountains are great – it is everything else that gets in the way of enjoying them. Barriers galore. Such as terrible planning and idiotic ideas like not sleeping the night before even though there is enough time to get there before midnight (or indeed just depart KL at 3am on the day of the hike). Naturally, up until now there has been no mention of driving overnight, or still being in KL at midnight. If there had been I obviously wouldn’t have woken up at 2am in Jakarta and arrived in KL at 0835!

    I got out of the car and checked into a hotel and vowed to cancel the rest of my hiking plans in this region and pursue something more…. enjoyable. I returned to Jakarta the next day and remained in a bad mood for several weeks!

    So… be very careful about the hiking groups that you join in Malaysia. You have to ask and double-check everything! Even things that seem obvious such as ‘Are we going to sleep the night before the 4-day hike starts?’ and ‘When you say meet at 6pm do you actually mean meet at 6pm but not leave for another 6 hours?’ It can be impossible to cover all this stuff as logical thought is in such short supply with many of these groups. So… take care!

    Perhaps I will do Tahan eventually…. but certainly not with one of these groups.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.