Jills and lake over Bukit Tabur, also known as Taman Melawati Hills
I have always been a nature person. Given a choice if I’ll hang around a mall or the countryside I’ll definitely choose the latter. With my friend already off back to Singapore by bus yesterday, I’m on my own on my last day in Kuala Lumpur. So what am I to do on this city of skyscrapers and railways before I fly out by night? I’ve already explored the Mini-forest at Bukit Nanas near the Menara Tower and been around the malls and parks in the city. So very early in the morning I went to the nearest LRT, bought a ticket and took the first train to Wangsa Maju station since I decided to go a bit out of town to climb Bukit Tabur in Taman Melawati.
View of the serene lake which is really a big Dam
Before I went on my trip, I researched around where I could find a nice nature tripping escape out of the city. There are lot actually around Malaysia, but most would take at least 3 days on which I have no luxury at the moment. Then I stumbled on some photo groups and individuals who were raving about their sunrise pictures at a place called Bukit Tabur which is only 30 minutes away from the city. So I researched more and found some bits and pieces of information and asked around as well. The place is not really a tourist spot so you won’t find it in any guide books around. So here am I again, going to another off-the-beaten path, riding on the train, armed only with a few notes and information, I was wondering if I’ll be able to climb the place or find it at all. It always give me a chilling feeling traveling to an unknown place not certain of what I’ll found. I remember my first lonely planet travel to Sagada on an unconventional means years ago, I felt a combination of fear and anticipation like now. I guess adventures are like that, you always start of with a cold feet, but once you step a foot forward, it makes all the difference and you move on.
Sky, trees, hills
When I got off at Wangsa Maju station, it was still dark outside. I went downstairs and waited for a taxi to arrive. It didn’t take long until one came, I went in and told him to take me to Taman Melawati. He seemed to know and turned the meter on. All the time I was looking around for some signs. When we arrived to Taman Melawati, I told him we should go to the “Klang Gate Dam.” Now I think the driver wasn’t sure where he’s going. He said that we passed by a gate there and a sign with a “Klang Gate.” Not really sure myself so I told him to get back to where it was. He asked if I’m a student at an international school there. I replied no. I decided to go down there and paid around 8 RM for the fare. I inspected the place and there was a card board sign there with “Klang Gate Dam” and there’s a large gate across the street. Then a wall on the other side which seems to look like the starting trail. But is this really the jump off point?
Quartz and Limestone trails at the hill
I looked closely at the end of the wall and searched for an obvious trail. I only had my led pen light with me at that time and lighted the area. There seems to be a trail but it seems no one has passed it for quite sometime. I crossed the street and asked the guard at the gate if he knows the trail going up to the hill but he only nodded and said no. I went back there and decided to try the trail. I followed the most obvious trail and started getting up. The trees here is still so dense you could easily get lost. I find that admirable for a place being beside subdivisions. I think I was hiking for around 20 minutes when I reached a dead point where I could no longer distinguish a trail. Then I heard some noise not too far ahead, it seems someone or something was walking on the trail and made a large noise or branches breaking. I thought there might be some people ahead of me and followed the sound. Then I heard another noise on the other side where the trees where rustling and moving. What was that?! Now I know it’s not human. I decided then to go back. If I continued further I might get lost here. Then from the branches above me I was startled to hear some rustling noise of branches breaking. Sheesh! I looked up and there were monkeys! Silver-leaf monkeys to be more specific.
Forest trail where silver-leaf monkeys reside
I noticed that it was already getting bright when I went down. Damn! Already missed the sunrise. I got out of the forest and found myself standing on the wall. Wondering if I’ll just go back. Then I saw a jogger closing by. He looked up at me standing at the 12 feet high wall and might also be wondering what the heck am I doing there. He said hello and I said “Hi! Would you know where I could find the trail going up the hill?”. “It’s not there it’s inside!” he replied pointing forward while he jogged away. I wanted to ask more questions but he already disappeared on the turn. Oh well. I thought I should head back then, this is a failed attempt. I walked at the top of the wall towards the end where I started. I stayed there for a while thinking of what my next plan is and decided to head back to the city. Then I heard a scooter from behind and then pulled over beside me. It was the jogger guy! He came back and said he’ll take me to the jump-off point!
More trail heading upwards
I hopped on the back of his scooter and rode of. He told me that there’s another girl there who’s also gonna climb on her own and I might catch up. He asked me where I’m from, so I told him I’m from Manila Philippines, I’m on my own now since my friend left yesterday. That I was looking for a nice nature trip around the city and heard about the place. The guy’s name is Deric and he lived there in Taman Melawati, and he frequently climbs Bukit Tabur especially during weekends since he’s preparing for a Marathon Climb in Kota Kinabalu on August. It was a long drive about a few kilometers I think until we actually saw the actual Empangan Klang Gate Dam. So this is the place. When we got off, he asked for a paper and pen, then he sketched me the trail details and all I needed to know, more importantly to always keep left. He led me to the starting trail and said our goodbyes since he still needs to go to work. I thanked him for all the help and information he gave and wished him well for his competition in August. I was very lucky to have came across him.
A rope trail near the summit
I started my way up the clearly established trail and one thing I immediately noticed were a bunch of mosquitoes. Big ones and they’re eating me off. Good thing I brought my mosquito cream I bought in Cambodia with me and quickly applied them on. That’ll stop them. I worked my way up until I was high enough to see the breath taking view of the lake and surrounding peaks and hills. The lake here is actually a large Dam. Swimming here is prohibited since there are large Toman (Snakehead) Fish here that bites really hard. There’s a nice recreation river down below the damn though to freshen up. Too bad I missed the sunrise here, it would have been more wonderful. I took some time to take photos and stayed there for a while to eat my snacks. After which I continued my way up.
Views at the summit: The urban jungle melding with the natural jungle.
The trail towards the summit is easy to moderate in level of difficulty. It is mostly open so it is best to climb early to avoid the heat of the sun. Going up you’ll be more impressed with the 360 degrees scenery you’ll be seeing as you go higher. I also noticed a lot of quartz/limestone trails here that you have to climb up and jump as well. I read somewhere that Bukit Tabur has one of the largest concentration of Quartz minerals in the world. There are also some trail signs like tied ribbons there that helped me find my way. Mid way on my way up I met a group of climbers, probably on their mid-age to early 50s 1 guy and 4 women. It was great seeing people aside from me climbing. They started on the other end of the trail and are making their way down. Bunch of friendly folks there and they were surprised to see a lone foreigner climbing their hill and was asking how I managed to know the place. The guy even noticed that I had leeches on my legs when he saw some blood on my ankle socks but has already fallen off. Geez, there where leeches already sucking me and I didn’t notice. Anyways continuing on with my left-trail path, I entered again a forested area where I had some encounters with some silver-leaf monkeys again. I didn’t get startled this time as they are completely harmless. As soon as I got out the forest I found myself hopscotching on a series or limestones hills at the top. Scary but fun.
Kuala Lumpur cityscape and smog
I knew I was nearing the summit when I reached the rope trail. Being on my own, it’s a bit tricky since I have a small bag, a tripod and camera with me. I secured them first then went down the rope trail. Going up the summit you’ll go to the right trail where you have to climb up again. Then the scary and hard part is climbing the limestone cliffs which is about inclining in 90degrees. It’s really tricky and dangerous as well as it is quite a high climb. The summit offers astounding 360 degree views of the surrounding areas. The lake, hills, cityscape views is really worth the climb. All in all, the climb to the summit took around 2 hours, would be faster if I didn’t stop to eat or take photos. Estimate elevation judging from my ascent and time it would be around 900 to 1000 meters above sea level. I didn’t stay long as the sun was already high at that time.
The Author enjoying the breathtaking views
I must admit I never finished the whole trail. I was looking for the trail down going to the Fruit Orchard after the rope but I can’t seem to see one. I was looking for the left trail but it seems to high and dangerous to climb down. Once I go down it would be harder for me to go up. I think I stayed there for 30 minutes just looking for an alternative trail, looking at every corner for a ribbon or a trail sign that might give me a hint. My water supply had almost depleted and the heat was already taking it’s toll on me. I’m already having dry throat. So I decided to just go back the way I came. I wouldn’t want to take a risk on the other trail. Besides it would be a good reason to return to this place if ever I visit KL again in the future. It took another 2 hours for me to go down the way I came and rested for a while by the river down at the dam and freshened a bit up before I headed on back to the city.
It’s been months since my last mountain climb so I really enjoyed this one, at another country at that. It was also great to meet kind strangers along that really helped me find my way. I promise myself to get back here again next time to get that sunrise picture I’ve been longing to capture. Hopefully next time I could take my friends along to share that experience with me.
Ferdz Decena is an award-winning travel photographer, writer and blogger. His works has found print in publications such as Singapore Airlines’s Silver Kris, Philippine Airlines’ Mabuhay, Cebu Pacific’s Smile and Seair InFlight. He has also lent his expertise to various organizations like the Oceana Philippines, Lopez Group Foundation, Save the Children and World Vision, contributing quality images for their marketing materials.