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A three-day exploration of the 130 million years old Taman Negara left an indelible impression in the minds of 15 students from Kazakhstan. Coming from this central Asian country that is a mixture of stony mountains, deserts and flat grassland, their encounter of the rich diversity in Malaysia’s flora and fauna was a fascinating and unforgettable experience.

The students from ages 13 to 17 were on a month-long Holiday English Programme at the ELS Language Centres Bukit Bintang branch. The Kazakhs, who had hoped to have a glimpse of life in the jungle as well as to practice English usage with the locals, were certainly not disappointed with their visit to Malaysia’s world-renown national treasure from August 7-9. Their experience of the lushness of Taman Negara left them feeling awed.

Their adventure started with jungle trekking to Gua Telinga. Besides seeing elephant footprints along the way, they also came across trees that were hundreds of years’ old. These had trunks so big and wide that its circumference probably required 20 people forming a human chain to cover!

Exploring the cave was another new experience for the students. There were sections where they walked under thousands of bats that were hanging from the ceiling. However, at other parts, they were forced to belly-crawl to get through the narrow space. Throughout the exploration inside, they had to work as a team to overcome difficulties. This they did by pulling each other through difficult spots and helped one another to keep steady at the slippery stretches.

Night trekking with their guide brought along new sights and experiences. They made their way to the nearby salt-lick, with hopes of seeing night insects and nocturnal animals. Due to a previous heavy downpour, the treks were wet and somewhat muddy in the cool air. The sounds of the insect kingdom, combined with the frogs, provided a “full orchestra” performance to entertain the visitors. At the observation platform, the Kazakh students were rewarded with the sight of a deer making an appearance.

The students also saw how boats were a way of life in Kuala Tahan, especially at the main river of Sungai Tembeling. They certainly enjoyed the rides in the motorised sampans; with the wind blowing on their faces, the splashes of water and the warm sun in the tropical jungle. The most enjoyable was the “rapid shooting” stretch of seven rapids at Kuala Trenggan despite being totally drenched. This was followed by a relaxing swim to wind down after the excitement.

The students also discovered another way to see the jungle – from the top. The canopy walk which provided a bird’s eye view was possible due to the 280-metres-long suspension bridge hanging 40 metres above the ground. It was a thrilling and memorable walk for everyone, with amazing designs created by the sun-rays shining on the leaves.

The visitors from Kazakhstan left Taman Negara feeling impressed and have better appreciation of what nature provides. They feel that Malaysia is fortunate to have such a remarkable treasure. It is hoped that everyone will also realise how fragile our natural environment is, and will play their part to protect our collective heritage.