It is no wonder that the 2 most popular lakes, being the largest (and most charming) natural lakes in Peninsular Malaysia, are found in the state of Pahang, a state delightfully endowed with diverse and exotic attractions for the visitor.
• TASEK BERA ( or "Lake Bera")
• TASEK CHINI ( or "Lake Chini")
Both lakes have their own individual rustic charms and attractions, and when you immerse yourself in the activities at these 2 most popular lakes in Pahang, you will, perhaps I can say, find a trip of discovery and adventure quite different and maybe unparalleled from your other vacation trips.
You see, Tasek Bera has the distinction of being the home of the first RAMSAR heritage site in Malaysia, meaning it is recognized internationally as a place of importance for nature conservation.
Tasek Chini, the second largest natural lake in West Malaysia, is also situated in Pahang, about 150 km northwest of Tasek Bera. And it has a myth and legend of its own, and perhaps – or rather, maybe really - just waiting for YOU, and none other, to uncover its myth and secrets...
And you’ll find -- surrounding these two unique heritages of the state of Pahang -- the "Orang Asli" or indigenous people living there, with their own unique traditions and serene way of life, inextricably adding color to the already natural charms of the lakes.
SO, COME WITH ME and let's start exploring Tasek Bera...
Tasek Bera (Lake Bera) is the largest natural freshwater lake system in Peninsula Malaysia, measuring approximately 35 km long and 25 km wide. It is located in south-west Pahang, and is a natural freshwater lake system which drains, via the Bera River, into the Pahang River, the longest river in West Malaysia.
The total area of Tasek Bera covers about 35,000 hectares, and it is gazetted as a reserve area, protected from development.
As I mentioned above, Tasek Bera is Malaysia’s first RAMSAR site (declared in 1994) - a recognition given to wetland areas for its international importance in nature conservation -- and hence must be preserved against unscrupulous and unnecessary development.
If you are a nature lover or enthusiast, or a bird-watcher, or even an angler, then you will surely be thrilled to know that in this charming, rustic lake area, there are nearly 328 species of flora, 200 species of birds, 68 mammals and more than 90 species of freshwater fish!
It is truly a sanctuary for indigenous and wildlife flora and fauna, some found only in Malaysia, including some endangered species.
And living at the surrounding area of Tasek Bera is one of the aboriginal tribes of Malaysia, the Semelai. Some still carry out their truly traditional way of life, subsisting purely from the jungle, and living as one with nature itself.
Now, where should you stay?...Modern Accommodation... or... Just Under the Stars?
It’s your choice, really, whether to sleep in a tent under the star-lit night or stay at the delightful resort hotel there.
But I recommend you try the outdoor. And locate yourself at the campsite, where basic facilities are provided -- especially for nature lovers to spend the night there -- by the Wildlife and National Parks Department (the "Perhilitan").
Adventures Abound!... and Knowledge Too!
You should first visit the Interpretive Centre where you will discover a wealth of information about the exotic flora and fauna of wetlands and their role in the eco-system. Educational programs for the public are provided by the Wildlife and National Parks Department of Malaysia.
You can also see exhibits on traditional tools and weapons of the Semelai aborigines that are made from forest products, and also experience their customs, music and culture.
You can visit the Semelai tribe and watch firsthand their unique method of collecting resin from Keruing trees.
You can enjoy adventurous and tough activities, or just explore and discover nature, with a knowledgeable and experienced guide.
Go jungle trekking and see the monkeys and flying squirrels, mouse-deers, tapirs, wild boars and other animals.
Or go fishing. Catch any of the more than 15 types of fish in the small rivers and the lake.
Or join the river safari and enjoy yourself.
Or take a boat ride around the lake and observe the skills of the boatman navigating easily through the rather confusing maze of thick vegetation and intricate waterways.
In short, you’ll find there are a lot of things to do at Tasek Bera : -
• boat rides
• fishing trips,
• jungle trekking,
• river safaris, or
• whatever you like!
But do remember, this is nature’s place, and we should always respect it!
Wait a minute...too tough and too raw for your liking? Not your cup of tea? ...
... Then, perhaps, just bring your eyes with you and just marvel at the exotic nature around the lake!
Or pull out your camera and snap pictures of nature at its best.
Take out your binoculars and watch the birds, butterflies, insects and a host of other animals. They are just themselves... without worries or problems.
And of course, the scenery and ambience are just alluring.
Enjoy the tranquil surrounding as you listen to the wonderful sounds of nature - birds, insects, animals, trees, and I don’t know what.
And also watch the glitter and glisten of the sunlight, or the fireflies, or the raindrops, or the ...
Hey, you’re surrounded by nature... And you are a part of it!!
Open your eyes and ears, and smell nature’s exotic fragrance as you go boating on the myriads of river inlets and channels, and as you explore the variety of vegetation and wildlife.
Get the taste of nature firsthand at Tasek Bera... and you’ll be beckoned to the natural world of nature itself... maybe forever!
So bring along your cynical "nature–is-nothing" friend to Tasek Bera, and then see whether there’s an attitude change after the visit!
For safety reasons and because of the extensive and intricate nature of the area, it is advisable that you hire a guide for all excursions.
Hire one of the Semelais. They are just ideal… they know the place like the back of their hand. They know what’s good and what’s forbidden.
Otherwise you might get lost, and become part of nature!!
Not so nice, then.
END OF SIDE-NOTE
Tasek Bera is situated 163 km from Kuantan, and 208 km from Kuala Lumpur. There are many options to get there by road.
The easiest way, is to come from the Kuala Lumpur – Karak Highway to Temerloh and then head south towards Triang town. Just before Kerayong, there are signboards that will lead you to the northside jetties and tourism complex of the Lake.
You can also get there via the Bera River by turning left at Kerayong headed to Melati and you will soon come to a right junction towards what the locals call Jetty Sudin. From there you can take a boat to the lake.
The second route is through the Kuantan-Segamat Highway. Then head to Kota Bahagia. After Kota Bahagia, you will find a signboard that will lead you to Lake Bera.
Entering from the south end of the lake, an alternative route leads from Bahau to Ayer Hitam and then heads east towards Bandar Muadzam Shah. Afterwards look for a turnoff signpost to Lake Bera that leads up the east side of the wetland to the tourism complex.
If you opt for car rental, the service is only available in Kuala Lumpur or Kuantan.
If you opt for train service, from Kuala Lumpur, it will stop at Triang and Mentakab. There you could hire a taxi to the lake that takes about 45 to 60 minutes respectively.
AND NOW..... LET'S VISIT TASIK CHINI... AND JUST BE BEGUILED BY ITS MYSTICAL SPLENDORS!
The lake with a legend - Tasek or Tasik Chini (Lake Chini) - is Malaysia’s second largest natural lake, and no less popular with visitors.
But first, a short story...
This is the lake -- when I was a small child living in Temerloh, Pahang -- my late father would relate scary tales about a giant dragon – called the Chini Dragon-- that lives underneath its calm waters!
And every time huge floods occur in my place, which normally coincides with the year–end monsoon season, my father would say that it was because the Chini Dragon guarding Lake Chini was fighting with the bigger dragon guarding the Pahang River, for territorial gain!
According to my father, the floods occur when the two dragons rise above the waters, and they both fight with such intensity that the waters of the Pahang River and Lake Chini spill over and bring floods to the lowland areas of Pahang!
So much for tales of my yesteryears -- from my childhood in Temerloh, Pahang...and I still can vividly recall them, although I can't really express and write them well.
But alas, now, with the advent of science and technology, hear a different explanation from the modern world... (explanations are not so exciting, really, compared to tales)...
... The modern version by historians and scientists is that there once existed a well-populated grand Khmer city in the area. However, due to a big flood, the city was submerged underwater. It is said that ancient artifacts proving the existence of the ancient Khmer city can be found under the still waters of the lake.
That is why Lake Chini even now attracts scientific expeditions and archaeologists, locally and foreign, to its waters -- to search for the lost Khmer city.
But then, perhaps these scientists and archaeologists are actually not looking only for the lost Khmer city, but also the Chini Dragon of old.
Until now, fortunately or unfortunately –- depending on who you are -- expeditions to locate the ancient Khmer city had failed.
The reason given -- time and time again -- for the failure to locate the lost city, is because the murky waters would just blind and cover any attempts to go deep into the lake. The divers and instruments cannot see what’s in front of them and much less the bottom!!
But then in 2014 the newspapers were abuzzed about findings of skeletal bones in the surrounding forested areas, of a certain saurus that lived in ancient times. Well, time and more research will tell what that's all about.
But then again, since I was a child, I was told the murky waters of Tasek Chini will not divulge its secrets... whether on the Khmer city or the monster Dragon... NOT YET AND MAYBE NEVER!!
And...perhaps, just perhaps...could it be that the Chini Dragon guarding the lake bottom deep down, had wagged its tail and created the murky waters? ... my guess is as good as yours... but ... let’s go on...
For now, Lake Chini beckons the adventurous and the genuine nature lovers to its hold. A haven for nature lovers, in fact.
The lake itself is a series of 12 inter-connecting water bodies and is surrounded by more than 12,500 acres of lush tropical wilderness – the type no nature lover will miss for the sky.
It has been estimated that there are approximately 138 species of territorial flora and about 300 species of non-aquatic vertebrates resident in the area.
The lake is home to more than 140 species of freshwater fish.
And primates, such as white-handed gibbons, long-tailed macaques, pig-tailed macaques and banded langurs have been sighted at Tasek Chini.
Not surprisingly, because of the lush tropical forests, the surrounding forests support the endangered species of animals such as the tigers, tapirs and elephants. And the place is also home to the clouded leopard, mouse-deers, flying squirrels, flying lemurs and wild boars.
And, LO and BEHOLD, the real attraction and delightful SECRET of Lake Chini –- which bring tourists and nature lovers from all over the world -- is that every year, from August through September, thousands of white, pink and purple lotuses emerge without fail on the lake, transforming the lake into a breathtaking flower garden –- into a world of floating water-lilies!
NO WONDER THEN THE CHINI DRAGON GUARDS THE LAKE JEALOUSLY AND DEFIANTLY....
And just like Tasek Bera, you can enjoy a host of activities there. You can always be adventurous, but don’t forget to bring a guide.
Or you can just snap photos from afar.
And watch particularly how the Orang Asli children (of the Jakun tribe) paddle their traditional boat ("perahu" or "sampan" in Malay) nonchalantly and easily across the lake, already experts at their age.
Well... just take your choice, or do them all -- fishing trips, boat rides and jungle trekking.
Paddle your own boat through the floating garden of pink and purple water-lilies, or watch from the high ground, and enjoy the scenery while you can -- you might never see such overwhelming sight of nature again.
And perhaps -- we can never know -- you might just see a glimpse of the Chini Dragon, swimming majestically and showing itself only to you... so that you will continue to tell the next generation the myth and legend of Tasek Chini.
Trek around the lake or hike to the Terpai waterfalls , or climb and spend one night at the Chini Mountain, or just explore and join a river safari with an experienced guide.
If you are lucky -- really lucky -- you also might just glimpse the sight of a giant catfish or Ikan Tapah jump out of the water to catch its prey, such as monkeys and macaques feeding on the low branches over the river!!
Or, if you prefer a less adventurous but pleasurable activity, visit the Jakun settlement at Kampung Gumum, and take home souvenirs such as uniquely crafted wood-carvings and blowpipes.
The Orang Asli are renowned for their hunting prowess with the bamboo blowpipes. They can shoot their target with accuracy from meters away.
Try the blowpipes yourself… it's really a poisonous trumpet!... if you know how to do it, of course..
The Jakun people, like the Semelai tribe of Tasek Bera, is one of Malaysia's indigenous people ( or "Orang Asli" in Malay) and they inhabit the surrounding areas of Tasek Chini.
Although you'll find their way of living is still traditional, the Jakuns have progressively assimilated some of the modern ways in their daily living.
END OF SIDE-NOTE
There are 2 ways to get there: -
If you are coming from Kuala Lumpur, drive through the Karak - Kuantan trunk road, and then turn right to Kampung Belimbing, where a boat will cross the Pahang River to another jetty at Kuala Chini.
From Kuala Chini, a smooth boat ride through winding scenic streams will get you to Lake Chini.
If, however, you are coming from Kuantan, transportation is available via Segamat Highway to Felda Chini. From there, you can arrange for private transportation. If you drive, turn right through Salong to the Tourist Complex at Kuala Chini or direct to Lake Chini.
Well, I hope you've enjoyed the trips to both Tasek Bera and Tasek Chini -- the 2 charming and delightful natural freshwater lakes in Pahang... in fact the 2 most popular lakes in Pahang and also Malaysia.
But always do remember, that while we take in the delights nature affords us, do not forget, and do help, to preserve the unique heritage we still have the privilege to enjoy... PLEASE PRESERVE THEM for the benefit of our next generation.
AND, BY THE WAY, DID YOU CATCH A GLIMPSE OF THE CHINI DRAGON?
WELL, SHH..SHH....KEEP IT TO YOURSELF... THE SECRET SHOULD NOT BE OUT!
And, while you're in the mood for adventure... let's go to another interesting destination you can find in this delightful Malaysian state of Pahang.
As always, from me ...
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