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Cameron’s Last Unspoilt River: A Visit Worth Your While

Cameron’s Last Unspoilt River: A Visit Worth Your While

Advancing tribal self-determination while protecting nature at the same time.

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Cameron Highlands is a vast territory that is blessed with rich rivers and waters.

Sadly, pollution has done irreparable damage to some of its rivers.

The main pollution loads were agricultural waste and soil erosion.

But in Pos Menson near Bertam Valley, the local Orang Asli are fighting to save what they say is the last clean river and waterfall.

The river, which has a waterfall, runs through a tanah adat (ancestral land) bestowed to 65-year-old Osman Tilek.

A view of the river from above. (Pic by Fernando Fong)

Empowering the local community

Together with his son Muin, they turned it into a bespoke tourism destination for nature lovers.

They built bamboo and mengkuang chalets inspired by the Orang Asli tradition.

Guest are also treated to Orang Asli cuisine cooked with firewood and bamboo logs from the forest fringe.

Since 2014, the inn had gained recognition and has been rated as excellent by major online travel booking platforms such as Agoda and

Thanks to the steady stream of guests, Osman had been able to offer job opportunities to his fellow Orang Asli.

Wood roasted chicken are among the dish served by Osman and his fellow Orang Asli. (Pic by Fernando Fong)

Win-win partnership

Initially, Osman lacked the funds to develop the place.

He approached a Malaysian Chinese friend for advice, who also gave him the capital to transform and beautify the place.

The Chinese always have an eye for opportunity. We also realised that the best way to protect the river is to develop it into sustainable tourism.

Orang Asli Osman Tilek.
The chalets were inspired by traditional Orang Asli design. (Pic by Fernando Fong)

Along the way, there were setbacks.

Over the years, they were cheated by unscrupulous travel agents who did not pay after using the inn and its facilities.

Osman hopes that his success in protecting the river and growing the inn would inspire his people.

He said that Orang Asli has lived in the forest since time immemorial, but that doesn’t mean they need to away from equal opportunity throughout their lives.

Osman Tilek is a simple Orang Asli who hopes to empower his fellow tribesmen. (Pic by Fernando Fong)

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