Taman Negara used to have an average of 5,000 visitors every month.
A treasure trove of flora and fauna that has long been a utopia for nature lovers, Taman Negara, for once, isn’t outnumbered by foreigners.
The ongoing restriction in overseas travel brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic is turning into a record percentage of local visitors to Taman Negara.
Department of Wildlife and National Parks (Perhilitan) superintendent, Allan Rodrigo Balang, said locals comprised almost 100% of Taman Negara visitors since the Enhanced Movement Control Order (EMCO) started in June, based on data compiled.
“Intra-state and local trips have turned Taman Negara into a top tourism destination among Malaysians,” he said, adding that in the past, it used to be 60% foreigners and 40% locals.
Taman Negara recorded an average of 3,000 visitors in the last three months. Before Covid-19, Taman Negara had a monthly average of 5,000 visitors, reaching up to 13,000 during peak season which is between July and September.
Allan pointed out that the number had been very encouraging last month with some 7,000 visitors.
The local community in Kuala Tahan, for whom tourism is the lifeblood of their economies, could not agree more that overseas travel bans had given way for a genuinely new experience.
Tourism is one of the hardest-hit sectors by the Covid-19 pandemic
Kuala Tahan Tourism Operators Association ex-chairman Abdul Jalil Abdul Rahman said as the travel industry goes local to rebound from the coronavirus pandemic, holiday goers are now discovering ‘treasures’ in their backyard.
“The Covid-19 moment of pause has allowed locals to experience the endless discoveries and excitement of homegrown travel, something that had not been on their mind,” he said.
Abdul Jalil also pointed out that one of the most significant differences is that more families are visiting Taman Negara.
“Taman Negara offers authentic rainforest experience at a very manageable pace for families with babies or small children.
“Kids and teenagers will love the national park’s canopy walkway, with wildlife spotting in hides, and for adults, there’s the serene river cruise,” said the ‘ketua kampung’ (village head) of Kuala Tahan.
At the same time, it also helps that Malaysians are increasingly aware of biodiversity and its importance.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), people depend on biodiversity in their daily lives, in manners that are not necessarily noticeable or appreciated.
“Biodiversity plays a crucial role in human health by ensuring a healthy ecosystem, such as clean water and sustainable food sources.
“The forests are not only about wildlife. Taman Negara’s tropical rainforest is one of the world’s most complex and rich ecosystems,” said Abdul Jalil.
Nevertheless, he noted that Taman Negara is a birding paradise with over 400 species of birds.
Taman Negara, which straddles the borders of three states – Kelantan, Terengganu and Pahang, is about 240km or about 3 hr 30 minutes of driving from Kuala Lumpur.
It was established in 1938/1939 as the King George V National Park.
A muckraker by DNA, Kee Soon is an everyday carry (EDC) enthusiast who is always ready to spring into action.