Taman Negara Tour Specialist
Tropical rainforest is quite different from any other kind of forest on earth. Taman Negara’s forest is similar in general appearance to tropical rainforest in Central and South America, north eastern Australia, and parts of Africa; but most of the kinds of plants and animals food here are not found in these other tropical places. Aspect of the structure, composition, and functioning of Taman Negara’s lowland tropical rainforest can be readily appreciated by the visitor who pauses along the way - not so to observe the individual plants or animals but to contemplate their roles in the living system of the forest as a whole.

When you come to a large tree in the forest, stop a while underneath it and look at the structure of the forest around you. The big trees of the rainforest usually have broad buttresses at the base offering extra support.
Often their crowns cannot be seen from beneath because of the tangle of climbers up the trunk, and because the crowns of other not-quite-so-tall trees block the view. These other trees have beneath them smaller trees, some of them saplings of the forest giants. And in the forest undergrowth you will see palms, as well as seedlings and small soft-tissued herbs of the forest floor. So the rain forest greenery is multi-layered.

In places you may see plants—often ferns—riding high on a tree trunk or branch, up where the light is brighter. These are called epiphytes, and are unable to survive in the darkness at ground level. Because they have no connection with the ground, and gather nutrients only from the rain and the debris that collects around the plant, epiphytes do not grow to a large size.


Climbing plants range from slender soft-stemmed creepers to giant lianas, some as much as 30cm thick and with many leafy branches spreading out among the treetops. Common among the climbing plants are spiny stemmed climbing palms—the rattans.

Then there are the strangling figs (Ficus spp), with stems that descend from a high branch of a host tree, and then divide, rejoin and thicken around the trunk. Meanwhile the fig’s leaves crowd out those of the host. Eventually the host tree dies. Many rain forest trees flower and fruit every year; others only once in every four or more years. Some trees and climbers flower from the main stem rather than from the leafy branches-behaviour called cauliflory.
Most rain forest trees replace their leaves progressively. But some of the larger trees lose all their leaves once a year, and stand bare for a week or two before the new leaves sprout. Overall, however, the rain forest always maintains an evergreen appearance. Because of the year-round darkness on the forest floor, the undergrowth in virgin rain forest is relatively open in most places. It is only the spiny stems of palms that make the forest uncomfortable to walk through. Buttresses, climbers, stranglers, palms, epiphytes, cauliflory-all in a multi-layered, evergreen ever-moist forest: this is Malaysia’s tropical rainforest.

The Diversity of Species

Along the trail pick out one tree with an easily recognisable bark. Then search around for another same tree. Because such a large number of different kinds of trees make up the tropical rainforest, individual trees of the same kind tend to be spaced widely apart. On a single hectare in the lowland forest along Sungai Tahan there may be more than 200 species of trees!

This diversity-present in animals as well as plants - is the product of a very long period of continuous evolution. Over the past 130 million years most of the Malay Peninsular has remain above sea level, and has been free of dramatic changes such as volcanic activity. Climatic variations have caused expansions and contractions of the areas that would support “tropical” growth. But through this process new plants and animals have evolved and Taman Negara now protects what is arguably the richest diversity of flora and fauna to be found anywhere in the world.

Within this diversity some groups are common than others. Of particular note is the family of dipterocarpaceae, members of which make up about one third of all timber-size trees in Malaysia’s lowland tropical rainforest. Important timbers from this family dipterocarpaceae include meranti, chengal and keruing. But no commercial logging has ever been carried out in Taman Negara.
The Balance of Nature

Fungi and termites break down dead wood and leaves and recycle nutrients into the soil. Through the chlorophyll in the green leaves, the plants harness the sun’s energy to produce their building materials. All animals depend directly or indirectly on plants for food. And the plants in turn depend on the animals for pollination and seed dispersal.
All the functioning processes of the forest are interlinked in an extra-ordinarily complex web of mutual dependence. The eagle eats the snake eats the frog eats the dragonfly eats the caterpillar eats the leaf.... Yet the population of no plant or animal is ever destroyed completely; always some individuals will live long enough to breed and ensure the continuation of the species. The rainforest sustains its own balance, its own harmony; and it happens without any involvement of human beings.
Sit for a while in the virgin tropical rain forest and contemplate its complexity, and its history. And think what may happen to the world’s rainforests in the next few decades....