Nature trail in Gopeng

Part of the Gopeng River through Ulu Geroh

TWENTY minutes into the bumpy ride to Kampung Ulu Geroh, 12km from Gopeng, Perak, I was feeling sorry for the shock absorbers of the car. Bouncing off the road carved on a hillside, I peered out and saw a sheer drop to a rushing rocky river far below.

I had to trust the skills of our experienced driver because at some points, we jolted rather precariously close to the edge.

When we alighted at the MNS Rafflesia Conservation Centre, it took a while for my bones to stop rattling.

Two Semai guides, Ngah Teroq and Ahha Bah Udal, were waiting to welcome us with wide friendly smiles. Ngah spoke to us in Bahasa Malaysia but the eloquent Ahha could speak English, often with wit but strangely in a Chinese accent!

Flowers And Butterflies

Ngah Teroq holding a giant stick insect

In front of the centre was the logo of Sahabat Ekopelancongan Memuliharaan Alam Indah (Semai) or Friends of Eco-tourism and Nature Conservation, designed in a rafflesia as a tribute to this exceedingly rare flower.

At the centre, one can read all about the flower. Did you know that a single species of the world’s largest flower, rafflesia cantleyi, is found in abundance in the surrounding forests and that the Ulu Geroh Forest Reserve is one of the most accessible sites in the country for viewing the flower as well as the Rajah Brooke Birdwing butterfly in its natural habitat!

The guides led us on a walkabout at our own pace. This was good because at every turn, we encountered interesting sights that elicited exclamations of shock, surprise and awe. From herbs and flowers to fruit and insects, we lingered to observe with fascination, as only city slickers knew how.

We craned our necks to see petai pods hanging from tall trees. Knowing how challenging it is to harvest these from such dangerous heights helped us to better appreciate this pungent delicacy. And if we were familiar with the garden version of a stick insect, it did not prepare us for the sight of its forest cousin. Ngah gently picked it up for us to have a closer look because its amazing size, camouflaged in the foliage, could have easily passed for a branch!

Rafflesia Cantleyi flower in bloom
We entered the forest in search of the elusive rafflesia. Keeping to the marked trails, we watched our steps because newly-formed buds can be accidentally destroyed by carelessness.

It was interesting to note that the rafflesia does not have stems, leaves, barks or roots but exists as a chain of cells inside the tissue of its host vine.

The rafflesia cantleyi has a diameter of between 30cm and 55cm and is the most colourful of the seven species found in Malaysia. The flowers bloom for only four to five days and it is exciting to see it in various stages of growth.

This extraordinary flower has a unique stench similar to that of a rotting carcass. No wonder it’s also aptly called Stinking Corpse Lily!

Rajah Brooke Birdwings butterflies
On another trail across Sungai Geroh to the butterfly colonies, we were warned to hush up as we approached the riverbanks. Stopping a short distance from a rocky hollow wet with puddles, Ngah silently pointed to a carpet of fluttering black wings streaked with iridescent green. With my feet firmly rooted to the ground, I froze.

Being up close to so many Rajah Brooke Birdwings was simply breathtaking. For a long time I stood wide-eyed, not batting an eyelid lest I miss something. Oblivious to the human voyeurs, the delicate creatures continued to feed on the mineral-rich water, changing places now and then for a sweeter spot.

Semai Home

Semai children at home with visitors
Reluctantly, we tore ourselves away from that stunning sight to go to the Semai village where homes were mostly made of wood, rattan and split bamboo with thatched roofs. But more affluent families have added brick extensions and sported Astro dishes!

Used to seeing visitors in their village, the Semai children were ready with friendly smiles and happily posed for photos. They go to primary school at Kampung Sungai Itek, 11km away, while the older ones attend secondary school in Gopeng.

It is heartening to observe the community development in Ulu Geroh and how local Semai are being prepared for their role as stewards for the conservation of Nature and biodiversity in their area. Even better, fees paid by visitors to Ulu Geroh go towards the Semai communal fund for development, benefitting the village that has about 500 people.

A walk through the village with its petai and durian trees and a dragon fruit farm was invigorating. We came to a halt at the Kluang waterfalls where we cooled off before heading back to MyGopeng Resort.


Expect to rough it out in Ulu Geroh. You can camp by the banks of Sungai Kampar, Sungai Geroh or Sungai Geruntom or stay at one of two basic lodgings in the area, MyGopeng Resort and Adeline’s Place.

MyGopeng Resort has chalets for two or three persons from RM45, dormitory-style from RM10 (minimum 10 people) and camping at RM8 (own tent). Packages inclusive of accommodation and food are negotiable. Details, call 019-542 3773 or 016-512 9192.

Appetising Jungle Lunch at Adeline's Place
Adeline’s Place is an award-winning eco-lodge that attracts both local and foreign tourists. Guests sleep in huts with attap roofs and bamboo floors. The place serves good local food. Ask for the Jungle Buffet Spread with a mean sambal petai, eggplant and longbeans and crispy fried ikan tengas with cili padi garlic sauce. This special spread is only prepared on request. Group rates for lodging and food are negotiable. Details, call 019-556 1113.

White water rafting adventure and other activities can also be arranged at both resorts. Sungai Kampar is within walking distance from both resorts.

Getting There

Casey Ng leading the way up this waterfall
Kampung Ulu Geroh is 12km from Gopeng. From Ipoh, it is about 30 minutes’ drive to Gopeng. Exit the North-South Highway at Simpang Pulai toll plaza. Head south for Gopeng town. If you drive a 4WD, you can go straight from Gopeng to the Semai settlement in Kampung Ulu Geroh. But it is best to make prior arrangements with Semai members for guided tours to see the rafflesia and Raja Brooke Birdwing.

Contact Semai through Ngah Teroq at 017-539 1396 and Ahha Bah Udal at 017-324 5200. Day trip tours for groups of up to 20 visitors include a local guide and light refreshments but lunch and watching the traditional dance Sewang is only available on request.

For white water rafting, contact Traverse Tours which operates Riverbug at 012-313 1006 or 05-359 6501 and fax 05-359 7550. Visit website: or email:

This article was first published in The New Straits Times, Travel Times on 12 August 2007

Photos of Semai children, Rafflesia flower and Raja Brooke Birdwing butterflies are courtesy of Andy Paul.  View more of such fantastic photos on his website:

Our nature trail in Gopeng was led by Casey Ng.  Get to know him better on his website: ; Casey is also Founder of "Take the path less ordinary"

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