In the middle of Lake Temenggor, Banding Island is the starting point for expeditions into ancient rainforest filled with over 3,000 types of flowering plant and more hornbill species than anywhere else in the world.
50 years ago, Banding Island was just a forested hilltop in the middle of the Belum-Temenggor Rainforest, overlooking lush valleys where Malayan tigers, Sumatran rhinos and white-handed gibbons hid out from the modern world. In 1972, however, the building of the Temenggor Dam partially flooded the region, creating the vast and beautiful Temenggor Lake, and turning that hilltop into an island.
Today, Banding Island is your base for exploring the Belum-Temenggor Rainforest – an area twice as old as the Amazon and four times the size of Singapore. Head out by boat from the island and look out for eagles skimming fish out of the water as you make for one of the trailheads, then follow your guide into the tangled depths of the forest in search of giant Rafflesia flowers, medicinal herbs, and countless species of orchid. Though mammal sightings are rare, bird-watchers will be rather spoilt: there are over 300 local species, and it’s the only place in the world where you can spot all 10 types of hornbill.
Wildlife aside, what this region is really about is soaking up the sheer magnitude of the rainforest. While you trek between towering tropical timber trees, try to wrap your head around the fact that for half of this forest’s life, dinosaurs roamed the Earth. If that doesn’t make you feel small, the trees probably will. Some of these giant hardwood trees (called dipterocarpae) can reach 100 metres – about the height of Big Ben – and somewhere, hidden deep within them, are some of the world’s rarest and most beautiful animals.