Stuck in Kuala Lumpur? Want to escape the sometimes stifling urbanity for greener pastures? There is no need to leave the city to find a virgin rainforest retreat. William Citrin takes us on a tour of Bukit Nanas forest reserve, a sprawling park right in the heart of Malaysia’s capital.
Humans are not meant to exist exclusively in cities. Every so often those of us inhabiting urban metropolises hanker to get back to the wild, to seek solace in the green embrace of mother nature. Fortunately, for us Kuala Lumpur dwellers, there is an expansive forest reserve smack dab in the middle of Kuala Lumpur, so we don’t need to travel far to get our natural fix.
The Bukit Nanas Forest Reserve (BNFR) is the oldest forest reserve in the country and offers KL denizens a respite from the hustle and bustle of the city. Located a mere 15-minute walk from the Petronas Twin Towers between Jalan Ampang and Jalan Raja Chulan, the BNFR serves as KL’s green lung and a recreational forest for residents and tourists in the city. It contains the only virgin tropical rainforest left in the heart of a city, and is home to a rich range of flora and fauna including monkeys, pythons, squirrels, and monitor lizards. The BNFR also contains an array of educational jungle trails, a visitors’ centre, rest and recreation areas, a hanging bridge, herb garden, wild orchid house, bamboo trail and a forestry museum. The BNFR is open from 7am until 6pm daily, and admission to the park is free for the public.
Rising majestically out of the forest canopy on top of Bukit Nanas – which means “pineapple hill” in Malay – is the KL Tower (www.menarakl.com.my). At 421-metres, the KL Tower is the 5th tallest telecommunication tower in the world. It was built in 1996 and is one of the significant landmarks of KL, offering unsurpassed panoramic views of the city from the observation deck as well as a revolving restaurant called Seri Angkasa and a mini-zoo.
Two of Malaysia’s many British colonial era schools – St John’s Institution and Convent Bukit Nanas – are also situated on the hill. These institutions are both over 100 years old, and the former has been gazetted as National Heritage Site by the government.
WANDERING THROUGH THE WILDERNESS
Guided tours through the forest reserve by licensed guides are available at designated times each day for those visitors who purchase tickets to the KL Tower. But you can also go it alone, by simply selecting and setting off down one of the clearly labelled trails yourself. Please do, however, remember to consult the map of the forest at the trailhead before embarking on your journey. Also remember to bring along some fluids to drink, as the Malaysian weather can be oppressively hot and humid.
Trailheads are easily accessible either at the foot of the KL Tower (at the top of the hill) or right outside the Bukit Nanas Monorail station (at the bottom of the hill). From there, you can spend hours merrily meandering down the clearly demarcated paths, encountering all sorts of exotic plants and animals.
If you ask me, a day wandering the winding paths on Bukit Nanas sure beats the heck out of being sequestered in a frigid shopping mall. The trails up the hill provide breathtaking vistas of the KL cityscape, and the feeling of being in the middle of a virgin tropical rainforest in the middle of a major metropolis is a very unique experience.
HIKING THROUGH HISTORY
Bukit Nanas was originally known as Weld Hill Forest Reserve. It was gazetted in 1906 with an area of 17.5 hectares, making it the largest forest reserve in the country. However, in the name of development, the reserve the area of the forest reserve was sadly slashed to the 9.37 hectares that it is today.
The origins of the name “Bukit Nanas” are of interest. The hill was the stage for one of the fiercest battles during the civil war that engulfed the Malay Peninsula from 1867 to 1874. During the conflict, a fortress was strategically built on the hill and pineapple trees were planted which successfully deterred the barefooted attackers from overtaking the bastion. Since that time, the hill has been known as “Bukit Nanas” (which translates as “Pineapple Hill”).
Today, no signs of that conflict remain. What pervades is a sense of the profound serenity and tranquillity of nature in the midst of the bustling and booming modern metropolis of Kuala Lumpur.
Bukit Nanas Forest Reserve is open to the public from 7am until 6pm daily and the Forest Information Centre is open from 9am to 5pm daily. Admission is free, but if you plan on camping there you need to pay. To get to the park, take the monorail to Bukit Nanas station or drive to the foot of the KL Tower.
This article was written by William Citrin
This article has been edited for Expatgomalaysia.com
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