Chillin' at Chiling – The Chiling Waterfall

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For most visitors, the Malaysian outdoors is seen on short walks or day trips from a hotel or resort. Few venture to camp in the forest. Malaysian campgrounds are unknown, often poorly run and dirty and safety can be a concern. It is even tougher with children.

This is disappointing to those who were used to camping in their home countries and miss the outdoor lifestyle. My family has been going to the Chiling waterfall for several years. One hour away from Kuala Kubu Bharu on the Frasers Hill road, this area offers an authentic rainforest experience which is unspoilt yet reasonably accessible.

Lauded by the authoritative Waterfalls of Malaysia website ( as “probably the most beautiful waterfalls of Selangor,” the lower Chiling is a threetiered waterfall. Whatever the season, the mountain waters flow powerfully as shown by the cave which was hollowed out by the final tier of the waterfall.

Refreshingly free of the dirty food stalls and crumbling infrastructure that usually litter such scenic places, Chiling does not even have a car park which makes all the difference as large tourist buses seldom go there. There is just a neat ranger’s hut and shower block at the entrance where one registers with Viji, the head ranger, or his deputy, Noordin. The fee for a day is only 50 cents, but even if you intend to camp it is only RM5 per person, though a RM100 refundable deposit is required to ensure that you clean up after yourself before you leave. You are allowed to build a campfire and, as for security, there is always a ranger on duty when campers are around. The electricity for the facilities comes entirely from solar power.

The pristine condition of the environment it is due to the river being a fish sanctuary and Viji and Noordin, who are actually fisheries officers, are responsible for monitoring the quality of the water. Their success in keeping the environment clean is attested by at least six species of colorful dragon and damsel flies (which need clean water) and lots of fungi (which need clean air). Perhaps more parks should be handed over to Fisheries. While the trail and river crossings are clearly marked, if you are new to the place it is best to go with a guide. On our first time we went with Happy Yen, an experienced and licensed nature guide who is mentioned in the Lonely Planet (not all guides are licensed or are wilderness guides so one should always ask for proof). Yen has been coming here for nearly 30 years, knows it well and is confident enough to turn a group around at the first sign of an unacceptable risk.

For the walk, lightweight trousers or shorts are recommended as there are several river crossings ankle to mid-thigh deep. Your shoes will get wet. The walk is invigorating and the trail is cooled by the mountain air coming down the valley. Fish are clearly visible at some of the river crossings, mainly kelah (the Malaysian mahseer); an important game fish. While sitting by the bank, I saw another fish leap up salmon-fashion to the higher level of the rapids. We stopped often to enjoy views or the playful antics of the river’s inhabitants.

The Chiling watershed has orchids, nepenthes (pitcher plants) and interesting bamboos as well as well-known primary forest species. Part of the forest has been logged and the contrast between the logged areas and the pristine forest reveals the myth of “sustainable logging” by the timber industry.

Most interesting on the walk were the insects which come in a myriad of colours. Some, like a metallic multicolored beetle, which looked like an electronic component, posed obligingly for our cameras. Others, like the green and black damsel fly coyly kept their wings closed.

The first glimpse of the falls is the torrent shooting out from the upper falls which leaps several meters away from the rock face before falling to the first pool. The force of the fall can be imagined when one sees the size of some of the trees which were thrown up on the rocks metres above the present water level. While the bottom pool can be swum or waded in perfect safety, the middle and upper plunge pools should not be entered as the water is too aerated to support a swimmer.

Occasionally, climbers are seen abseiling the two rock formations that look like gorilla heads. The falls are often deserted during the week and Happy Yen told of a German couple who decided to return to a natural Eden while he discreetly retired behind a rock to brew up some coffee for them after their frolic in the waterfall.


On weekends there are more people but thankfully the louts and touts are absent. The walk is too much like work for them. If you are keen, a trail leads on to the upper falls and into the mountains. It is steep, challenging and exposed in places and no place for young children, the inexperienced or the ill-equipped. Even those who do not fall into any of those categories will need a guide. But if you just want to chill out at the campground no guide is necessary. Sometimes we do not visit the waterfalls at all and our children just play in and around the river where a salt lick often draws scores of Raja Brooke butterflies.

Whether you go all the way to the waterfalls or just play by the stream, Chiling Falls is a place to return to often as we do.


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