The State of Pahang n Malaysia can truly be dubbed as the “State of Great Lakes” as it is home to Tasik Bera (Bera Lake) and Tasik Cini (Cini Lake) which are consecutively the country’s largest and second largest natural lakes. Taking a trip to these havens of biodiversity promises adventure galore for anglers and naturalists.
Sprawling over 6,150 hectares, Tasik Bera measures approximately 35km long and 20km wide. Its water landscape consists of interlocking lakes, fresh water swamps, pandanus (screwpine) swamps and peat swamps, which drain into the Pahang River, the longest river in the country.
From Kuala Lumpur, the easiest route to the lake is to travel to Temerloh, then southward towards Triang. Before reaching Triang, a signboard at Kerayong leads you to the northside Sudin and Dara Jetties. The Tasik Bera Museum at Kg Kuin has brochures and maps, and Tasik Bera Resort offers chalets and dormitories. For most visitors, a must-do is to cruise the myriad of river channels and bays on flat-bottom boats to explore the flora and search for wildlife. As the boat navigates through the narrow waterways, overhanging pandanus leaves brush against the faces of its passengers, while epiphytes, ferns, orchids and pitchers plants add color to the swamp landscape.
More than 200 species of birds have recorded at Tasik Bera. The White-Throated Kingfisher can often be seen diving into the water for fish. Feared raptors such as the Grey-Head Fish Eagle and Brahminy Kite help maintain the ecological balance of the lake. More beautiful avian creatures include the Malayan Peacock Pheasant and Uncommon Wrinkled Hornbill but sightings are rare. Commonly seen frolicking among the pandanus are Bulbuls, Spiderhunters and Pacific Swallows.
To spot wildlife, ask the boatman to anchor at a secluded bay or shallow channel and switch off the engine. There is the possibility of seeing the Malayan False Gharial, a fish-eating crocodile and the Striped Giant Soft-Shelled Turtle. Across the water’s surface, water snakes and vipers can occasionally seen swimming from one reed bed to another. A feared resident of the lake is the reticulated python, which grows to a length of five meters. Its favorite food is monitor lizards and the Malayan Giant Frog – the latter tips the scale at one kilogram.
The lowland dipterocarps around Tasik Bera support medium-sized game such as tapirs, clouded leopards, wild boars, monkeys, mousedeer, flying lemurs and flying squirrels. Along nature trails, there are sights of their existence such as paw prints on mud flats, fresh dung, and claw marks on tree trunks. Angling is allowed at the lake, and more than 100 species of fish are found here. The adventurous angler will try to reel in the ferocious Toman (or Giant Snakehead) and Haruan (or Common Snakehead).
A visit to a Semelai village should also be part of one’s itinerary. For more than 600 years, they have lived in Tasik Bera by fishing and hunting. Today, they rely on revenue from farming. They also collect sandalwood, resin from the Keruing tree and trap reticulated pythons for their skin.
Tasik Cini is located 100 km south-west of Kuantan, and consists of 12 interlocking lakes. Romanticized as the “Loch Ness of Malaysia”, Tasik Cini’s fame is attributed to a Jakun legend that a naga laut (water serpent) lurks in its underwater caves. The lake is also believed to be the site of an ancient Khmer city as artifacts have been discovered in the area though scientific expeditions to discover it have been unsuccessful. According to one story, when the city was threatened by attack, the populace submerged it using a system of aqua-ducts, intending to drain it later.
Traveling to Tasik Cini involves driving to the village of Cini from Kuantan. From Cini, the next leg of the journey is through the oil palm plantation of Felda Cini to the shores of the lake, where Lake Cini Resort is located. A more exciting option is to travel from Kuantan to Kampung Belimbing; take a boat ride across the Sungei Pahang, followed by an upriver trip along Sungei Cini — where a canopy of lianas hangs overhead — to the lake,
What greets the visitor is indeed a magnificent sight. The surface of the lake is black and spiky pentenas grass protrude from the water in many places. Wreathed in clouds, Gunung Cini rises 825 meters high, forming a beautiful backdrop. Near the edges of lake stand massive trees with their buttress roots half-submerged in water.
A highly recommended boat ride is to Laut Babi, the biggest lake in the system where turtles come ashore to lay their eggs. Another must-visit lake is Laut Melai. From June to September, large parts of its water surface are swathed with thousands of pink water lilies and white lotus blooms on velvety carpets of green leaves. Last but not least, one must also venture to Laut Gumum, where most of the purported sightings of the serpent by locals have taken place. During colonial times, British engineers who have glimpsed it have described the elusive monster as moving with forward lunges, while Jakun elders have claimed that it has a head resembling a tiger’s.
At Kampung Gumun, which has a Jakun settlement, visitors can hire a guide to escort them along the nature trails. A popular trek is from Lake Cini Resort to Kampong Gumum, two kilometers away. Another longer trek leads from the resort to a campsite at Lake Terembau. The trail weaves through swamps, oil palm plantations and lowland forests. Along the way, there are frequent encounters with the Grey-Breasted Babbler, Crimson-Winged Woodpecker, Orange-Bellied Flowerpeckers and Lesser-Tailed Drongo. Traditional Jakun villages can also be visited, and one can try to use a blowpipe.
Tasik Cini is a sanctuary for more than 150 species of fish. The best fishing months are from November to January, with Gouramy, Giant Freshwater Puffer, Carp and various species of Catfish being the popular catches. From October to March, migratory birds make a stopover at the lake, enhancing one’s birding experiences. Tasik Cini, an undisturbed paradise for centuries is truly spectacular.