Rainforest Journal

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Taman Botani Negara Shah Alam (Bukit Cerakah)

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Taman Botani Negara Shah Alam (TBNSA) is an area of forests combined with plantations/botanical gardens that lies towards the north of Shah Alam city. The place also goes by the name of Bukit Cahaya Sri Alam, while the forest reserve itself is named Bukit Cerakah Forest Reserve. Previously, the park was named Taman Pertanian Malaysia (it’s confusing, I know). I will still refer to this place as Bukit Cerakah, after the name of the forest reserve, originally.

Previously covering several thousand hectares (up until quite recently), much of the low lying forest have already been converted into housing areas and now only a small remnant of the original rainforest remain, mainly centered on some hills, while the lowlands are home to the botanic gardens, with many plots featuring various types of agricultural crops and trees grown alongside the rainforest trees. The entire area now totals around 800 hectares.

Taman Botani Negara Shah Alam

Tall trees still line the roads in TBNSA.

TBNSA arboretum

Plantations and forest trees stand side by side in TBNSA.

I have frequented this place for over 20 years to date, right back from the days when the botanic gardens were very new, in the early 1990s. Many things have changed since; but sad to say, not for the better. Originally, the forest was much larger and “wilder”, but excessive development has resulted in localized extinctions of certain species of animals. Back then, a few individuals of tapir and panther were known to reside in the forest, and you could hear Argus pheasant calls during the daytime. Today, Bukit Cerakah is a forest island under siege.

Carpark of TBNSA

The carpark at the entrance of the park.

taman pertanian shah alam entrance

The new entrance into the park.

View of a garden at TBNSA

The view from a lookout tower in the TBNSA, or Taman Pertanian, showing one of the manicured gardens.

TBNSA lake

One of the lakes formed after the lowland forest was cleared for houses.

The clearance began during 2003 when a large portion of the Bukit Cerakah forest was parceled out to developers, logged, and totally cleared. The issue came to a head only in 2005 when aerial photos were splashed on the front pages of newspapers, but it was too late by then. The surrounding hilly forest areas where no houses were meant to be built, were also logged.

In terms of forest quality, I still consider Bukit Cerakah to be one of the best remaining (miniscule) patches of forest in the Klang Valley, due to portions of it possibly being “primary/virgin”. The low hills such as Bukit Sapu Tangan (Handkerchief Hill) and nearby ridges still harbor some stands of good sized Seraya trees, some over a meter in diameter. I am not sure if the VJR portion of the forest reserve is still remaining or not today, but this entire forest used to stretch all the way to Kota Damansara and FRIM, in the past.

TBNSA primary forest

Some areas in TBNSA are likely to be in “primary” condition. They still provide a safe haven for small wildlife.

mystery tunnel signboard

The signboard overlooking the “mystery tunnel” in TBNSA, near the Sungai Air Kuning dam.

mystery tunnel at bukit cerakah

The “mystery tunnel” at Bukit Cerakah. This tunnel is most likely just an old aqueduct to channel water out from the Sungai Air Kuning dam, back then in the 1930s.

A serious problem?

However, it may be apparent to any regular visitor to Bukit Cerakah who keeps his/her eyes open, that many of the original forest trees have since died or toppled down, and there is no question this dieback is quite alarming and is NOT natural. In a natural state, a tropical forest is supposed to maintain equilibrium between growth/life and mortality, but here, mortality seems to be unusually high, certainly in the past few years. Trees here are dying faster than can be replaced, for reasons yet unknown. There used to be canopy walk here that is long gone, possibly due to the deaths of the supporting trees. In a future post, I will elaborate more on this negative phenomenon.

The forest and attractions

Bukit Cerakah is still considered a relic patch of coastal Red Meranti-Keruing forest, and possibly one of the few intact patches on the West Coast featuring this specific sub-type. As for wildlife, the visitor can still expect to spot a variety of common lowland forest birds, insects, and small mammals like langurs, macaques, squirrels, and monitor lizards.

TBNSA road

A typical scene along a road inside TBNSA. Great for bicycling.

Four Season House

The Four Season House, which has a special controlled climate within. Temperate plants are grown here for exhibit.

four season house interior

Inside the Four Season House, a mock temperate environment has been constructed, complete with artificial lighting and a wallpaper background. This pic is taken during the “late summer” or “early autumn” period.

four season house temperature

The controlled temperature in the Four Season House, currently showing 23.6 Celsius.

pony in taman botani negara

One of the ponies in the Animal Park/mini zoo. There are hardly any animals there at the time of this writing, save for some birds, and the ponies. There used to be porcupines, ostriches, deer, and seladang.

overgrown paddy field

Paddy fields, or rather what remains after no maintenance for a long time (early 2015). Weeds have overgrown and snuffed out most of the paddy.

new paddy field

As of the end of 2015, the paddy fields have been replanted and looks like they are now being maintained.

The assortment of arboretums, plantations, ponds, a mini zoo, and a temperate “Four Season House”, all of which are interlinked by a network of tarred roads, still continue to draw in visitors daily; the main attractions seem to be bicycle riding, paintball, and outdoor activities (like flying fox) offered by a local outfit called Skytrex. The mini zoo used to house a pair of Seladang (Bos gaurus) in an enclosure, but they were not present anymore during my latest visit.

Reticulated python

A juvenile reticulated python spotted in TBNSA. Be careful where you trod!

Sungai Air Kuning dam

Sungai Air Kuning dam in TBNSA.

There are two old dams in the forest, namely the Sungai Baru and Sungai Air Kuning dams, which used to supply water to certain parts of Klang up till the 1950s, although long disused by now. Instead, both dams now provide opportunities for the avid angler. There is also a 3 km trail linking the dams, although I am not sure if the trail is already overgrown. Additionally, there is a mysterious old tunnel in the vicinity of the Sungai Air Kuning dam, which has been sealed up already, and is believed to be built before or during the Second World War. The tunnel is said to be infested with snakes.

If you are into nature, hiking up Bukit Sapu Tangan (Handkerchief Hill) can be a rewarding experience in spite of the steep climb. The hill stands 200-plus meters above sea level, in an otherwise undulating landscape, and offers nice panoramic views out over Shah Alam, the Klang Valley, and even across the Straits of Malacca, from an old lookout tower at its summit that is in need of restoration.

Bukit Sapu Tangan at TBNSA

The view of the forest and Shah Alam, from Bukit Sapu Tangan (Handkerchief Hill).

Bukit Cerakah destruction

The destruction of the Bukit Cerakah forest can be seen from the top of Bukit Sapu Tangan (during the construction of the housing areas). The surrounding hills inside the park boundaries were not spared from logging either.

But a more beautiful sight for me anyway, is the view of the tree crowns of the tropical forest on the lower slopes below. It used to be that you could observe many large, beautiful Seraya (Shorea curtisii) trees in the forest canopy below, but unfortunately, many of them have already died since I first stepped foot on that tower 17 years ago. It is still a nice view as long as you don’t look in the north-western direction, what with all the wholesale clearance and logging from that side.

lake at taman botani negara shah alam

A good place to exercise, that’s for sure. There is a lookout tower, lakes, and an extensive paved road system. Spot the lookout tower next to the lake.

Accommodation is limited and many of the facilities are already defunct and dilapidated due to lack of maintenance (despite growing numbers of visitors, according to the official website). But all that can be forgiven IF you are just visiting for the “semi-wild nature experience”. It is one of those few places where you can still experience an authentic rainforest experience which is just a stone’s throw away from the hustle and bustle of the city.

The official website of the park is located HERE.

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18 Comments

  1. Did Bukit Cerakah organise any education trip activities for school students age 6 – 12years old?

  2. @ Lee

    I believe they can arrange for a guided educational activity, but I’m sure this is not FOC. You can call them at 03-5510 6922

  3. have meranti seraya at taman botani ?

  4. @ nazrul

    Yes.

  5. hi, boleh tak hiking dkt bukit cerakah ni? kena ada guide or boleh tgk map sendiri?

  6. @ Siti

    Boleh hiking, tak perlu guide sebab trek di sana semua pendek sahaja. Ada la satu trek hutan dari Empangan Sungai Air Kuning ke Empangan Sungai Baru, yang jauhnya 3 km. Saya tak pasti sama ada trek itu sekarang masih dijaga atau tidak :)

  7. Is there any shield or astaka in the taman botani?

  8. @ Yoong

    Yes, if you mean shelters, there are shelters located mainly near the specific attractions in the park (e.g. near the Animal park or Temperate House). In between the attractions along the roads, I think there are very few. So if raining, you might get caught in the rain.

  9. How can I get hold of the landscape map for taman botani as we planned to have activity here. Thx

  10. @ Sarah

    You can visit this link HERE, for a very big map.

  11. Hi I would like to carry out my intership in taman botany shah alam. So I would like to ask is there any housing area near to taman botany for us to stay? If yes, would none of giving us the contact number since we are coming far from kelantan.tq

  12. @ arul

    There are many housing areas in Shah Alam that are nearby to TBNSA like Seksyen 6 or Seksyen 8. You can look in websites with classified ads for property/room rental in Malaysia, or the newspapers. I am sure there are many Shah Alam houses or rooms for rent. It just depends on how far away they are from TBNSA.

  13. Hi,

    I have been given the impression that TBNSA is quite rundown.
    Is this Taman still accessible to the public?
    Are the facilities in good and safe conditions?

    Thanks

  14. @ Pierre Wong

    The park was quite rundown up till recently. Now there are some refurbishments near the entrance so that’s an improvement. The park has always been open to the public (closed on Mondays). Facilities are quite “ok” depending on your definition of “ok”, but centered on a few attractions in the park, such as the Animal Park (with a few animals), the Temperate House, and the privately managed Skytrex. Most people go there to get exercise amidst peaceful greenery (especially bicycling) or fishing. I absolutely recommend it if you just want to be closer to nature.

  15. Can we get sample of Akasia’s tree bark from TBNSA? Do we need permission for that? Thanks in advance. :)

  16. @ Mira

    I am not sure how to answer your question as I don’t know what you want to do with the bark and also are you going to hurt the tree by cutting a lot of bark, in which case that’s simply forbidden, but I suppose if you want to inform them you can do so easily at their office near the entrance :)

  17. hye, can i do my assignment at this place? my group and i wanna do some trip about nature and we decide to go at this place. please give some response as soon as possible. thankyou

  18. @ shahirah
    You can certainly do your assignment at TBNSA, why not? :) But advisable to contact the management first about your plan if it involves a long time and many people. You can find the contact details for the park at their official website. I have provided the link at the bottom of my article.

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