Kokonutlist cooperates with HUGS Project for this article in promoting 3C tourism program (Community, Conservation and Culture). We have published 4 out of 5 most valuable hidden destination in Malaysia that should be in your bucket list. These 4 gems are Pulau Banggi, Lubuk Yu, Ulu Baram, and Pulau Selakan. We guess you are ready for the last destination on this list, are you excited? It is Merapoh!
1) Pulau Banggi
2) Lubuk Yu
3) Ulu Baram
Merapoh, located in Lipis district in the state of Pahang, is a hidden destination offering a lifetime adventure for the adrenaline junkie. This little gem started to gain attention after limestone hills and cave system was discovered. It is a sanctuary for the wildlife that inhabits the surrounding rainforest. Merapoh biodiversity is one of a kind in Malaysia, It is a marble to geologist and a perfect spot for geo-tourism. Apart from that, Merapoh also acts as an entrance to Taman Negara or Malaysia National park.
Merapoh has hundreds of amazing caves that have been discovered by HUGS Project under the program Save Merapoh Caves. The most prominent are Gua Tulang, Bekong, Layang, Layang Rusa, Gunting, Gua Sisik Naga, Gua Lembah Tualang and the most memorable for HUGS team is Gua Hari Malaysia. The waterfall inside the Gua Hari Malaysia is called Croatian Cascades as a tribute to the collaboration with a team from Croatia in 2012.
The limestone hills are also home to about 14% of peninsular’s plant species. This includes wild orchids and Rhizantes Lowii, the smallest species of Rafflesia! Previously, none of the limestone hills in Merapoh are protected, and hence, are at risk from wanton development.
HUGS Project lead by Laili Basir has faced a lot of challenges in protecting and preserving this geopark. From logging to gold mining and budget constraints, the barriers are endless to ensure Merapoh keep standing. The campaign on saving this exquisite cave system got the attention from nature fans worldwide with the tag #savemerapoh.
The mining project here has nearly destroyed the Merapoh and Persik rivers, the lung for the rainforest and village nearby. With the help of Laili’s team and volunteers from Save Merapoh Caves program, exposure to these activities and the threat it brings to Merapoh has been circulated to the media. As a result, the main Merapoh site was saved from logging and mining activities. However, the surrounding rainforest is still at risk by these exercises.
In 2017, HUGS Project has invited Pahang state’s Geoscience and Mineral Department for an expedition to witness and assessed Merapoh. Subsequently, in 2018, HUGS Team has managed to bring this issue forward and with the help of YB Mustapa Long from Lipis district, the idea of setting up amenities for Merapoh Geopark has been included in the Pahang State budget. A major success!
In the early years of the discovery process, FRIM team made two trips where they surveyed five hills. “From what we have found so far, it’s a unique place as the flora on each hill is so different. This is unique from my experience of working in Malaysia” says Dr. Kiew, a leading authority on limestone flora.
Continuously, numerous expedition organized by HUGS Project has discovered and documented exciting artifacts. This includes bones and fossils of wild boar, black panther, Asian elephants, pangolin, serow, Malayan porcupine, sun bear and the most interesting, shells. The expeditions were conducted with the help of the University of Malaya, in particular, Mr. Ah Tshen, a Mammal Fossil Expert and Save Merapoh Caves pioneer, Mr. Sabrie Zoo. The samples were then sent to National Taiwan University for further research. This is just the tip of the iceberg on the actual value of Merapoh.
In 2012, a collaboration with a group from Croatia was held in discovering the depth and value of Merapoh caves. It was called Scientific Caving Expeditions and to be honest, quite an extreme expedition. It has led to the discoveries of the spectacular cave system and opened up Merapoh to the world. In 2013 on one lucky day, HUGS project has found “fresh” adult Black Panther footprints nearby Gua Bekong Kecil. For those who don’t know, Malaysia is home to the rarest Black Panther in the world!. That is the top reason why every nature enthusiast should visit Merapoh!
In 2014, a 50,000 years old mammal fossil was discovered in one of the Merapoh caves. On top of that, a human skeleton from the Neolithic era was found. That is around 3,000 years ago! how fascinating. It is a breakthrough in Malaysian geology. Recently, a “Rock Art Of Merapoh” has been discovered and it is said to be at least 200 years old. A complete detail on this has been published here. Besides, a tooth fossil belongs to an Asian sun bear from Pleistocene Age was found in one of the Merapoh caves as well. These are the reasons why it is crucial for a place that holds such priceless artifacts and history be preserved.
Some of the other activities organized by HUGS’ team and Save Merapoh Caves movement includes Merapoh MTB Fun Ride 2017 which sees the local youth participating, learning about geology and the importance of its preservation, Merapoh Caving Photography Trip 2017,
Exploration of Gua Teluk Gunung, Gua Air Mata Dayang and Gua Hari Malaysia on 27th to 29th October 2017 and last but not least Merapoh Hammock Camp 2017 in collaboration with Hammockers Malaysia. The ongoing exposure on Merapoh caves is vital as we do not want the fate of Gua Merapoh to be like Gua Chiku in Kelantan that has been destroyed by the state government for profit.
To prepare the locals in geo-tourism, HUGS Project collaborates with MycribBooking in conducting free basic IT course for Homestays owners and tourist operators in Merapoh. It will take place on the 19th of December 2018. On 8th to 12th December the same year, prominent Geologist, Paleontologist, and Sedimentologist from few universities from Malaysia, Singapore, and Taiwan will be staying in Merapoh for an in-depth research program. For geology students and enthusiast, this is a chance you do not want to miss!
As for next year, the Merapoh Caving Club House will take place latest by February 2019. This is to accommodate scientific researcher and volunteers. As all these are self-funded activities, HUGS Project welcomes any kind of contributions and donations to reduce their financial burden. One way you can help the cause is by buying their fundraising t-shirt below!
For any project and tour to Merapoh to experience this majestic treasure first-hand, do contact Laili Basir, details as below!
There you go, all 5 hidden gems of Malaysia which are now broadcasted to everyone. With these pieces of information available, what are you waiting for? set your adventure mood and explore all 5 destinations! Have a safe trip and enjoy the video below!