Taman Negara Sungai Keniam (Sebarau, Kelah, 3 Nights Retreat in Wilderness )

Kampung Pagi, Sungai Tembeling

The guy at the jetty said, “There’s so much kelah (mahseer) fish in this watershed, and they will last for generations…”. Wow it was very encouraging. Everybody became so excited, especially when he showed us a 4 kg Kelah recently caught. The price of Kelah is about RM200 per kg. 

Frozen 4 kg Kelah recently caught

Frozen 4 kg Kelah recently caught

However, my angler’s instinct quickly did some mental arithmetics, Mmmm… lets multiply that with a factor of 0.3, then it might be right. Haha… that was at noon in Kampung Pagi, at the bank of Sungai Tembeling.

We planned to depart at 9.00 am from Kuala Tahan, but the boatman was late. He appeared some time later and said, “Guys, it is plan B. The water is too high and we won’t be able to move upstream the rapids with boats fully loaded” 

Water level in Sungai Tembeling was high

Water level in Sungai Tembeling was high

In fact when we checked in at Jerantut rest house the night before, the receptionist was puzzled when we told her that we were going into the national part. On these rainy days?, said her.

That didn’t affect me a bit. Rain or shine, I am sure the national park would give me pleasant time. And that was what I needed, after running this life at high speed on multiple terrains.

Depart from Kg. Pagi

Departing from Kg. Pagi

With plan B, we drove our cars to Kg. Pagi, and boarded the boats from there. The journey started at about 2 pm and since the water was high, we didn’t have to jump down pushing the boat. Only the boatmen did it few times. 

Moving upstream Sg. Tembeling

Moving upstream Sg. Tembeling

Warm Welcome from Sebarau Despite High Water

Along the way, we saw groups of anglers sitting quietly waiting for the bite. Believe me, if eating fish is what you are after, they come handy at the fish market. But those are fresh water anglers, enthusiastically waiting for actions. 

Somewhere upstream of Sungai Keniam, our boat stopped and Ismail the boatman threw his first cast. On the third, his rod quickly bent to form a “J”. Wow ! We were so excited. It was a sebarau (hampala barb) of around 2 kg.

A warm welcome from Keniam's Sebarau

A warm welcome from Keniam’s Sebarau

We reached Lata Said around 6 pm. The boatmen set up our big tents – well it was only roof and ground sheets. Some of the guys immediately started fishing and rewarded with species of carps – lampam, rong and whatever names that I don’t remember, also Baung (Mystus Nemurus), which belongs to the family of catfish I think. For dinner, we were served with variety of fish. They were all delicious, especially “Sebarau masak lemak”. I simply loved it. It also reminded me of my late father who used to bring sebarau home almost every time he went casting net in Melaka river. May Allah showers His mercy to both of my beloved parents

Planning for the next day

Planning for the next day

After dinner was story time. The guide explained the plan for the next day before going to sleep. Some of the guys continued fishing at the campsite, while others started snoring.

Hunting for Kelah

Fishing is perhaps not the right word. Catching would be a taboo. Perhaps hunting better describes the search for Kelah. After breakfast the next morning, we started our journey – trekking the jungle, crossing river and swamp, struggling with leech – until we reached the final destination.

Crossing river on the way to the targeted spot

Crossing river on the way to the targeted spot

Then we spread in pairs to various spots. Then the waiting started. Believe me,… I really mean it. It was full of waiting, haha…

Patiently waiting for Kelah that never come

Patiently waiting for Kelah that never come

Tired of waiting, I went on casting. As always, I prefer dynamics compared to static or steady state.


Kelah was difficult to catch, but our group got some, enough to make us enjoy the dinner.

Delicious Dinner in the Wilderness

Delicious Dinner in the Wilderness (grilled Kelah, Kelah masak tempoyak, etc)

Beautiful Views of Taman Negara

The best part of this trip was the opportunity to go back to nature. Beautiful views. Soothing sound of fast running water, singing of birds and crickets – it was simply amazing. Very different than daily routines.


Hydrogen Researchers in the Wilderness

Living a multi tasking, multi activities hectic life is definitely not easy. But when it is needed, you simply have to do it. It requires sacrifices, determinations and enthusiasms – but these things drain energy, both physically and spiritually. Some forms of stress relief activities must be planned and included in life’s calendar, not merely an adhoc basis – do it whenever you have time. So, activities like hiking, deep sea fishing, mountain climbing etc are included in  the group’s calendar. These are planned along with academic and research activities. I think, it is a right decision.

Five researchers from Center of Hydrogen Energy at Lata Said, Sungai Keniam

Five researchers from Center of Hydrogen Energy at Lata Said, Sungai Keniam

It is time to go home…

Where there is a beginning, there is also an end. The three nights spent were a great blessing to us. It was time to say good bye to Lata Said. While the boatmen were dismantling our tents, the guys continued fishing and served us freshly frilled fish.

Delishious instantly grilled fish

Delicious instantly grilled fish

On our way back, the water level was much lower and our boatmen were really commendable. The way they negotiated the sharp bends and narrow channel as we moved down the rapids clearly displayed their skills.



Warm Farewell from Sebarau, calling us to come back

We were warmly welcome by Sebarau on our way to Lata Said, and on the way back as we were leaving home, we did some casting and Faiz caught a 1 kg Sebarau.

The beginning was a2.5 kg Sebarau, the ending was a 1,5 kg sebarau

The beginning was a2.5 kg Sebarau, the ending was a 1 kg sebarau

Visit to Kg Orang Asli

One of our colleagues planned to organise some programs with orang Asli community as part of joint-events with researchers from the United Kingdom.  We took this opportunity to explore the possibility to do it here near Taman Negara so that the participants would have some opportunities to enjoy the attractions available.

Some of our teammates disembarked at Kg. Pagi to drive the cars to Kuala Tahan, while the 5 hydrogen researchers continued the boat journey to Orang Asli village at the bank of Sungai Tembeling to discuss the possibilities and surveyed the area. They were naturally a nomad tribe, but has settled down for few years in the area and facilitate the tourism industry.


Goodbye Taman Negara

Good bye Taman Negara Pahang. Thanks for the treat and we’ll come back ! We are going to miss the time spent there. It was refreshing. The surrounding was beautiful, simply astonishing. The singing of birds, lullaby of crickets and riang-riang, relaxing sounds of flowing streams drifted my mind away from all the problems, deadlines and target KPI’s. Of course, not to forget the snoring of tired researchers that sounded like old trucks struggling to go uphill. hehe…


Back to Old Routines

Once we returned to civilizations, I quickly scanned through emails, whatsupp, telegram, etc. Good news and bad news. The worst was the news of a colleague, a senior professor of UTM being admitted to the intensive care unit at a hospital, after having a heart attack. My Lord, please give him the health needed.


About Dr. AA

I am an educator, professional trainer, safety consultant, researcher, social worker, outdoor enthusiast, and a thinker.
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