We listened intently as Zul, our nature guide took us on a tour of the Bukit Nanas Forest Reserve, located in the heart of Kuala Lumpur city. There were 3 of us - myself and 2 visitors from Chiang Mai, Thailand. Am I glad I opted for a guide instead of doing a wander myself. Truth be told, Zul, played his role well as a nature guide - giving his knowledge and passion for us to 'fire' some questions.
As soon as we stepped into the Reserve, we felt the city heat had 'parked' itself outside. Zul did not fail to bring it to our attention. The sudden coolness serves to bring home the message of climate change and how we should preserve Mother Nature or whatever remnants existing.
That's exactly what City Hall has done. Thankfully, this small hill, a crop of tropical rainforest was declared a Reserve since 1906. To this day, the Reserve, our ' forest in the city' is our heritage. Bukit Nanas Forest Reserve surrounds the Menara KL Tower (Kuala Lumpur Telecommunication Tower) and when it was being built, a 100 year old jelutong tree (dyera costulata) was preserved. At a cost of RM 430.000 , a retaining wall was constructed to preserve the jelutong tree - one of our treasured hardwood species. The tall buildings nearby may stand tall, so too the trees, if they are left alone - they are ever-reaching for the sky!
Zul highlighted the fascinating cicadas and other insects that live in the forest reserve. It was our luck to see first hand the cocoons left by the cicadas on the underside of a leaf to 'trick' the birds.' I enjoy this orchestra of the forest' , says Zul , referring to the singing of the male cicadas we heard in the background as we chatted.
We followed the Merbau and the Jelutong trails. They are easy to negotiate. Rising above our heads are the rainforest trees - their trunks thick and their well -defined, impressive buttresses never cease to bewilder trekkers.
Zul picked up the seed of the dipterocarpus ( 2 winged fruit) tree. Then, he let it go in the air - whee! - with its wings, the mini plant flew, helicopter -like to land on the moist earth again. With time, it will propagate as Mother Nature wills.
'How is it possible for huge trees to be standing on slopes whch seem too precarious?' asked our curious visitors. 'Coz Mother Nature has not been disturbed', was Zul's reply. Names of the plants just tripped off his tongue - merawan ( artocarpus scortechinii), pulai ( alstonia angustilobia)- as he pointed to the ferns, rare herbs, rattan, lianas and the different shaped leaves and highlighted their functions.
We heard the rustle of leaves and craned our necks upwards to look for the resident monkeys. Luck was in - we spotted 2 silvered lanquer monkeys high among the trees doing their 'crossings'. There's food to support them , the long tailed macaques and other animals in this natural habitat .
Zul seems fiercely protective of our natural heritage as we chatted under the shady trees. He shares his concerns about our diminishing rainforests and the harm we do that threaten to wipe them off forever. To me, he's an eco warrior not only in his own country but in Thailand too. I couldn't agree more with him that nothing can replace this green gem we have right in our midst. That we must protect our rich biodiversified forests and pockets of greenery from the onslaught of over - development.
As in the words of the poet, William Wordsworth, ' Nature never did betray the heart that loved her'. Let's preserve!
Bukit Nanas Forest Reserve
Jalan Puncak, Off P. Ramlee
50250 Kuala Lumpur
tel: + 6 03 2020 5448
Guided tours are daily, subject to weather conditions
-11.00 am, 12.30 pm, 2.30 pm and 4.30 pm
Free of charge.