An hour into our hike we were introduced to Elvis. Not the King of Rock and Roll, but a Giant Strangler Fig tree just as iconic, aptly nicknamed by the guides here at Awana BIO Park.
“It takes a long time for Elvis to snuff out its host by strangling and robbing it of sunlight,” our guide Eddie explained. “By comparing similar fig trees in girth and height this one is probably three centuries old. In a sense it is a timekeeper of the forest,” continued Eddie.
As we turned left to continue our hike into the rainforest, Eddie suddenly let out a warning: “Watch out! These could cut your face!” as he snipped a hanging branch almost invisible to the naked eye with his fingers. In his hand was a thin stem with razor sharp hooks that could scar your face. “These are stems from rattan with prickly spines that act as hooks to attach themselves to trees”, explained Eddie.
It was a close call.
With treacherous plants, leeches and a black panther in our midst, we were fortunate to have a knowledgeable guide on this trek who not only imparted educational insights of the rainforest but also made sure we were safe.
No one should venture into this rainforest without a guide. Be warned.
Fashion Forest Trek
Fashion Forest is part of the Awana BIO Park. Located near Resorts World Awana this 130-million-year-old rainforest sits on a ridge 3000 ft (900m) above sea level with a trail length of 500m and a width of 500m on both sides of the ridge.
Some of us did not bring proper hiking gear and footwear for the hike as it was forecast to be raining for the duration of our stay. Eddie therefore suggested we do the shorter Conservation Trail that takes around two hours. After our torturing 11 hours Mt Hallasan hike recently this was music to our ears 🙂
The morning was bright and sunny but cool. The seven of us, led by our guides Eddie and Pat, started the trek behind Awana Resort. We learned that the cool temperature of Genting Highlands (云顶) is due to the clouds rather than the altitude.
Right off the bat we were accosted by hungry mosquitoes. Luckily we had an experienced hiker among us who brought insect repellent so we could shield our tasty skins from the mozzies.
Walking on undulating trails covered with dried leaves that crackle beneath our feet, accompanied by sounds of birds and insects in a discordant mix, we could feel a buzz in the forest far removed from our daily feat.
Deeper into the dense forest we heard loud vocal displays of gibbons punctuating the cacophony. Eddie revealed that there are 22 families of gibbons that thrive within the forest sanctuary. Interestingly he opined that humans evolved from gibbons because unlike other apes they do not have tails and walk on two feet.
Like us indeed 😊
Most of us love rice dumplings (aka zongzi 粽子) or bar chang in Hokkien. We are only familiar with the finished form, ie triangular shaped glutinous rice wrapped in dried brown leaves. We were thus amazed to see these large reed leaves with pointed tip in its natural form. Eddie invited us to lightly touch the rough spiky surface to appreciate its natural defence against predators. No wonder they all appear unblemished and intact.
We also learned about pitcher plants that are endemic in this region. These carnivorous plants derive most of their nutrients from trapping and consuming insects and other arthropods. These amazing plants are currently the main conservation project undertaken by Eddie and Pat.
“Genting Highlands is endemic to 3 species of pitcher plants. The most colourful is the Nepenthes Macfarlanei with red-speckled pitchers. The others are N.Ramispina and N.Sanguinea. Due to intense cross-pollination between the 3 species, many hybrids evolved with interesting shapes, sizes, colours and forms,” explained Eddie.
During our leisurely trek, which took longer than scheduled, Eddie provided fascinating information about wildlife and plants found in this region which also includes hornbills, eagles, butterflies and giant trees which he calls Supermodels of the forest, hence the name Fashion Forest. It was an enriching 3 hours of education that can never be experienced in the classroom.
Exiting the park we gathered in a shed for a debrief by Eddie while taking in the fresh mountain air and a final bird song.
There is much more to learn and explore, perhaps in a future visit. Although we didn’t get to meet the playful gibbons and adorable leaf monkeys in the wild, we were given much food for thought away from the hustle and bustle of the glitzy entertainment at Genting Highlands.
About Awana BIO Park & Treks
Launched in 2017, the Awana BIO Park is a collaboration between nature consultancy Treks.Events (founded by husband and wife team Eddie and Pat) and Resorts World Genting.
Eddie and Pat have made it their life’s work to record and study the animals and plants kingdom here. Being a former teacher, Eddie is extremely passionate about educating the public and creating awareness of the rich biodiversity of this rainforest.
Here’s a short introduction of Awana BIO Park by Eddie:
There are 3 trails in this park:
- Conservation Trail – an 800m loop that focuses on the flora of the Upper Dipterocarp Forest (750-1,200m above sea level)
- Herb Forest Trail – a 1.8km route that highlights wild bamboo grooves and medicinal properties of forest herbs
- Biodiversity Trail – a 2.7km picturesque trek that descends into a valley and passes a cascading stream
It is also interesting to note that this is a “hi-tech” forest. QR codes are placed at strategic stations so you can access related in-depth information on site. Information junkies will not be disappointed 🙂
All trails are conducted by Treks.Events. At the time of writing, fees are RM75 per person for the Conservation Trail, RM95 per person for the Herb Forest and RM135 per person for the Biodiversity Trail. Walking sticks are provided. It is highly recommended that you wear proper trekking attire and footwear.
For bookings, please contact Trek.Events at +6013 399 3667 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Getting to Awana BIO Park from Genting Highlands
Take a cable car from SkyAvenue Station at Genting Highlands (RM16 return) and drop at Awana Station. There is a free shuttle from the station every 20 mins to Awana Resort. Alternatively, if you have a group of 4 to 6 persons you may consider booking a taxi from First World Hotel to Awana Resorts (RM82 one way).