A NEW LIGHT DAWNS FOR THE BATEK COMMUNITY OF TAMAN NEGARA
TIME moves differently in the deep impenetrable forests of the Taman Negara National Park. For the indigenous tribes that live by the laws of the jungle, little has changed. Technology has little use for these gentle tribes, while the ways of the jungle has taken precedence over everything else. Living on the fringes of the national park, the nomadic community has been living off the grid as did their ancestors.
Whispers of a lost guide deep in the jungles of Kuala Tahan slowly snake through our group. “A guide got lost?” I ask nervously, careful to keep my voice low. A glimpse of the deep green trees that cluster together in a mysterious tangle across the Tembeling river seem to warn me not to be fooled by the serenity I see before my eyes. This place holds secrets that have yet to be unfolded despite its existence for millions of years. The 130-million-year-old virgin rainforest rises up intimidatingly, as wild and untamed as the animals that inhabit her domain.
“It’s been three days and a search party has been sent to look for him,” someone tells me, before adding thoughtfully: “The orang asal (indigenous people) should be able to help. After all, they know the forest better than anyone else.” I whisper a silent prayer in the hope that the guide would be found unharmed. There’s nothing more unsettling than hearing that a seasoned guide could get lost within the dense forbidding jungle — a place not unfamiliar to the guides who work there.