BANDAR BERA, PAHANG.
or Bera Town is a town and district capital of Bera district, Pahang
Bera District and Land
Majlis Daerah Bera (MDB)
is a district in
Malaysia. Bera district
is founded on February 1,
1992 following the
breaking up of the
Temerloh district. Once
considered as problematic area (illegal land exploration), Bera emerged
as an important district especially in the agriculture sector. The
district got the name from the Malaysia's largest freshwater lake, Lake Bera.
According to the
Orang Asli Semelai,
Bera derived its name from a type of seaweed, ‘’Reba’’. Located in the
south-west of Pahang, the district bordered Temerloh and
Maran on the
Rompin on the east,
the west and
Jempol district of
Negeri Sembilan on
the south-west. Bera district is renown for Bera Lake, a freshwater
lake and its surrounding wetlands, that has been protected under the
since November 1994.
Bera district is home to
88,800 people (estimate 2008), with the Malay/Bumiputra formed the
majority (55,000) (61.94%), the
22,500 people (25.34%), the
Indian with 4,400
people (4.95%), while the Others and Non-citizen with 400 (0.45%) and
6,500 (7.32%), respectively. The major town in Bera are Bandar
TASIK BERA, PAHANG.
(Tasik Bera in
Malay) is a natural
freshwater lake system,
located in southwest Pahang, Malaysia in the saddle of
the main and eastern mountain ranges of
Malaysia, extending 35 km long and 20 km wide, drainings into the Pahang River.
the largest freshwater swamp in Peninsular
Malaysia, Tasik Bera or Bera Lake remains both a unique and remote
wetland wilderness. Surrounded by a patchwork of dry lowland dipterocarp forests,
the lake environment includes islands of peat swamp forests. Rich in
wildlife and vegetation, the ecosystem which supports a diversity of
animal and plant life, and sustains the livelihood of the
branch of the
Orang Asli people
inhabiting the wetlands.
Like tropical rain thundering
down to cool the heated earth, lakes have a strangely cooling effect,
even if it's only part of a moving scenery. There are only 2 natural
lakes of respectable size in peninsula Malaysia and both of them are
found in the state of Pahang - Tasik(lake) Bera being the larger of the
two. Tasik Bera is important for its biodiversity. This is Malaysia's
largest natural lake. It is a shallow, seasonal, riverine lake system
that flows into the Pahang River (Peninsular Malaysia's longest river).
It is home to 94 fish species, approximately 200 bird species; and
endangered reptilian species such as the Malayan False Gharial (a
freshwater, fish-eating crocodile), the totally protected Striped Giant
Soft-Shelled Turtle, the much sought after Malayan Giant Turtle,
reticulated pythons that can grow to a length of 18 feet, prehistoric
looking monitor lizards and lots of frogs species.
Another view of Bera Lake
Jetty from Bera Lake
This unique floating jetty was at Lake Bera on November 2007.
Later that year, these floating pieces have been washed away by the flood.
It has been protected under the Ramsar Convention
since November 1994, which allows traditional use of the area to
continue. The core zone consists of 260 km˛ and the buffer zone of 275
Persona Lake Resort offers a
choice of chalets, deluxe rooms and dormitory. Besides basic facilities
and a coffee house, kayak rides and guided jungle trekking activities
are available at no extra charge for guests. The Tasik Bera Ramsar Site
Management maintains a site-office near the resort and conducts free
briefing on the going-on at the lake.
For the Indiana Jones wannabes
who plan to rough it out in the outdoors, SABOT maintains several jungle
camps at various locations along the lake for visitors to spend the
night. If you’re lucky you can catch a glimpse of the rare waterfowl,
mousedeer, porcupine and more.
The jungle camps available are
the Kampung Chenderung Jungle Camp, Kampung Sembilan Campsite, Kampung
Dato Campsite and Kampung Mikok Campsite.
Guests can also opt to stay at a
traditional Semelai house. Built the traditional Semelai way, the house,
which is called Balai, can accommodate up to 10 people. It provides
spartan amenities in the form of a well, an out house and bathroom
located outdoor. Kerosene lamps are used at night.
Another good way to experience
local hospitality is to participate in a homestay programme. The
homestay programme gives you the chance to stay in a traditional Semelai
house and experience the everyday life of a Semelai family.
If you prefer to be a bit closer
to nature and you have your own tent, you may set up camp near to the
traditional house or any of the jungle camps. Camping is allowed on the
Getting to Tasik Bera
From Kuala Lumpur
East Coast Expressway to Tasik Bera Resort
Take the KL - Kuantan Highway or better known as the East Coast
Expressway and exit at the Temerloh exit toll. Drive towards Temerloh
town and out towards Kuantan. There will be signs showing the way to
Kuantan. On the way out of Temerloh town, there is a roundabout and
here, take the 9 o'clock on the roundabout to Tasik Bera. This old road
will take you to Bera town. There will be clear signs to Tasik Bera from
here. From Temerloh town to Bandar Bera is about 30km and at the turn
off from Bandar Bera to Tasik Bera Resort is another 18km or about 1/2hr
Travel time: 2.5 - 3 hours
Senawang to Pos Iskandar
Take the North-South Highway
south and then take the Senawang exit toll. Follow the signs to Kuala
Pilah. About 20mins into the drive from Batu Kikir town, you will reach
a T-junction which is signposted for Muadzam Shah. Turn right here and
head down this road all the way until you see the Semelai Eco-Tourism
Pos Iskandar signboard. Turn left at the following junction and head
towards Tembagau 6 & 8. From here it's another 15mins drive through oil
palm plantations until you see another signboard for Semelai Eco-tourism
Pos Iskandar. Turn right here and follow the road until you reach Pos
Follow the North-South
Highway to Yong Peng. Turn off at Yong Peng towards Segamat on route 1.
At Segamat turn right into route 12. Follow this route for another 60km
and then turn left at Kampung Landak. There are Tasik Bera signs along
the way, just follow this for another 55km until the last sign shows a
left turn into the last 5km stretch to Persona Resort. Travelling time:
From KL / Singapore
Take the train to Triang (KTM East Bound train schedule).
Travel time: 7hours
Disembark at Triang station.
Arrange with Persona Lake Resort (Tel: 609-5135566, Fax: 609-5130510) or
SABOT (6013-2865367) for pick-up service.
Express bus service from Kuala
Lumpur to Temerloh is available at the Pekeliling bus depot in Jalan Tun
Razak (adjacent to the Titiwangsa LRT/monorail stations). At Temerloh,
arrange with Persona Lake Resort or SABOT for pick-up service.
Admittedly Tasik Bera is very
much a place off the beaten track and may not be everyone’s cup of tea.
But for the intrepid
eco-traveler who seeks the unique opportunity to see and experience
natural environments and local customs, Tasik Bera is indeed an
The image of the beguiling Tasik
Bera will remain etched in the mind of any visitor, that no postcard can
ever reproduce. So, if you are into ecotourism, Tasik Bera is definitely
Take the bus from the
Puduraya Bus Terminal to Bahau and then from Bahau take a taxi to Pos
Iskandar. Be sure to tell the taxi driver you wish to go to Pos
Iskandar. The cost of taxi will be about RM60 per way.
Take a taxi to Tasik Bera Resort. From Triang = RM60 per taxi per way. The taxis at the bus or train
stations charge an average of 20% more than the quoted rate.
Major City Distance
Boating in the lake
Tropical forest 100 years old tree
Sunset in Bera Lake
Moon high above the tree tops
Large mammals have also been
seen in the area and tell tale signs of their existence can be found
along nature trails: claw marks on tree trunks, fresh droppings, paw
prints along the banks of the lake.
The lake stretches 35 km by 20
km and covers 7,000 hectares of complex, interlocking ecosystems made up
of open waters, reedbeds, ponds, lakes, rivers, dry lowland forests,
fresh water swamps, pandanus and blackwater swamps (peat). At Tasik
Bera, there is still a chance for the fauna and flora to survive and to
rejuvenate despite looming threats that the lake will dry up in the near
future as water sources disappear due to increasing conversion of
forests to palm oil plantations and excessive siltation and soil erosion
caused by uncontrolled logging activities and development.
The highlight for most visitors
to Bera is a visit to the Semelai villages. The Semelai people call
themselves Semaq Tasik (the lake people) and have been living in the
lake area; working on the land - planting crops such as paddy, bananas,
tapioca, sugarcane etc for over 600 years. They were accomplished forest
farmers, practicing the age-old method of shift cultivation. The farmers
rotated their crops on that same clearing of land until the soil in the
area was no longer suitable or fertile enough to sustain another cycle
of good harvesting. Then they collectively moved to another area. When
one plot of land was being worked on, the old areas were left to
regenerate. Excellent example of forest management! During the Emergency
period (the 1948-1960 Communist uprising), the government decided to
relocate the free-roaming Semelai families into settlements. A majority
of them settled at POS Iskandar, the largest Semelai settlement area at
Bera. But there are still splinters of families living in small villages
scattered around the lake. Today, shifting cultivation is no longer
practiced due to limited land space source of income for the Semelai
mainly derives from tapping rubber on their 6-acre
'government-sponsored' land, working as labourers at nearby logging
camps, harvest from the surrounding forests & lake, making handicraft
and offering various adventurous and cultural eco-tourism activities and
The Semelai hunters search on
reed beds for their favourite food item : the turtle. Giant Turtle meat
is a much sought after delicacy among the Semelai people and is
definitely a must-have at important festivals. The only way to flush
them out is to set the reeds on fire. Sometimes the fire gets out of
control and singes patches of the screwpines and other areas. This
practice indirectly helps control and keep some parts of the lake
Birds, Snakes and other
Leaving Just before entering
into the river valley we see beautiful white water lily and pink lotus
gardens. Reed beds spread out from the forested areas so thick and
compact that if we were to step off the boat onto the reeds we would
seem to be standing in the middle of a prairie. Although the lake is
shallow, between 2 and 5 metres during the dry season (February to
April, June to August), The water-level can rise another 3 metres during
the Monsoons (April, May and September through to January). The depth of
the lake wasn't the worry- not knowing what lurks beneath the surface
was a little more unnerving. The Malayan False Gharial, various blind
snakes, pipe snakes, water snakes and vipers are quite often seen in
such swamps. The Malayan Giant frog is a resident of the lake, often
tipping the scales at 1 to 2 kg. Closer to the plantations live the
large reticulated pythons that can grow to a length of between 4m and
Selling pythons used to be a
supplementary source of income for the Semelai community. The snake
hunters claimed that they could trap as many as 17 pythons per week,
placing nets in the river channels. The nets are of a certain size that
allows the very large and the young to escape whilst trapping the rest.
Although selective hunting is good but the large number of pythons
caught has greatly reduced its population and if it continues, their
survival would be seriously threatened.
Chugging slowly into the river
channel, we passed Semelai people out on their perahu jalur (dugout
canoes) fishing in the little inlets or laying out their fish traps
baited with tapioca and palm oil fruits.
Visitors Centre at Tasik Bera
The Tasik Bera Tourist
Information Centre has a museum and some brochures providing general
information about the lake, the lake people and the importance of
wetlands to the economy of the region. The brochure states that there
have been sightings of a large variety of birds and apart from the
commonly found ones, there are the Black-naped Monarch, the
Grey-breasted Babbler, the Siberian Blue Robin, the Lesser Adjutants
(burung botak kecil), the Crested Fireback (ayam pegar) , the Malayan
Peacock Pheasant (Merak Pongsu) endemic only to Peninsular Malaysia and
various species of woodpeckers, kingfishers, hornbills, eagles, bulbuls,
spiderhunters, parakeets and parrots.
Although the lake is host to
over 200 species of birds, we found birdlife at Bera extremely difficult
to spot. Apart from the Grey-Headed Fishing Eagle flying away in the far
distance, a number of pied fantails frolicking in the screwpines and
pacific swallows, we saw little of anything else. Perhaps the loud
'brrrr' of the engine frightened them off.
But the number of waders and
other waterbirds is extremely low; over hunting by people being the main
reason. Large predatory fishes are also blamed. There are large fishes
in the lakes such as the adult giant catfish that weighs more than 30
kg. One wonders if, a few large predators in the water could cause the
demise of the many bird species living and feeding there. Food for
Semelai and the
To some, the highlight would be
a visit to the Semelai settlement at Kampung Jelawat to see how the
Semelai harvest oil from the kruing minyak. A fire is lit in a large
hole hacked in the trunk to draw the oil.
The tribe cultivate
padi huma (hill padi) as well. The Semelai call themselves "the lake
people". They lived around the lake for 600 years. They plant hill padi,
banana, tapioca, sweet potato, sugarcane as well as hunt for small
animals and fish.
The tribe is known for making handicraft using
mengkuang frond and carve miniature perahu jalur (canoes) from balau
wood for sale.
Activities at Tasik Bera
Lake Bera and the Semelai people
offer a variety of unique experiences. To clock a number of unique
experiences in one destination, is indeed rare.
The perahu jalur which is a
shallow dugout traditional sampan normally carved from a single tree
trunk were once the only mode of transportation on the lake before
motorized boats were introduced. Today, they are used mainly by women
when they go onto the lake to harvest the screwpine leaves for their mat
weaving or to install bubu or fish traps in the shallow inlets.
Visitors to the villages can opt
to try the rowing out into the lake on the perahu jalur or be taken out
on small flat bottomed motorized boats. Squeezing through tight canals,
hemmed in by high walled screwpines requires skillful boatmanship and
the Semelai are the most skilled. Skimming the still waters, ducking low
overhangs and flicking off strangely alien insect forms is a real
The Semelai handicraft can be
regarded as one of Malaysia's more refined handiwork amongst the Orang
Asli groups. Their crafts range from mat weaving, to bubu making and
carving of model perahu jalur. Another interesting aspect of the Semelai
culture is their musical instruments such as the Semelai Violin or Rebab
where its rounded base is covered with the skin of Lake Bera 's giant
pufferfish. The gambang resembles a gamelan in ways and is played by two
people sitting on opposite sides to each other. Other instruments are
the tetawak and the rebana.
The Keruing tree (dipterocarp
specie) is highly regarded by the Semelai. In the old days, damar from
this tree was highly prized and middlemen were commissioned by Arab and
Indian traders to trade with the semelai. It was used in perfumes, as
boat sealant and as lilin or candle wax. The candle wax when lit gives a
heady, woody, scented aroma and is simply sublime.
The Semelai people have for
centuries been in contact with the 'outside' world, trading with the
middle men traders for basic necessities such as tools and food products
for which they bartered with rattan, damar, scented wood such as
sandalwood and other jungle produce. Many of the Semelai no longer
practise their old ways..the villages have changed to incorporate modern
amenities and luxuries. Their assimilation into the society is almost
complete. They now rely on revenue from their rubber plantations and
handicraft items; they also do some hunting to trade. But they still
plant paddy twice a year and after the harvest, they come together to
celebrate and rejoice.
Makcik Titi and her husband, Pak Engkok own
three Keruing trees within the area of Kampung Jelawat, a Semelai
village. The trees have been in her family for over 150 years. Makcik
Titi has been collecting oil from the trees for over ˝ a century. A 15
minutes trek on level ground took us to the site of the trees. The first
Keruing tree looked rather odd. Chunks had been cut out of the trunk
about 3 feet from the ground; making it look like the hearth of an old
fireplace or a small pizza oven. Each tree 'housed' three of these
"ovens". Makcik Titi twisted a handful of dried leaves together, lit one
end and tossed the leaves into the gaping hole. Instantly the remaining
oil in the hole caught fire, flames licking the bark of the tree. The
fire is meant to stimulate flow of the oil from within. Ten minutes
later, she put out the fire. She explained that this method does not
kill the tree. In fact, the tree may continue to live for another 200
years if it is not abused. Back at her house, she collected a RM20 fee
from us for the bit of show-and-tell we had just witnessed.
Kampung Jelawat is a 20 minute
walk from the bridge where the boats were moored. Perahu jalur is also
for hire here. The charges are RM20 per boat per hour subject to
The Semelai's are generally shy people and
they speak little or no English. Basri, our boatman spoke little English
too, making it a bit difficult to communicate. At Pos Iskandar, you may
be able to converse with one or two villagers there. Pos Iskandar is
also approachable by road. There is an access road not far from the
Tasik Bera Resort turning. It leads you there without having to pay for
the boatride. But the highlight of visiting Bera is really the lake.
Advice No.3: road going into POS Iskandar requires a hardy car.
The SABOT (Semelai People's
Association for Boating and Tourism) arranges homestay as well as
eco-adventure or eco-cultural programmes for guests. A 3 day 2 night
package for 10 persons or more for RM250 per person and includes
activities plus meals and boat rides.
Ramsar Site; live to
tell a story - another day
If I were to raise a
statement that the preservation of Tasik Bera's profound sanctity has
much to do with a little town called Ramsar, tucked away in a corner of
Iran - would anyone believe me?
Indeed would anyone really care anyway?
But some of us did care enough
to make a few changes and in 1971, something really big went down in
Ramsar. After an exchange of opinions, views and a few signatures
amongst emissaries from several nations, the world's oldest
environmental treaty was finally sealed. This Convention on Wetlands of
International Importance (Ramsar) was formed to protect important
wetland areas around the world. But it was only in 1994 when Malaysia
signed the Ramsar Convention that secured Tasik Bera's undecided fate.
Tasik Bera was made Malaysia's first Ramsar site. To be nominated as a
Ramsar site, there are many regulations that have to be adhered to -
there are strict obligations to protect the fauna, flora and the
delicate ecosystem of the wetland.
Learn how the natural resources
of the forest are used. See the different animal paw-prints that can be
found around the lake including those of the endangered tiger, wild
boar, leopard, sun bear and mouse deer.
Guides will demonstrate how
damar (resin) is extracted from the Keruing tree (a dipterocarp); they
do this by cutting the bark of the tree and lighting a controlled fire
in the hole made in the trunk, thereby keeping the resin flowing from
the hole. High in essential oils, the resin was once used by the Arab
and Indian traders to make perfume, candles, used for caulking boats and
as fuel for torches.
Thick stands of Pandanus (screw
pines) dominate the lake, creating a labyrinth of narrow waterways and
secluded bays. Moving silently through this maze in a traditional dugout
canoe give visitors the best chance of spotting the elusive wildlife and
secretive bird species that make the lake their home.
Although fishing is allowed,
there is a limit to what and how many one may catch. Guides closely
monitor all landed catch, to prevent rare species from being depleted.
They will also demonstrate the more than 50 different fishing techniques
used by the Semelai.
Cultural show and
Semelai handicraft is regarded
as one of the more refined amongst the Orang Asli groups in Malaysia.
Skilled elderly craftsmen show how they make traditional musical
instruments, animal traps, farming utensils and miniature canoes and
model Semelai houses.
The Semelai women weave Pandanus
leaves into beautiful baskets, intricate mats, hats and even purses.
Visitors can join the villagers
in a traditional dance called sewang.
For a trip around the
lake and more, wet seasons are from April to May and September to
January. Drier months are from February till April and June till
August. But expect rainfall every now and then during dry months. As
for fishing, April to September seems the most appropriate months.
Electricity is powered by
a large generator and supplies power throughout the day. 240V There
is constant water supply, but no hot water available.
There is a public phone
booth just outside at the entrance to the carpark. Only Celcom
service can receive reception here. Sometimes the resort's own phone
line even fails to pick up signals. There are no Internet
facilities, although Encik Aziz, the resort manager has a modem in
the office. As he says, it is extremely difficult to dial a line in.
None. Good banking
facilities in nearby towns like Bera Town,Triang and Temerloh. The
Resort accepts only cash.
There is a small counter
at the cashiers where cigarettes, sweets, crisps, tissues some basic
medication for scratches and bites and toothpaste. Some local
handicrafts are sold there.
Bring your own films and a
spare set of batteries. Develop your photos only when you get to the
The menu is limited but
they do serve freshwater fish at market prices, which the staff will
advise, you upon ordering. There are about 4 species available to be
cooked in various ways such as steamed, sweet sour, curried - your
choice. The quails (burung puyuh) that used to overrun the place in
the early years have now been given a permanent listing on the menu
at RM5.50 a piece!
Word of advise No.5, when ordering coffee,
do ask for susu cair (pronounced cha-er) which means evaporated milk
otherwise the norm here would be to serve you with condensed milk.
And there is no fresh milk unless you are willing to bring a pint
torch, matches, mosquito coil, small padlock with key to lock
Slippers/sandals, raincoat, trek
Binoculars, notebook, guidebooks,
Toiletries, medication, sun block,
toilet roll, soap, soappowder, women's hygiene products
sunglasses, spare spectacles,
contact lens items, sunblock and hats