Mention Pahang and conjures up visions of lush tropical forests, cool
mountain air, endless sandy beaches glistering in the sun, lakes and
waterfalls nesting in the arms of mountain crevices plus everything else
that spells a resort to nature. Pahang is in fact all these and much
PAHANG DARUL MAKMUR - How to get
Bera is a district in Pahang, 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 north, Rompin on the east, Bentong on 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 Ramsar Convention 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 Chinese with 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 Bera and Teriang.
Federal Parliament and State Assembly Seats
Bera district representative in the Federal Parliament (Dewan Rakyat)
List of Bera district representatives in the State Legislative Assembly (Dewan Undangan Negeri)
Bera has 2 mukim or subdistricts.
(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.
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 kmē and the buffer zone of 275 kmē.
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 resort grounds.
Getting to Tasik Bera
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 Iskandar.
for a detailed roadmap of pahang, please click to: http://www.jkr.gov.my/BENCANA/MAP/IMAGE/PAHANG/pahang.htm
for a roadmap to bera, please click to: http://www.jkr.gov.my/BENCANA/MAP/IMAGE/PAHANG/C8.jpg
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 interesting destination.
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 for you.
To Pos Iskandar
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
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 Lake People
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 packages.
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 vegetation free.
Birds, Snakes and other Animals..
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 5m.
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.
Tasik Bera Information Centre
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 thought...
Semelai and the Keruing tree
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.
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 thrill.
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.
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 availability.
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
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.
Activities offered include:
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 traditional handicraft
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 & water
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.
Bank facilities, moneychanger
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 nearest town.
Food and restaurant
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!