Cameron Highlands

Last Updated on 9 January 2023

Cameron Highlands is a popular holiday destination, not just for its cool weather but also for the abundant nature and sightseeing activities. With its many tea plantations, strawberry farms, waterfalls, mossy forests, and hiking trails, it is the perfect setting for a relaxing retreat.

So when we couldn’t bear the sweltering heat in Singapore any longer, we decided one day to pack our bags and head for the hills.

Having been warned about the insane weekend traffic, we made sure to head up the highlands on a weekday. The drive from Singapore to Cameron Highlands typically takes about 8-9 hours without stops. To give ourselves time for breaks and meals, we set off at dawn for our driving adventure.

The Century Pines Resort located in Tanah Rata was where we stayed during our one-week trip on Cameron Highlands. With free breakfast provided everyday and a view of the forest from our room where we could spy on the birds, we were happy campers.

Our first hike in the woods was along the Robinson Falls trail route, a short and easy trail to the waterfall. The hike starts at the Animal Feeding Rainbow Garden and proceeds along Trail 9.

The trail starts off paved and easy to follow, though the tiled path could get slippery during wet weather. At one point along the trail, parts of the slope and path had fallen off, so we had to proceed with caution.

Near the trail head, a pair of Stripe-throated Bulbuls (Pycnonotus finlaysoni) came out to greet us.

It was a short 1 km walk before we reached the waterfall. From there we attempted to proceed along Trail 9A, but it got a bit too overgrown, so we headed back the way we came.

Just as we were admiring the gushing water, a Golden-throated Barbet (Psilopogon franklinii) peeked his head out from the berry bush to give us a sideway glance, before going back to his berry buffet.

Along the way, we could hear the melodious singing voice of the Large Niltava (Niltava grandis) echoing in the forest. Their song is an ascending series of 3 to 4 short whistled notes that sounds like a squeaky swing.

A common primate of the highland forest is the White-thighed Langur (Presbytis siamensis). Under threat of habitat loss, the White-thighed Langur is classified as a Near Threatened species. But we were fortunate to see several families of these gentle monkeys hanging out in the fringes of the sub-montane forest during our trip.

Continuing on our quest to seek out the wildlife and birds of the Malaysian highlands, we decided to head to Brinchang the next day. Just like all the other tourists, we had longed to set foot into the famous Mossy Forest, all shrouded in mist and covered in moss like a scene out of the Avatar movie.

Unfortunately, it was not to be, as the road to Mossy Forest was closed off due to a recent landslide. The next best thing we could do was to hike along Jalan Gunung Brincang – the road leading to Mossy Forest – and perhaps get a whiff of Mossy Forest from afar.

We parked our car at the spot marked “Mossy Forest 4WD Ride Stop” on google maps, and embarked on our hike uphill along the deserted paved road. Just as we were about to set off, our sure-footed tour guide, Maria (the pariah), joined up with us and swiftly took the lead.

Maria introduced us to her friends, Tom, Dick and Harry, who were busy keeping guard over their land.

Maria brought us to lovely photo spots…

…where we could enjoy sweeping views of the tea plantations blanketing the valley.

All along the way, we could hear the squeaky calls of the Mountain Tailorbird (Phyllergates cucullatus), who challenged us to a game of hide and seek.

Throughout our hike, we also frequently heard the calls of birds such as the Streaked Wren-babbler, Lesser Shortwing and Pygmy Cupwing, but they were too shy to show themselves. The friendly ones who did come out to greet us were the family of White-tailed Robins (Myiomela leucura) – the mummy…

…the daddy…

…and the kiddo.

Thirsty and a little peckish, we were thrilled when the sign for Mountain Strawberry Farm loomed into view.

There at the entrance, the curious farm goats gave us a sniff and beckoned us in. Unfortunately, Maria did not pass the smell test and was shooed off by the goats.

A strawberry farm situated in such a secluded spot meant that we could pick strawberries at leisure far away from the hustle and bustle of the touristy farms in the centre of town. Indeed, we were the only visitors and had the full attention of the staff who not only helped us pick the ripest strawberries but also helped us take photos with the cheesiest poses.

After we were done picking strawberries, Maria who was waiting very patiently for us met up with us at the entrance and we continued on our journey up the mountain. Not far ahead of Mountain Strawberry Farm, we encountered a team of workers at a road block signalling the end of the road for us. Sadly, we had to turn back without getting a glimpse of Mossy Forest and the mystical creatures hiding within.

On our third day, we decided to take a hike along the small roads leading from Tanah Rata to Brinchang and see what birds we could find along the way.

From our hotel at Tanah Rata, we walked along the main road Jalan Besar for a bit before turning off into Kampung Taman Sedia. As it was a Saturday, the town was bustling with activity, with crowds thronging the markets and cafes.

Along the river running from Kampung Taman Sedia…

…we caught glimpses of the some of the early migrants, such as the Common Sandpiper (Actitis hypoleucos)…

…and the Grey Wagtail (Motacilla cinerea).

From there, it was a pleasant hike along the tree-lined Griddle Road hugging the golf course, with the birds accompanying us all along the way.

We were treated to marvellous views of the golf course while we hiked.

On occasion, the Chestnut-capped Laughingthrush (Pterorhinus mitratus) came out to say “Hi!”.

Troops of Mountain Fulvettas (Alcippe peracensis) flitted from tree to tree, singing their merry song as they went, but they hardly had time to stay still and pose for pictures.

The Bar-winged Flycatcher-shrike (Hemipus picatus) was often perched high up and out of sight. But once in a while, we might catch a glimpse of one.

Very commonly seen in the parks and gardens and everywhere else is the Black-throated Sunbird (Aethopyga saturata).

On our next hiking expedition, it was finally time to take on Trail 10! On the map, there appeared to be several approaches to Trail 10, but some looked like serious bashing was required or did not seem passable at all.

We opted instead for the easy entrance via a proper road leading to the cemeteries.

Along the hike in, we were delighted to run into a Lesser Yellownape (Picus chlorolophus) having breakfast. Our first woodpecker!

High up in the tall trees, a pair of Grey-chinned Minivets (Pericrocotus solaris) were flitting from branch to branch.

Nearby, a family of Sultan Tits (Melanochlora sultanea) were happily feasting on big juicy caterpillars.

The Streaked Spiderhunter (Arachnothera magna) also made an appearance, albeit for a brief moment.

At one point, we attempted to bash a route to Trail 10 through dense undergrowth, but had to abandon that route when the trail led us to a sheer drop into the river.

We eventually managed to find our way to Trail 10, which turned out to be a proper path winding through farmlands…

…up rolling hills…

…and across farm terraces.

Along the way, we could hear the constant chatter of the Silver-eared Mesia (Leiothrix argentauris), but it took us a while before we finally spotted one hiding in the bushes.

Deep in the forest, a pair of Mountain Bulbuls (Ixos mcclellandii) were playing catching, and we tried to play along too.

Suddenly, we heard the wistful cry of the Crested Serpent Eagle (Spilornis cheela). We looked up and there he was circling overhead.

From Trail 10, it is possible to connect to a route through the Cameron Valley Tea plantation. We did not manage to complete the loop this trip, but perhaps we will attempt the full circuit on our next visit.

Instead, we entered Cameron Valley Tea plantation via the main entrance and paid a small fee of RM3 for a walk around the plantation.

Most tourists would choose to aim straight for the food truck and picnic site down below.

We decided to head away from the hustle and bustle and take an off-the-beaten path that brought us deeper into the plantation.

Along the hike, we could spy on the tea pickers hard at work with their shears.

There were also birds we could spy on hiding amongst the tea bushes. The Long-tailed Shrike (Lanius schach) came out and posed briefly before diving back into the bush.

More obliging was the Oriental Magpie-robin (Copsychus saularis), who not only consented to a close-up shot but also entertained us with a song.

We were happy to get lost wandering along the meandering path through the tea bushes…

…and spot raptors soaring high above us, such as the Rufous-bellied Eagle (Lophotriorchis kienerii).

The path eventually got too muddy and that was our cue to turn back.

There is no better way to end a hike than with a cup of hot tea in front of a beautiful view.