KINTA Nature Park is less than an hour’s drive from Ipoh. After the turn from the main Batu Gajah-Tanjung Tualang artery, the bund road that leads to the park is riddled with potholes. The bund road bleeds into a dirt road that goes on for five more bone-jarring kilometres.
Despite the difficulties, the surrounding scenery is striking, even before one enter the park proper. On the right, the Kinta River flows yellow and muddy next to a silted bank that’s barren except for some bushes. In stark contrast, the left side is fertile and green, with lotus ponds and small groves of small trees.
One final turn to the left, one will see an Eden-like sight: giant trees and shrubbery dotting the grassy compound, while a shimmering pond lies beyond the covered footpath. Take a short walk to the viewing pavilion, stop from time to time to gawp at towering rain-trees that soar heavenward, forming a green lacy canopy.
However, Lake Pucung is where all the action takes place. Directly opposite the pavilion, a single islet floating on the pond, covered with raintrees, looking like a giant dark green mushroom speckled with thousands of white dots.
These “dots” are really the over 2,000 fabled migratory birds that have flown from as far away as Mongolia to build their homes on the branches.
A graceful eagle swooping down for a prey in a perfect line. A snowy white egret making a reflection on the water as it flies low. Male herons flaunting their plumes in attempts to woo the females. On the ground, in the air and among the branches, the heronry bustles with activity and echoes with the calls of numerous birds.
Just stand there in mesmerised silence and savour the National Geographic moment. Armed with a DSLR camera, one can get a better aerial view of the area.
With luck, one may find a fallen bird nest that looks like a lumpy pouch encased in a wig-like net that resembles a giant testicle. Amazing how the bird can make this with its beak!
The park has huge potential to be a prime attraction, but something would have to be done about the road coming in. Then, there’s the woefully inadequate facilities. No café to speak of; a peeling signboard that looks tragic; and the absence of a toilet.
In spite of the odds, the park is quietly pulling a crowd of loyal admirers. It has drawn bird watchers from as far as Britain, Hong Kong and the United States. In fact, a group of students from Singapore camped overnight at this site. And they found out from word of mouth.
During dry weather, visitors can hike, cycle or drive around the park, using the many mining roads criss-crossing the site. What we’ve seen is only a fraction of the park.
Lake Pucung alone is already sensory overload. It’s easy to get immersed and forget that there are at least a dozen other mining pools scattered over the 900ha territory that makes up Kinta Nature Park, the majority of them teeming with dense vegetation.
For this, we have to thank the collapse of the tin mine. After the mining lands were left idle, nature began to reclaim them, and thus began its new lease of life. The result is the rich secondary forest we see now. To the birds, this means food – lots of it – which is why and how the area became a magnet for water birds and other wildlife.
Next stop: TT5, the steam-powered tin dredge that operated for 44 years until 1982, when a drop in tin price made it economically unviable.
Sitting in a body of water, the dredge looks like a giant battleship with a system of chutes resembling a host of menacing jagged swords piercing the sky at one end, and a chain of giant buckets at the other which could dig to a depth of 15m and then carry 280 litres of tin-bearing soil upwards into an oscillating drum.
The tin is extracted through a system of jigs and screens, while the excess material is disposed of via the chute system.
The last stop is Clearwater Sanctuary Golf Resort which is famous for being one of the locations for . It’s Sri Damai has a cluster of 30 chalets, idyllically overlooking breathtaking lakes fringed with lush foliage.
Tthe last chalet in the row dubbed Anna’s Suite, was custom-built in a record six months when it was learnt that Jodie Foster would be putting up at Clearwater. The huge living room head straight to the bedroom, and the balcony. The scenery around the lotus-fringed lake is simply awesome.
Well, folks, we have a treasure right at our doorstep, come over and appreciate it!