Endau Rompin is one of the few extensive areas of untouched lowland forest remaining in Peninsular Malaysia. Straddling the states of Johor and Pahang it is a distinctive landscape of mountain peaks and plateaus, diverse forest ecosystems, and pristine rivers and waterfalls. The significance of this area for biodiversity is underscored by the fact that this is the southernmost expanse of tropical rainforest for Mainland Asia. Plant fossils found here have been dated back to the late Jurassic period around 140 million years old making Endau Rompin. The forests here have remained intact for millions of years, and over this time countless life forms and complex ecological linkages have emerged making Endau Rompin a treasure trove of discovery for researchers. Today, while much of the original landscape of Peninsular Malaysia has made way for large scale agriculture, roads and urban development, Endau Rompin provides a refuge in which Malaysia’s irreplaceable heritage of flora and flora can endure.
In 1993, the Endau Rompin Johor National Park was successfully gazetted. It covers 48,905 ha of lowland rain forest and incorporates two smaller Wildlife Reserves set up by the Johor state government in the 1930s to protect the many large mammals known to occur within this area such as the Asian elephant, Malayan tiger, and gaur (seladang). Endau Rompin National Park is intended for the protection and conservation of plant and animal life and natural ecosystems through careful management and sustainable use, and to ensure that it remains viable as a national park in perpetuity. Johor National Park Corporation (JNPC) is the body entrusted with the role of conserving and protect all living and non-living things in their natural environment within the Park. The conservation management plan for the park addresses both species conservation and habitat protection.
Our knowledge of the biodiversity of Endau Rompin has been contributed by a number of early explorers from the colonial period as well as at least two major scientific expeditions. The historic scientific and heritage expedition led by the Malaysian Nature Society over 1985 and 1986 generated findings that played a key role in distinguishing this area for its exceptional biodiversity and unique geological formations. For example, there have been 71 species of palms documented from Endau Rompin, a third of all the palms found in Peninsular Malaysia and including a handful that are endemic to this area.
A subsequent expedition conducted by JNPC with Universiti Malaya in 2002 has contributed even more records. UM has documented150 species of Ferns from the National Park, and collections of mosses, ferns and fungi are expected to yield more important finds when adequately studied.
Endau Rompin provides critical habitat for endangered species which include the Malayan tiger (Panthera tigris jacksoni), the Malaysian tapir (Tapir indicus), and the Asian elephant (Elephas maximas). These species are just some of the 95 species of mammals found here – there are six species of primates including the white-handed gibbon (Hylobates lar) and the banded leaf monkey (Presbytis femoralis). Civet cats, leopard cats, mousedeer, wild pigs and porcupines are some of the many smaller mammal species that one might be lucky enough to see within the National Park.
There is an abundance of birdlife within the park – 250 species have been recorded here including seven species of hornbills. The Rhinoceros hornbill and the Argus pheasant with their distinctive loud calls are some of the signature species of intact lowland forest that are found here.
The National Park is important for aquatic biodiversity as it protects the headwaters of rivers that are still pristine. So far at least 76 species of freshwater fish have been recorded from these rivers including those that are favour only clean fast-moving streams such as the prized Malayan mahseer (the kelah) and green arowana (kelisa), species that are becoming increasingly scarce in other parts of the country.
There is a delightful diversity of reptiles and amphibians found within Endau Rompin owing to its network of streams and waterfalls. So far 37 species of snake and 36 species of lizards have been recorded here. The animals can be spotted by visitors with keen eyes – from the Gekko Smithi preying on insects attracted to the lights at the Park Centre, to more unusual and rare sighting such as of the brown Asian tortoise (Manouria emys), the grand angle head lizard (Gonocephalus grandis) and the rough-necked monitor lizard (Varanus rudicollis).
More than 56 amphibians have been recorded from here, mostly a diverse array of frog species whose noisy choruses characterize the wet season. Among these is the impressive Malayan giant frog (Limonectes blythi) which can weigh as much as a kilo when full grown.
The geological history of Endau Rompin dates back at some 240 million years. Many remarkable formations are found here including many that have been shaped over thousands of years such as the remarkable bath-tub like depressions found at Upeh Guling and some of the other waterfalls. The bowl is shaped by smaller loose rocks moved in a circular motion by swift currents over the surface of the large boulders.
Dark volcanic rocks found in the upper reaches of Endau and Selai characterize the spectacular waterfalls such as Buaya Sangkut and Takah Tinggi Falls which were formed by large scale faults creating steep-sided cliffs and deep gorges.
Endau Rompin is an irreplaceable biological resource of genetic materials. There is an amazing diversity of species, many of which may be able to be developed for commercial value such as orchids, timber trees, ornamental plants, edible plants, wild fruits as well as plants with potential pharmaceutical value. The Park has more than 120 species of orchids, 20 species of wild gingers.
There is also a rich ethnobotanical tradition as indigenous peoples have long made use of plants for a wide variety of uses such as food, flavouring, building materials, craft and over time have built a knowledge base of which parts of plants can be used as tonics and which have medicinal properties.
The indigenous people of this area are Orang Asli of the Orang Hulu or Jakun sub-ethnic group. Several of their villages are located close to the National Park. They have a long history of association with these forest and rivers and many continue to reuly on these resources for their livelihoods. Local people here possess an intimate knowledge of their surroundings and many aspects of their culture, traditions and legends relate to the world around them. Some have found employment in the Park, while others earn extra income by providing services for tourists and visitors.
The Selai Gateway which opened in 2003 is situated at the western access to the Park. Selai was named after Kampung Selai, an Orang Asli village near the entrance. For prospective visitors, this is the opportunity to enjoy forest hikes alongside clear streams and shaded pools. There are some stunning waterfalls here.
Takah Berangin waterfall
Takah Pandan waterfall
Takah Tinggi waterfall, a magnificent seven-tiered waterfall is about a day’s hike from the camp area.
A Nature Education and Research Centre is located here and provides nature interpretation and support for the activities of researchers and other visitors.
Some of the main attractions here are the fan palm forest at Janing Barat and patches of heath forest which are impressive sites of plant endemism with rare species adapted to the impoverished sandy soils. At Kuala Jasin, visitors enjoy the idyllic view at the confluence of the Jasin and Endau Rivers. There is a Kelah Fish Sanctuary at Kuala Marong where it is possible to get unusually close to the fish.
Other places to visit are Tasik Air Biru – a blue water pool, Upeh Guling Waterfall where it is possible to view unique rock formations, Takah Tempang Waterfall and Buaya Sangkut Waterfall which is named from the folk tale of a stranded crocodile.