Rafflesias and Rain

Is it weird to enjoy planning travel itineraries?

I think for a little while, I’m not at home tapping on my phone or Googling the cheapest way to get to Kerama Island. I’m actually there, seeing a different horizon, breathing a different air. 

For many, travel is a privilege, myself included. It provides a temporary escape to a different environments where no one knows you, needs you.

I had the chance to explore a little bit in my own backyard a few weeks back. To glimpse the largest flower in the world, the Rafflesia tuan mudae. The Gunung Gading National Park, about an hour drive from Kuching city, is the only place to find it, along with the tallest tree the world, the corpse flower. 

The Sarawak Forestry FB page announces the limited viewing season of 7 days open to the public. There are about 200 flowers blooming at the same time, but visitors will only get to see one of it which is usually not far from the park entrance. After paying RM 10 for the entrance fee, you can register to join the tour with the nature guide who will guide you to the designated flower whilst adding some extra tips on viewing insects, animals and flora endemic to Gunung Gading. The guide is only RM 3 for about 30 minutes nature walk.

I know some people would rather go on their own to save money, but I daresay most people won’t be able to find the Rafflesia on their own. There are no markers and signboards in a bid to hide these mysteriously stinky blooms.

Our guide explained that the reason only park guides can show people where the Rafflesia are and the limited window is simple. She showed us the trail behind our group that we carved as we inched through the winding virgin rainforest.  When viewing season is over, there are no trails. Human presence in large numbers inadvertently creates a path of destruction through what is otherwise thick growth. However in a bid to educate the public and to earn some money, they allow us to see it for 2 or 3 seasons a year. Most of the year only botanists and scientists are given full access to the ephemeral Rafflesia. 

My verdict? It was big (although not as big as the largest arnoldii variant) and definitely foul. Plus the friendly nature of our guide as well as giving us a complete tour of endemic species made it worth all my 3 bucks.

The park has a few hiking trails including the summit trail that I didn’t get to do. We lazed at one of the waterfalls though. It was raining moderately so we were soaked through. I don’t mind the rain when I want to be rained on.


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