>I WAS ambushed by hungry deer jostling to get at the sweet potato chips in a basket I held high above my head. On my right, one was nudging and licking at my waist while on my left, another was pulling at my T-shirt!
"Hey! Hold on, every one will get a piece! Just don't eat me alive!" I couldn't help saying to the eager bunch.
Deer, oh, dear!
What a unique experience I had on my first visit to Deerland Park in Lanchang, Pahang. The privately-owned nature park is two hours? drive from Kuala Lumpur or about an hour from Gohtong Jaya in Genting Highland.
On arrival, I was handed a basket of cut potatoes and warned to hold it high above my head.
As we walked into the deer compound, we were besieged by a crowd of Timor Deer clamouring for lunch.
Park owner Abdullah Ahmad Maimun, 56, gave us a grand tour of the place, starting with the deer. We were surrounded and prodded by 10 to 12 deer bent on devouring as much potatoes as they could get. After polishing off that in my basket, they moved away, giving me more space to move about.
About 100m away, I spotted another herd of 20 deer - shyer and obviously less hungry - resting among the trees. I was quite astounded to see four of them gallop off into the jungle as I approached. I could have been in a real forest witnessing wild deer spooked by human presence and taking off. That was the beauty of this park, a spacious 4.5-hectare of wilderness.
We requested to see the indigenous Sambar Deer and when we saw a doe with big limpid eyes, we were amazed at its size. It was as big as a horse but she took the cut potato we offered in a most gentle way.
Like the Timor Deer, these animals can be hand-fed by visitors without fear that their powerful jaws may chomp down on their fingers.
|Digging for termites.
Another large animal in the park was a black sun bear affectionately named Muda. It played with Abdullah, lopping around in circles, standing on its hind legs, catching food thrown from a distance and climbing a tree to get a piece of bread held on a bamboo. Visitors were allowed inside the enclosure to feed it foods like honey or condensed milk, and to hug and take pictures with it.
In another enclosure was the mother bear which reared up to full height, exposing the characteristic beige coloured white crescent on its chest, the "sun" that gave the animal its name. Its powerful legs and long viscous claws reminded us that in the wild, this animal could be deadly dangerous as it was capable of tearing a man into shreds!
But here it looked quite docile and contented and when presented with a small log of termites, she happily settled down to dig them out, gobbling them up immediately.
Deerland Park is also home to ostriches and peacocks as well as smaller birds like pheasants and jungle fowls, all ground birds that won't fly away. Imported from China are the magnificent Golden Pheasant and White Pheasant and then there are Guinea Fowl, Red Jungle Fowl and tiny mousedeer.
On request, visitors can get a pig-tailed macaque to sit on their shoulders and are allowed to handle a cute sugar glider from Australia.
Visitors are also allowed to take snapshots with pythons or pick up hedgehogs and rabbits. That's the other marvellous thing about this park.
In other zoos, there's only a small petting section but here many of the animals, both big and small, can be approached, touched and even held by visitors. Where else can you be kissed by a sun bear or get nuzzled by a deer?
Other Things To Do
|Golden Pheasant... all the way from China.
You can embark on a mind-broadening guided walk along the Herb Trail and learn about Tongkat Ali, Kacip Fatimah and 40 other medicinal herbs found in rainforests.
It's possible to have a dip in the river, swing across it on a network of ropes or hike the 200m walkway to the observation tower on Bukit Rengit. Or you can camp by the river and get that much closer to Nature.
Check out the one or two nights camping packages where jungle trekking and other activities can be organised for your group. You have to bring your own tents and sleeping bags.
Just six kilometres away is the Kuala Gandah Elephant Sanctuary which is definitely worth a visit.
Two kilometers from Deerland Park is Bukit Rengit's Institute Conservation Biodiversity (ICB) where accommodation (RM70 for an air-conditioned room) and catered meals are available. Please book ahead.
From ICB, an uphill track will lead you to a waterfall where you can have a picnic lunch in cool surroundings in the midst of an unspoilt tropical rainforest.
But do go and visit the deer park first to get near to and touch wild animals that have been tamed and trained to interact with humans. You'd be sure to fall in love with some of them and you'd wish you can take one home.
Deerland Park: Tel: 013-967 6242 (Abdullah), 09-279 7249 (office). Email: email@example.com
Opening hours: (except Fridays) 10.30am to 5.30pm.
Entrance fee: RM5 (adult) and RM3 (child below 12 years). Foreigners pay double. Group rates are available.
Bukit Rengit Institute Conservation Biodiversity (for accommodations and meals): Tel: 09-276 2009
How To Get There
From Kuala Lumpur, take the Karak Highway leading to Kuantan, drive past Karak, exit at Lanchang toll gate and head towards Kuala Lipis/Raub. Look out for signboards to the Kuala Gandah Elephant Sactuary and drive eight km before turning right again down a narrow tar road to Bukit Rengit and Deerland Park.
The first entrance to Deerland is 2km down the road. Go a little further on and you will reach the second and main entrance where you can buy your entry tickets.
Pictures by CHAN AH LAK and SHARON NG