If you’re a land lover looking for adventure, here’s how you can make your next trip the pinnacle of all your travels
By Pamela Chow
Mt Bromo in East Java, Indonesia, sits atop an active volcano.
Trekking has become an increasingly popular option for travellers who want to experience a different side of a country.
We spoke to experienced trekkers and representatives from SG Trek and Singapore Trekker, and compiled a list of prime trekking spots and must-dos around the region.
Beginners can scale Bukit Broga in Selangor, Malaysia, which is just four hours by car from Singapore and about 45 minutes to the top. (Photo: Singapore Trekking Group)
Short climbs, lasting views
Although hiking in a foreign land may sound strenuous and dangerous, it can and has been enjoyed by travellers of all ages. Trekking groups SG Trek and Singapore Trekker have 65-year-old members, and SG Trek’s youngest member is only five years old.
In fact, “parents are encouraged to bring kids on easy hikes,” shares Vijay Kumar, founder of SG Trek. “This will enrich kids, and teach them about nature. It also helps parents have a great bonding session with their children.”
For beginners, Kumar recommends heading to Malaysia, where plenty of short treks lead to stunning landscapes.
For example, Bukit Broga, a hill in Semenyih, Selangor, that’s about 400m high, is only four hours by car from Singapore. The hike to the top will take leisurely trekkers about 45 minutes.
The Gunung Arong Forest Reserve Mountain in Mersing is 255m high and awards panoramic views of the South China Sea. On clear days, you might even spot Pulau Tioman as well. This hike takes about two hours.
However, no matter how easy the hike may be, precautions must always be taken. Kumar explains that his guides usually conduct a safety brief before each trek, and advises that travellers adopt a “buddy system” and to stay on marked trails at all times.
Besides basic essentials like food, drinks and a headlamp, trekkers should also carry an emergency first-aid kit with them. Travel insurance is mandatory for a booking to be accepted, says Adrian Loh, director of the group Singapore Trekker.
Members of SG Trek at the Lambak Big Tree on Gunung Lambak in Johor, Malaysia. (Photo: Singapore Trekking Group)
Giant trees and aboriginal homes
If you’re a more experienced climber, you may want to try Gunung Lambak in Johor, Malaysia. It is 510m high and sports a steep slope to the summit that has both roped and unroped sections for trekkers.
The mountain is also home to the famous Lambak Big Tree, which can take a good two hours to get to.
Bukit Kutu, near the little town of Kuala Kubu Bharu in Malaysia, poses a bigger challenge at 1,050m with its steep angles and multiple peaks. This climb can take up to four hours, and will take you past modern aboriginal homes, across a partly-submerged bridge and even wading through a river.
Reach the summit boulder, and you’ll be awarded with a 360-degree view of clouds, valleys, mountains and Kuala Kubu Bharu.
A common favourite among more experienced climbers is the Everest Base Camp trek in Nepal, which usually takes as long as 13 days.
Conquering the greatest heights
According to Kumar, adventure seekers can take on the seven highest mountains in Malaysia — collectively called G7 — of which Gunung Tahan, at 2,187m, is the most difficult.
Further away, in Indonesia, hikers can scale the active volcano Gunung Rinjani on Lombok. This trail features loose gravel and the climb is so tough that climbers are easily tempted to give up.
A common favourite among advanced trekkers across is the Everest Base Camp (EBC) trek in Nepal. Loh shares, “You can start with the easy Poon Hill trek, which is suitable for all ages, or go advanced with the EBC trek. Both treks promise a myriad of photo opportunities and you get to experience another part of this world.”
The most challenging part of the EBC trail is getting used to the extremely high altitudes. This hike usually takes around 10 to 13 days, including time for acclimatisation.
However, there are trails even tougher than the EBC trek. Kumar says that scaling Mt Kilimanjaro, at 5,895m, the highest summit in Africa, was the most difficult for his group. SG Trek plans to ascend Russia’s highest mountain,
Mt Elbrus, which is 5,642m tall, in the near future.
Amidst preparations and appreciation of nature, climbers mustn’t forget to be environmentally conscious while trekking.
“We ensure that all hikers do not to litter along the trails. Sometimes, we organise trek clean-up hikes,” says Kumar.
Indeed, by being caring and responsible for the environment, the mountains can remain beautiful for the next generations of trekkers.
Trekking trails in Singapore
Want to go climbing, but have no plans to travel soon? Check out these scenic treks in our own sunny island, as recommended by Vijay Kumar, founder of SG Trek.
Southern Ridges: A 10km easy hike in the nature that covers Canopy Walk, Henderson Waves, Hort Park and Mt Faber Park.
Dairy Farm Nature Park — Wallace Trail: A one- to two-hour walk through a forest of large and tall trees. Some interesting birds can be spotted.
Changi Point Coastal Walk: Breathtaking scenic walk along the coast. Good for a sunrise viewing.
Sungei Buloh Nature Reserve: A hidden gem where one can sight crocodiles, monitor lizards and a variety of migratory birds.
For a challenge:
Bukit Timah to Upper Seletar Reservoir: Trek with a reservoir view through the forest of Bukit Timah. But be careful, as some parts of the trails have fallen trees.
Pulau Ubin Island: A 10km walk from the jetty to Chek Jawa’s wetlands, then back through the coastal boardwalk.
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of Weekender, Issue 149, April 1 – April 14, 2016, with the headline ‘Take a hike: A guide for the trekking traveller’.