Cameron Highlands / Malaysia


The Cameron Highlands

The Cameron Highlands are a mountain section of the Tenasserim Mountains in peninsular Malaysia. They are named after the land surveyor William Cameron, who first explored the area for the British colonial government in 1885. The highlands are still mostly overgrown by virgin tropical rainforest and have eight relatively high peaks. Tanah Rata is the most important place here in the mountains.

Tropical Rainforest
'Tropical Rainforest | Cameron Highlands | Malaysia' by Asienreisender

Biologists claim that the tropical rainforest in peninsular Malaysia is the oldest in the world. Since this part of the geological crust of the earth has been close to the equator, a 130 million years long development of the nature happened here. Now it's getting destroyed within decades. Image by Asienreisender, 2/2005

The nature in the highlands is rich in species. Alone around 700 plant species have been counted here, and a rich animal wildlife adds to that. Eight rivers drain the mountainous scenery.

Since the Cameron Highlands are situated on an altitude of around 1,500m, the climate is much cooler here than in the tropical lowlands along the coastlines. That makes them a favourite resort for holidayers from Kuala Lumpur, Penang or other places particularly along the western coast of Malaysia. It was also the original idea of the British colonial government to create a health resort for the colonialists from the late 19th century on.

Famous are the highlands also for the large tea plantations who stretch over many peaks and valleys. Besides tea grow, due to the cooler climate, a number of other vegetables and fruits here who are untypical for the tropes like strawberries, asparagus, a number of salats, cabbages and also roses.

Native Village
'An Orang Aslli Village in the Cameron Highlands' by Asienreisender

An Orang Asli village in the mountains. Years ago, these people were still living an ancient, nomadic way of life. Now they get monetary support from the government to settle down and become 'civilized'. Image by Asienreisender, 2/2005

Allegedly are 71% of the original forest still more or less intact, but I learned to question these numbers. In my experience, reality in terms of natural conservation looks usually much, much worse than numbers tell.

One can make a number of walks through the tropical rainforests on small jungle trails. There are waterfalls to visit, scenic spots as well as tribal villages of the Orang Asli, the aboriginals of peninsular Malaysia. These forest people, who lived over thousands of years a nomadic life, are now getting encouraged by the Malaysian government to settle down and to adapt a modern lifestyle - working and consuming.

It's about 38,000 people who live up here, and they make the usual mixture of Malaysian ethnics, with the remarkable difference that the Chinese seem to be the most numerous part of the population, followed by the Malays and Indians and a greater share of non-Malaysian citizens. Also the mix of religions is large, covering Buddhism, Islam, Hinduism, Christianity, Taoism and Sikhism.

'Resort in the Cameron Highlands, Tudor Style' by Asienreisender

A resort in the Cameron Highlands, built in 'Tudor Style'. Image by Asienreisender, 2/2005

After the first exploration of the high tablelands only a small path was carved upwards to give access for visitors. Another expedition by Sir George Maxwell in around 1925 led to the decision to create a health resort and farmland. In the following years a first road was built. After completition of the road, a challenging work for the time, from the early 1930s on, the highlands got more and more developed.

After an interruption in the Second World War, development went on in the late 1950s, and urbanization is still growing. More and more land get's cleared, the ever growing behemoth is eating up more and more nature and is an increasing threat for the remaining nature. Also in the Camerons species get endangered and extinct.

The Cameron Highlands came into the focus of attention in 1967, when Jim Thompson, the famous 'Thai Silk King', disappeared here tracelessly and the until then largest search operation in the history of Southeast Asia happened.

Boh Tea Plantations
'Boh Tea Plantations | Cameron Highlands | Malaysia' by Asienreisender

Large parts of the rolling hills in the Cameron Highlands are now coined by tea plantations. The workers here are, as it is said, recruited from Indonesia and Nepal. Images and photocomposition by Asienreisender, 2/2005, 2017