** Bukit Tabur East and Bukit Tabur West are officially closed as of 2016.
Enroute to a conference on Langkawi (it’s a tough life, sometimes), I’ve arranged a stopover in KL and a morning hike with my local friend and guide, Eddie. I’ve suggested Bukit Tabur East, also known as “Dragons Back”, which is fairly close to Kuala Lumpur. I’ve done Bukit Tabur West a few years ago with my local team (an interesting adventure!), and a few other peaks and jungle walks (see bottom) over a number of years with Eddie. I’d considered going on my own, but as I’ve often found on hikes around KL, the starting point is often tricky to find. Bukit Tabur East is no exception: on my own I would have struggled to find the unmarked start of the track, which is near two massive water pipes transporting water from Klang Gates Dam.
The slightly muddy Bukit Tabur East track soons heads steeply uphill, next to a fence and a sign in Malay, which Eddie explains essentially states “enter at your own risk”. (There has been a number of deaths and serious accidents at Bukit Tabur, and the track has been closed a few times and then re-opened by the Forestry Department.)
This first bit is hard work – the trail basically heads relentlessly up the steep slope towards the top of the Bukit Tabur East ridge. After a bit less than a kilometre we reach the base of the rocky ridge.
There’s a view over Taman Melawati (in the Gombak district) through the trees.
There’s one last, and very steep, section that require both hands and the help of a few tree roots…
….then we’re on the top of the jagged quartz ridge, which is on average 200m wide and has a total length of 22km.
The next section along the Bukit Tabur East ridge is what makes the climb worthwhile, and why this is such a popular walk on weekends. Despite some low cloud, there’s a great view over the Klang Gates Dam (also known as the Bukit Tabur Dam). The reservoir is one of the major sources of drinking water for KL and the Klang Valley, and it looks pretty full – five years ago it was critically low, with only 80 days of water supply left.
To the south-west is the Kualu Lumpur city skyline, with the Petronas Towers, The Exchange 106, Four Seasons Place and KL Tower all visible in the distance.
We follow the top of the ridge for a while, which is quite narrow but with no exposure or dangerous sections. The Bukit Tabur East trail then drops into a small dip in the ridgeline and around a rocky outcrop, before reaching the base of a steep rock face.
The route goes directly up this “cliff”; there’s a rope that goes all the way to the bottom, but we’re not sure how reliable it is. There’s enough handholds to clamber up without needing to rely on the rope, which is a safer option.
From the top of the cliff, you can see the Tabur ridge, like a rocky spine, stretching to the west. The thin ridge in the distance is the start (or end) of the West Tabur track.
A short distance from the top of the climb is Bukit East Tabur, at 275m above sea level – although it’s more of a flat area on top of the ridge, than a peak.
There’s great views again over KL city and Klang Gates Dam from here.
A bit further again, and we reach a precipitious drop, before the next vertical column of rock that rises up from the dense forest. The ridge continues to the east, but this as far as we are going! Interestingly, the sheer vertical cliffs are not shown on the topographical map, which depicts a series of steep hills. I’m not sure if this is deliberate (detailed topographic maps of Malaysia do not seem to be available to the general public) or just a lack of detail in the online map.
There’s also a great example of the quartz that makes up the Tabur ridge – it’s the largest quartz dyke in the world and comprises of four types of quartz formations.
The way back is initially the same, along the ridge and down the steep rock face, before taking an alternate route down the side of the ridge. The track down feels slightly less steep than the way up – but is still pretty steep and slippery. It would be tough in wet weather. Today’s its fairly dry, and I still mamage to slip a few times.
At the bottom of the ridge, the track ends in the back of what appears to be some illegal shacks and a “private property” sign. The last 500m to complete the loop is along the road, with a view in the background of Bukit Tabur East.
It’s not a long hike, but you get a good work-out going up the ridge – and some great views along the top. On a clear morning, sunrise from the top would be spectacular. It’s said Bukit Tabur East is more challenging, steeper and riskier than Bukit Tabur West – I would disagree. I found that the western side was a longer hike with more risky sections, where the route involved traversing sections of the ridge next to some big drops. Both felt quite different – although you get quite different views.
0.0km Start at Jalan Kolam Air 1.0km Top of ridge (235m asl) 2.0km Bukit Tabur East peak (275m asl) 2.5km End of Tabur East ridge 3.6km Jalan Melawati (road) 4.2km Back to starting point
More information on Bukit Tabur East
Although there is much misleading information on Bukit Tabur (and no official information on the Forestry web site), this area has been closed since October 2016 due to a number of injuries and fatalities. Should you wish to seek a permit or an exemption to this ban, please contact the Forestry Department of Peninsular Malaysia:
- Central Selangor District Forest Office
Block B, 1st Floor, Platinum Cheras
Zen 1 Rd., 43200 Cheras, Selangor, Malaysia
- Tel. no. (office): +603 9081 4918
- Email : email@example.com
Further information and unofficial resources online:
- Forestry Department of Peninsular Malaysia – Contact Us
- The Star – Bukit Tabur guides operating illegally
- Bukit Tabur Facebook page