I WOULD like to show you our Malaysian jungle. It's an easy journey from here.'' Our guide was a devout nature lover and a keen trekker, from the look of his boots. From where we were sitting, looking down on Kuala Lumpur's commercial centre, the jungle seemed very remote. He was right, though. Within a matter of hours we were deep in Malaysia's Taman Negara. First a three-hour drive northeast from KL to Jerantut, lunch in a rest house, followed by an exciting 21/2-hour journey up the Tembeling and Tahan Rivers in a long canoe. The adventure started with the canoe ride. We had plenty of time to enjoy the chatter of the gibbons and the whistles of the birds of the forest. The engine humming and the heat of the day lulled us into dreamtime. There's plenty to see in Taman Negara. Spread over 4,343 square kilometres, it has one of the world's oldest rain forests. It has many species of animals, 350 kinds of rare song-birds, 2,400 types of trees, palms and woody vines, and numerous varieties of orchids. Add to this 300 species of fish in its rivers, and you are bound to see kingfishers, hornbills, otters and the fishing eagle if you are patient. Bird-eating spiders share the forest with rare tropical birds while tapir and deer feed in the dense undergrowth. Life is everywhere in this teeming jungle but it is difficult to catch even a glimpse of most of its activity. Except for the occasional sighting of a deer near the track or a macaque swinging through the trees, there's only the mere whisper of a leaf or the crackle of the undergrowth to suggest that world of activity. Making it easier for us to observe the animals in their natural surroundings, the Department of Parks has built several wooden hides. Dotted throughout the park, these hides are built on high stilts and close to natural salt licks. They are fitted with bunks and toilets. Mostly at dusk, dawn or in the middle of the night, plant-eating animals arrive to lick the rocks and the swampy mixture of bullrush and other plants. This ritual replenishes their body minerals which in turn aids digestion. Last year 24,000 people came to the park, 60 per cent of them foreigners. For the most part, people come on a three-or four-day package, adding it to their main Malaysian holiday. Although we didn't see bears, elephant or civet cats - and they are in there somewhere - we did get close to a sambar deer, a cheeky macaque monkey, and many beautiful birds. At night the stars shine on a canopy of silent trees, and the jungle takes on another character. Staying overnight in the hides you have the best chance of all to observe the forest come to life and the antics of its creatures great and small.