I’m on of those Klang Valley denizens old enough to associate ‘Canopy Walk’ to the old wood-and-rope construction in FRIM’s research forest. That canopy walkway has been retired for quite some time now, following damage in a thunderstorm, to allow the trees that support it to recover. But FRIM has since built a new one in Kepong Botanic Gardens.
Well, I say ‘new’, but by now the walkway is a few years old. And the new walkway is not quite a replacement for the old one. For starters, it isn’t within forest, supported by the trees themselves. And secondly, like the canopy walkway in KL Forest Eco Park, it is metal and supported by metal pylons. So, while I’m sure there are practical benefits to these decisions, and far be it for me to question the forestry experts, I personally still miss the old one. The aesthetic and sensory experience, the sound of its tension and of your footfalls, the texture of the ropes and the smell, are completely different.
I guess that’s why it isn’t called a canopy walk, but the Forest Skywalk.
That said, it is still at the edge of forest, so you’re still looking down on forest canopy. And since it is a skywalk and not a canopy walk, they could add other things. For instance, the pylons have viewing towers, with one very tall tower among them. It’s definitely an interesting outdoorsy thing to do in KL.
Is the Forest Skywalk in the Forest Research Institute (FRIM)?
If the Forest Skywalk is a replacement for FRIM’s old canopy walkway, is it also inside Malaysia’s Forest Research Institute? Well, yes and no.
When people think of FRIM, what comes to mind is the original portion that looks like university grounds. That’s because it kind of is. FRIM is the premier forest research institute in Malaysia, and not originally meant for recreational use. However, the success of its effort to re-forest degraded tin mining land made its grounds popular with the public. So FRIM became increasingly visited by joggers, birdwatchers, hikers, and campers.
Eventually, a botanical garden was set up to host living plant collections, as well as divert much of the public recreational visitors. Kepong Botanic Gardens is on the opposite end from the main campus people normally mean when they think of FRIM, but it is still within its grounds. If you’re coming for the Forest Skywalk, you would enter the botanic gardens directly and it has a separate entrance. I discovered this when I did this as part of my work team building activity, and the van driver took a route I didn’t recognise, and we disembarked in a parking area I’d never seen before.
Tip: Since the purpose of FRIM is primarily research and visitors are welcomed onto the same premises only as the secondary purpose, please review the Visitors’ Guidelines, especially if you plan on carrying out activities in groups. This will tell you what activities are permitted where, during what times, codes of conduct, and any registration requirements. For instance, jogging is now only allowed in the Kepong Botanic Gardens section, and not in the main campus area.
How to go to Kepong Botanic Gardens
Kepong Botanic Gardens is located at the edge of Bukit Lagong Forest Reserve, and the margins of a Kepong suburb. Considering its original purpose, it’s a little out of the way for mass transit options. The best public transit route is via the MRT Putrajaya line, alighting at the Sri Damansara Timur station. Take the MRT feeder bus the rest of the way to a stop in Taman Ehsan, and walk the remainder distance to the botanic gardens.
The other option is, of course, to drive there. Which one is the better option depends on how easy it is to get to an MRT station where you are, and where you’re driving from.
As with entering through the main campus side, there are nominal admission and parking fees.
How to get on the Forest Skywalk
The Forest Skywalk is fairly obvious from the entrance to Kepong Botanic Gardens. There is a short walk up a rise around a lake leading up to the ticket building. Ticket prices vary by category, and are different for locals and foreigners. You can also book them ahead of time, which may be useful because there are time slot quotas.
From the ticket office, there is a short and easy trail to where you climb up to the skywalk. It’s definitely much, much gentler than the hike to the original canopy walkway.
|Forest Skywalk ticket fees
|Student (7 to 17 years old)
|Additional fees for 50 m tower
(13 years old and above)
FRIM’s new Forest Skywalk
The Forest Skywalk comprises of eight bridge spans and nine towers. Starting from 18m above ground, the bridge spans vary in height.
At each bridge connection, you have the option of lingering at a viewing tower. The tower in the middle of the skywalk route is special; it goes really high, up to 50m. You have to pay extra to access this lookout tower, but it gives the best panoramic views.
I did choose to get up there, and not without trepidation. As you can see in the photos, I’ve got both hands on the railings, unlike my fearless Thai colleague who seemed immune to any fears of heights. Nonetheless, I pried my hands off the railings, long enough to take photos from this vantage. Content creation ftw!
Other things you can do in Kepong Botanic Gardens
The Forest Skywalk isn’t the only thing you can do at Kepong Botanic Gardens. You can also take advantage of the jogging trail around the lake, and visit the collection gardens around it. A guided nature walk was also part of our team building activity, taking us just a little bit into the forest trails. And apparently, you could even do the Forest Skywalk at night!
And of course, there are still the main campus activities as well. These are less ‘urban’ and more ‘nature’, ranging from camping, night walks to look for nocturnal forest species, a jungle obstacle course, and hikes along wilder trails.
FRIM is on the Tentative List submitted by Malaysia to the UNESCO World Heritage Centre, a precursor step to World Heritage Site nomination. Listed as FRIM Selangor Forest Park, its outstanding value lies in being the oldest and largest re-created tropical rainforest on degraded farming and tin mining land, demonstrating its achievability within one human lifetime. The reforestation effort began during the British colonial period, and has successfully restored all attributes of a tropical rainforest, including restoring soil carbon from zero. Its tree diversity is comparable to the British Kew Gardens, except that they grow as forest stands and not cultivated as display specimens.
Nature walks in Kepong Botanic Gardens vs FRIM main campus
You used to be able to hike independently in FRIM’s grounds. I remember a time when you just showed up at their office, get handed a sketch map, and off you went along the trails. However, it seems that nowadays you’re supposed to get a nature guide to ensure group safety. The FAQs indicate that the fee is RM150.
It just so happens that I have gone on guided nature walks from both the botanic gardens side and the main campus side, since this rule. Although the walk in the Kepong Botanic Gardens side was cut short due to weather, I can say that while both were informative and enjoyable, there is a slight difference in the experience.
Kepong Botanic Gardens is meant to be the horticultural, botanical, and landscaping side of FRIM. Whereas the main campus is more about forestry, nature products, and biomass research. So the trails in the former nature walk had more sections that were constructed boardwalks, and the vegetation felt more maintained.
The nature walk on the main campus side, on the other hand, took us through trails that felt almost like proper jungle. We passed by a stand of kulim trees and could smell its garlicky scent. Wood lore anecdotes were basically the same as if I was on a guided walk in natural jungle. There were meranti hardwood of various species; the name of one reportedly has an amusing backstory related to an excited western researcher, his weary, long-suffering native guide, and miscommunication. (I guess you can tell which walk I preferred!)
Clockwise from top: Boardwalk nature trails in Kepong Botanic Gardens; kulim grove on a nature trail in FRIM; canopy silhouette of the restored rainforest.
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