If I want to go forest bathing, but can’t be bothered to wake up early enough to go all the way to FRIM, or drive all the way to Petaling Jaya for Gasing Hill, Taman Tugu is my go-to place for hiking in KL. It’s not as convenient as KL Forest Eco Park, and is ‘only’ a rehabilitated secondary jungle. But the rainforest is bigger and has better trails.

Even though Taman Tugu is located just across Jalan Parlimen from the Perdana Botanical Gardens recreational complex, for some reason I only discovered it relatively recently. I reckon it’s probably because the park is situated by the Central Bank area of the city, where I have little reason to pass through.

There are no entry fees for Taman Tugu.

How to get to Taman Tugu

Concrete baffle wall at the main nursery entrance of Taman Tugu. A simple sign in rust brown metal reads 'Pintu Masuk Tapak Semaian | Taman Tugu Nursery Entrance'.
Taman Tugu nursery entrance

Like the Perdana Botanical Gardens, Taman Tugu (“Tugu Park”) is located in KL’s genteel area. The hills where both parks are located separate Malaysia’s Parliament building from the downtown area around Dataran Merdeka. In this zone, you can find the eminent icons of Malaysia as a nation, from the National Museum south of the botanical gardens, the National Mosque near the old railway station, the Royal Malaysian Police headquarters, the Central Bank, the National Archives, the works department and health ministry offices, the arts & heritage academy, and of course – the visiting palace of the Sultan of Selangor, who ruled over Kuala Lumpur before it was ceded to the Federal Government.

You would think it would be easy to get to a place near so many interesting attractions. But the public transport options are identical with Perdana Botanical Gardens, with an extra 45 minutes’ walk after.

Instead, Taman Tugu is best reached by car. There is a free parking area next to the main entrance (nursery entrance). Parking has always been ample in my experience, except when there’s an event on location. Example below:

Pro Tip: Taman Tugu is located within the broader National Monument complex. The better known landmark in this location is Malaysia’s National Monument, or Tugu Negara, which is just a short walk from Taman Tugu’s nursery entrance. It is a memorial commemorating the sacrifice of soldiers defending Malaysia in pre- and post-colonial times, since World War I.

The hiking trails in Taman Tugu

Taman Tugu has several short hiking trails that vary in length. There is a trail map in the Tapak Semaian (tree nursery) area. Take a photo of it so that you can easily stay oriented. Along the trails, there are clear checkpoint markers, so that it’s easy to refer to the map and work out where you are. On the other hand, it’s only a small forest within a 66-acre complex, with built environment all around. There are only so many ways you can go.

All of the trails are about half an hour to half a day sorts of lengths. Some of them emerge at alternative entrances into Taman Tugu. However, not all of the alternative entrances are open all of the time. The Padang Merbok entrance (E4), for instance, is only open on weekend mornings.

Map of the Taman Tugu trails

As Taman Tugu is a secondary forest, the plants and trees along the trails are different than in KL Forest Eco Park. They are also different from Gasing Hill, which is a post-rubber estate secondary forest. There are more cultivated species in the mix, because the area used to be the British officers’ settlement in Kuala Lumpur.

Gravel trail leading into one of the trails in Taman Tugu. Secondary jungle crowds close along the sides of the path. Wooden slats are used to  retain gravel as steps rising up the trail.

Views along Taman Tugu trails

Small butterfly on an oblong leaf
Trailing seed pods of a jungle tree.
Young banana fruits
Dark magenta banana 'heart' hanging from a banana tree.
Taro plant in Taman Tugu.
Earth steps retained by wooden slats rising up a slope along a trail in Taman Tugu.
Baby banana fruits and banana flowers

History of Taman Tugu

Taman Tugu is the property of Malaysia’s sovereign wealth fund, Khazanah Nasional. It was once the residential area for British colonial officers, and later, Malaysian government officers.

You can still see signs of the old government residences along some of the trails. For instance, the concrete slabs for the government houses are left in place. Benches sponsored by charitable individuals have been placed on some of them. Along the Green trail, you will even pass swing sets which are remnants from the former houses. The park authority has preserved them for trail walkers to use. Some oil palm stands remain, but not because there was once an oil palm plantation here. These were planted as decorative palms in the British quarters, the seeds having been brought over from West Africa.

Given its prime location, there had been plans to develop it into a profit-generating theme park, or other commercial development. If you ask me, that would have been so out of step with the classy land use around it.

Fortunately – and somewhat miraculously for Malaysia – Khazanah consulted with the local residents and the Malaysian Nature Society, and decided on a more visionary plan. The secondary forest at the location would be preserved as a public park. Moreover, the forest would also be rehabilitated in partnership with the forestry experts at FRIM. Endangered rainforest trees were planted within the secondary forest, and a tree nursery established to continue adding more. The park aims one day to achieve a tree density of 200 trees per acre, the same as in primary rainforest.

Eventually, Taman Tugu will be transferred to the National Heritage Trust, a Khazanah entity inspired by the National Trust UK, to be preserved as a green space for ever.

Taman Tugu and urban reforestation

The tree nursery is just beyond Taman Tugu’s visitor facilities. On top of that, it still has active involvement from Malaysian organisations promoting forest regeneration and urban re-wilding, such as the Free Tree Society.

You can also adopt a tree and support the regenerative efforts at Taman Tugu. There are QR codes for digital payment systems displayed at the main seating area. A minimum donation of RM100 gets you a digital certificate of your contribution.

Amenities in Taman Tugu & things to do

At the moment, the visitor amenities at Taman Tugu are not excessive, which I think is the way it should be for a nature site. There are well-maintained bathroom facilities, simple seating areas with an industrial chic aesthetic, and a small stall by the roadside for souvenirs and packaged drinks. There’s also usually a small stall selling fresh coconut drinks.

The visitor area, or ‘Taman Tugu Lawn’, are also available for event hires. I’ve seen a wedding reception held here before, and it was a beautiful garden-themed wedding.

Lately, they’ve begun having food stalls operating on weekend mornings. This means it would be possible to have breakfast as well as a hike. For the benefit of other zero waste practitioners, it is possible for you to avoid disposable plastic packaging if you were to bring your own kit. In fact, if you come on the first Sunday of the month, you can also refill your household cleaning products from the mobile refiller.

For other examples of things to do at Taman Tugu, see their website. You can also follow their Instagram to get updated on what’s on.

Taman Tugu Lawn

Recommended reading

Wong et al. Species, Forests, Cities: Protecting and improving tree stands and the fate of species in urbanised and changing environments. Malayan Nature Journal 81st Anniversary Special Issue 2021. 93-114.

Taman Tugu was not the first rehabilitated forest in Kuala Lumpur. The most well-known, and the best example of reforestation in Malaysia, is the man-made forest in the Forest Research Institute of Malaysia (FRIM), which is almost 100 years old now and showing signs of self-enrichment. KL also has a remnant of original rainforest left, the tiny forest reserve of Bukit Nanas, otherwise known as KL Forest Eco Park.
In addition, Malaysia’s first university has a rainforest grove within its grounds. Called Rimba Ilmu, it was an abandoned rubber estate within Universiti Malaya which was encouraged to revert to jungle with the infusion of rainforest trees courtesy of James Kingham, a local planter who had single-handedly established acres of rainforest seed bank in his domicile state of Perak.
An overview of these incredible pioneering efforts in reforestation, as well as the current biodiversity condition of these forests, can be read in Wong et al., published in the 81st anniversary Special Issue of the Malayan Nature Journal. This journal edition is hard cover and you can buy it on the Malaysian Nature Society online store.

Related things to do in Kuala Lumpur for the regenerative traveller

If you’re in Kuala Lumpur for some time, and looking for activities related to nature regeneration, here are some ideas.

Volunteer at the Free Tree Society

Help out at the nursery so that the Free Tree Society can keep giving away free trees! You can also help in other ways, and join their events.

Visit the Bukit Persekutuan UCF Project

On the opposite side of the Perdana Botanical Gardens is another eminent hill of Kuala Lumpur. The Malaysian Nature Society is located at Bukit Persekutuan (Federal Hill), and you can also volunteer with them to help with the Urban Community Forest project.

Explore the grounds of FRIM

You can also visit FRIM at the Kepong Botanical Gardens and their Main Campus, to see Malaysia’s best example of reforestation.

Check out Taman Tugu’s hiking trails! Pin for later.

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