Kubah Waterfall Trail

This is an excellent, moderately difficult half-day walk through very wet rainforest. It has some steep and slippery sections. From the summit road, the trail steadily descends into the Rayu river valley and the change in vegetation is visually striking as well as palpable. It is incredibly damp and humid at the bottom. This hothouse environment is ideal for a number of plant types, particularly ferns, gingers and palms, which grow in great variety and profusion. It is also ideal for leeches (hint: wear fitted underwear). The trail crosses over several creeks, providing you with opportunities to look for wildlife like otters, frogs and birds. Some magnificent trees are found along this trail, with striking examples of buttress roots. Care must be taken on the final section to the falls, where you’ll have climb up slippery wooden stairs, and along slick bare rock. The falls are formed by the clear Sungai Rayu, which drops over a granitic wall as a beautiful curtain of water.

Difficulty
5/10 (some steep bits)
Distance
Approximately 2.5km one-way from HQ
Scenic value
8/10
Walking Time
1.5-2 hours one-way (half day)
Flora & Fauna
7/10
Trail Markings
Main (Palmarium) Trail – White
Waterfall Trail – Blue

 

Trail Description

There are two options for getting to the start of the Waterfall Trail.

The first option is taking the Main Trail from Park HQ. This traverses several creek gullies and a range of vegetation types, taking between 1-1.5 hours to meet up with the Waterfall Trail.

The second option is less interesting but easier walking. It follows the Gunung Serapi summit road from Park HQ. The start of the Waterfall Trail is on the right hand side of the road at about 305m (1000ft) elevation, and is marked by a pondok (shelter). Taking this option shortens walking time by 15 – 30 minutes.

From the road, the trail descends steeply for 5-10 minutes, using wooden stairs, into mixed dipterocarp forest. At the base of the stairs there”s a magnificent strangling fig with part of the dead host tree still visible in its clutches. The trail meets up with the Main Trail (on the right) shortly afterwards.

This area (and the trail ahead) is outstanding in its variety of fern species. These plants take on a wide range of different forms. In several square metres, you may be able to see ground ferns, climbing ferns, tree ferns, and epiphytic ferns up in the trees. Some of the ground ferns are labelled. Aside from ferns, there are many species of gingers here as well. Look out for ginger flowers which may shoot directly out of the ground, or be perched on slender stems of their own.

The trail continues descending into the valley of the Sungai Rayu (which eventually flows past Matang Wildlife Centre). The trail consists of slippery boardwalks in sections, which skirt around and over roots of impressively big trees. There are some massive examples of buttressed trees bracing against the valley slopes.

Alocasia robusta
Alocasia robusta

Twenty minutes from the junction with the Main Trail, you’ll notice the trail starting to flatten out. The trail then crosses several bridges over shallow, clear creeks which are fringed with pretty gingers and riverine forest. There is a huge heart-shaped aroid plant (Alocasia robusta) on the left. Related to taro (yam, keladi), the sap of this plant is highly irritant. It’s gigantic leaves (the largest undivided leaves in the world) are sometimes used by bats as day-time roosts. Large pandans and wild sago palms also occur along this part of the trail. This sort of terrain continues for about ten minutes, and the the Sungai Rayu becomes audible ahead. There’s a pondok very near the river (look out for bats under the roof here too), and the waterfall is another 5 minutes upstream.

The last section of this walk can be very slippery. There’s a mossy boardwalk which is built into the riverbank and a few sets of stairs before you have to make your way across a slick rock creek bed at the base of the waterfall. Slipping in the first few steps has the potential to spoil your holiday, as there is a sheer 10 metre or so drop to the right, onto the rocks below.

The waterfall itself lies directly ahead. It is a wide curtain of water which falls 10m down a sheer sandstone wall, onto a granite slab and into a small, clear pebbly pool. It is a beautiful bathing spot. Another smaller waterfall flows into the left hand side of the pool (looking upstream). Look out for black spotted rock frogs in this area and along the riverbank – their spectacular leaps will probably catch your eye before you spot them.

Returning to park HQ, you can either choose to follow the road or go back along the Main Trail.