Ulu Rayu Trail

This medium length trail connects MWC and Kubah HQ, crossing over the ridgeline of the long northward protruding arm of Gunung Serapi. It passes through some pretty riverine forest (Ulu Rayu means “upper Rayu”, after the River this trail briefly follows) and kerangas vegetation, before climbing into mixed dipterocarp forest where many of the trees are labelled (we have provided an explanatory tree list). The trail eventually crosses the Kubah Main (Palmarium) Trail, before emerging onto the Gunung Serapi summit road.

6/10 (steady climbing)
5.3 km one way
Scenic value
Walking Time
3-4 hours one-way (full day if planning return trip )
Flora & Fauna
Trail Markings
Download a PDF file providing information about some of the labelled trees on the Palmarium and Ulu Rayu Trail —> Here (80kb)
Ulu Rayu trail
Ulu Rayu trail

Trail Description

This trail is described starting from Matang Wildlife Centre. If trekking in the opposite direction, you’ll have to read it backwards!

Licuala orbicularis
Licuala orbicularis

The Ulu Rayu trail commences on the upstream side of the concrete road bridge at the entrance to MWC. It follows the river past the public amenities and picnic area to a suspension bridge (10-15minutes from the HQ). Cross the bridge (following the signs) and continue upstream along the riverbank.

This area is subject to flooding. The height of the floodwaters can sometimes be seen by clumped debris left behind in tree branches. You will pass some selunsor trees with bright orange trunks, and stands of bamboo which dot the riverbank before the trail veers away from the Sungai Rayu. A tree with amazing aerial roots can be seen just to the left of this trail at this point. This feature is characteristic of alluvial (riverine) forest species. The trail through here is wide and open, the trees relatively small and Licuala orbicularis (fan palms) are common.

A lagoon extends along the left hand side of the trail, as it passes over a small rise and crosses tiny creeks using plank-walks. About 20 minutes from the first suspension bridge, you’ll cross over another, spanning a beautiful sandy-bottomed creek with a bright orange selunsor tree on the bank. There is a pondok (shelter) just beyond here, followed by the turnoff to the Sungai Senduk Waterfall (senduk is Malay for “ladle” ). If you have the time and energy, this a pleasant side-trip, crossing several sandy streams to a pretty little waterfall (which can unfortunately be a bit clogged with fallen trees).

The Ulu Rayu Trail continues through muddy alluvial forest. There are many varieties of palms here, specifically fan palms (Licuala sp). These have many traditional uses for local poeple – such as weaving and making the leaves into hats and ritual brooms for religious festivals, or using the leaves as palettes for mixing poison (it’s said that the leaf enhances the potency of the poison).

Plank walks throughout this swampy area make walking easier. From here there are wooden labels in front of some trees. (Most of these are discussed in more detail in our tree list, with information on traditional uses.)

About 10 minutes from the last suspension bridge, there’s a trail marker which notes 4000m to KHQ and 1330m back to MWC. From here the trail climbs through scrubby forest, which becomes progressively thicker with large dipterocarp trees growing on the ridgeline. Look out for the pondok, there is a rengas tree (Gluta wallichii) nearby. These trees are notorious for causing skin blistering. Rengas trees (there are many species) are actually from the same family (Anacardiaceae), as mangoes and cashewnuts, as well as the poison ivys and poison oaks of North America. The sap from rengas trees oxidises to a black colour on exposure – so avoid trees with black sap!

Calophyllum sp.
Calophyllum sp.

The trail continues up along the ridgeline, where there are several named varieties of dipterocarp trees, the most economically important tropical timber family. There are also some views of river valley off to the left of the trail between the trees. Bintangor trees (Calophyllum sp) are a common tree growing along this trail. The leaves and sap were once used in traditional medicine, and pharmaceutical research has since found a compound extracted from the sap (calanolide B) which has anti-HIV (AIDS) properties. It is currently undergoing clinical trials on HIV-positive patients.

At the 3500m marker from KHQ (30 minutes from the last distance marker), the trek continues up and along the ridge. There are many magnificent dipterocarp trees in this area. Falling water can be heard off to the left of the trail and there are some more clearings allowing glimpses of the river valley. Along here there is a sebangkih tree (Neesia malayana) with the huge buttresses. It is belongs to the Bombaceae family, as does the infamously smelly durian fruit.

The trail becomes much steeper as you climb up the ridge, passing through tall mixed dipterocarp forest with an open understory. On the ridgetop, the tree canopy is lower and the understory thicker, before the trail continues upward again. Pitcher plants grow along this section of the trail, some of which have hitchhiked skywards on fast growing shrubs. There are also wild mangoe trees (Mangifera havilandi) in this area.

About 50 minutes from the last trail marker, the trail levels out and then passes through undulating terrain to another marker (KHQ 2000m; MWC 3330m). About 10 minutes downhill from here, a trail (yellow and blue paint on trees) branches off to the right. There are some stunning, rare ekor buaya (“crocodile tail” palms, Johannesteijsmannia altifrons) near this junction. This side trail leads down to a small creek and on to the Bukit Selang View Point. A short distance onwards along the main trail from this junction is a pondok.

After a further 10 minutes of gentle downhill walking through mixed dipterocarp forest, there is another pondok which, marks the junction of this trail (the Ulu Rayu) with the Main Trail from Kubah HQ. The branch of the Main Trail descending left returns to Kubah HQ in approximately 50 minutes (~1360m), while the trail to the right meets up with the Kubah Waterfall Trail.

The short remainder of the Ulu Rayu trail continues straight ahead, downhill over some wooden walkways to an open area overlooking the sealed summit road. There’s a massive dipterocarp tree just before the trail emerges from the forest. It is a kapur bukit (meaning “hill kapur”, scientific name Dryobalanops beccarii, named for the botanist who spent time at Matang in the late 19th century). A bintangor seedling bank has been established to the right of the trail, just before it meets the road. To get to Kubah HQ, follow the road left downhill – it’s an easy 15-20 minute walk. Numerous Nepenthes ampullaria pitcher plants can be seen on the left hand side of the road cutting. Some of these have spectacular pitchers with vibrant red spots. Wild orchids, macarangas, bananas and gingers are also common along the road.

Special ConsiderationsAlthough none of this trail is particularly difficult, there is a long and steady climb to cross the arm of Serapi. It is also a reasonably long walk, and crossing over and back is not the sort of thing that can easily be done as part of a casual day-trip to either Kubah or Matang. It would be better to do it as either a one-way trip, catching a taxi back, or as part of an overnight (or longer) visit to the other side.

Remeber to take (and drink) plenty of water. There are not a lot of places where you can fill your water-bottle, and you will sweat heaps.

As with much of the rest of Kubah and Matang, leeches like it here.