Updated: Jan 17
My first hike of 2021 was a hunt for the endangered Rafflesia, the world's second largest (Rafelsia Kerri), after a species native to West Sumatera, Indonesia.
In Pennisular Malaysia you can find this elusive giant flower in some areas of Perak and Kelantan. However, about 300km downsouth in an island off Johor (Tioman) I did see the buds of the Rafflesia Cantleyi (slightly smaller in size) at a hike to the Dragon's Horn.
Lojing Highlands in Kelantan has recorded populations of the Rafflesia Kerri. It boarders Cameron Highlands and it takes only 45minutes from Brincang.
The local aboriginies, Senoi tribe in the area are the vanguards of these flowers. They seek and conserve the areas with Refflesia buddings. And thus, making our treasure hunt much easier! These flowers, bloom throughout the year and you could arrange to come at any month be it rainy or dry season. It happened to be raining when we were there and it was a real sight to behold to see the flower full with water! If you are coming from Klang Valley, MyBack2Nature arrange trips to Lojing highlands.
The 4x4 off-road to the jump-off point was a rollercoaster journey that lasted for a grueling 20 minutes!
Starting point: Lojing Highlands, Kelantan is located about 45 minutes from Brincang.
MyBack2Nature (seasonal) can arrange tours to see this mysterious giant flower.
Hike Duration: It takes about half a day or more depending on the location of the blooms.
End Hike: It is a backtrack
Hike Difficulty: Easy
Scenery Rewards: you are on a hunt to seek the second largest species of Rafflesia in the world! 5/5!
Note: This hike is relatively easy but depending on the weather. A normal flat hike can turn into a muddy, slippery path. The distance of the hike depends entirely on the location of the flower, sometimes they can be further up the hill.
Is this hike suitable for children? I think children above 6 should be fine but do spray them with anti-leech!
What to bring
1. Basic first aid utilities
2. Walking stick
3. Raincoat and Pancho ( you will be able to find them at any convenience store or Daiso shops for about RM6.00)
4. At least 1l of water, pack lunch, snack
5. Good pair of hiking shoes is absolutely necessary
6. Optional Gloves
7. Check the weather forecast
8. A small bottle of spray with Listerine or Dettol in case of leech attack. We are in the jungle after all and the stream is never far from the path. Most of us had some leech sticking on to us after the hike!
Fact Check about Raffelsia Kerrii
It gives off a whiff of rotting meat that, together with its gigantic size, helps attract pollinating flies. However, the Rafflesia Kerrii odour is manageable unless you go really close to it.
Rafflesia has no leaves, stems or proper roots. It cannot photosynthesise and instead sucks the food and water out of a particular vine (Terastigma vines) using long thin filaments that look like fungal cells.
Rafflesia also steals some of the DNA from the vine it lives on, using it for its own genetic code for reasons that are not clear.
the flowers bloom 1-6 day, by the 6th day it normally starts to turn black
it takes about six to nine months, to flower when the bud emerges, however, not all buds live to maturity.
the female flower has 5 petals and male more than 5!
Our adventure started the moment our 4x4 turned into the dirt trail from the Gua Musang road into the jungle. It was bumpy and the rollercoaster ride lasted for about 20 minutes!
We started the hike in an area close to an agricultural farm.
It is in a secondary forest that has been logged off their precious trees about 10 years ago. And now, what's left, are only medium size trees and vines, bamboo and shrubs. But this forest has once particular Tetrastigma vine, that the rafflesia flower hitch on!
We hiked over tubes and tubes, laid for the purpose of siphoning water from the near-by streams to the agricultural farms before finally entering deeper into the forest.
Not far from the main path we came across to what use to be a family of Rafflesia. There were at least 3 decaying flowers on the forest floor and 3 out of 5 buds were dead.
the bud will take another 6 months to mature, decaying rafflesia.. dead bud doesn't increase in size
We hiked on, followed a stream and went uphill. The vine and the flower seem to strive about 700m-1000m above sea level. As we were hiking uphill the guide pointed something that looked like a bright orange colour playdough flower, perch on the edge of a slope. First time I laid my eyes on this mysterious Rafflesia flower, 6th day in bloom.
In disbelieve, I examined it with greater detail, it really looks like a thing from out of the world! Spiky structures, bright orange, huge dome, fleshy petals, not so pleasant odor....it really looks like an alien plant!
We hiked back down to the gully at the bottom of the hill, and by this time the drizzle was progressing into rain. Waterfalls from cliffs were forming and we hastened our pace to find our next flower.
The next flower, also located around a cluster of rafflesia. All but one was decaying. You could see the bright red petals under the tree, resting on the forest floor. This flower is in its 2nd day of bloom. The colour, more intense, the spikes more threatening, the odour, more powerful! It is the magic of mother nature!
As the rain wasn't easing we decided to end the hunt early. The river was soaring and getting more fierce with gallons of water gushing from the land clearing further up. On
normal occasions we would wade across the river, but that day the river was roaring!
We backtrack to the 4x4 and soldier through the bumpy ride back out into civilization!
The land clearance and deforestation nearby for vegetable farming is encroaching on the rafflesia habitat. With the rate the deforestation, the river banks bursting due to land clearance and erosion, the rafflesia habitat and the ecosystem is in serious peril and might not even last 2 years.
It is really worrying to see the devastation, if left unchecked, will destroy this critically endangered flower which remains impossible to cultivate. It is a pity when no strong efforts are put forward to conserve this flower. It will face extinction if no proper efforts are put forward!