"THE FOREST MAKES YOUR HEART GENTLE. YOU BECOME ONE WITH IT. NO PLACE FOR GREED OR ANGER THERE."
- PHA PACHAK
Earth Lodge is set in a remote lush tropical rainforest located in the northern Peninsular Malaysia state of Kedah. The 160,000 hectares of Greater Ulu Muda is situated along the state’s eastern interior border with the Thai province of Yala. It is an off-the-beaten-path area and practically unknown to most people including Malaysians!
Comprising of several forest reserves, Ulu Muda Forest Reserve is by far the largest at 105,000 hectares. Lowland Dipterocarp Forest, Hill Dipterocarp Forest and the Upper Hill Dipterocarp Forest are the forest types found here with an elevation range from about 97m to the highest point of 1256m. The area is particularly known as an important site for Malaysia’s mega fauna. The main suspects usually caught on our camera traps are the Asian elephant, Malaysian tapir, sambar deer, barking deer and wild boar. The other large mammals known to call Ulu Muda home are the gaur, tiger and leopard.
An exciting recent find is the discovery of a limestone hill and associated caves of Bukit Labu. Limestone was previously not known to occur here. The caves here are small with most requiring some climbing to gain access. The two larger caves, Gua Labu 1 and Gua Labu 2, are open to visitors but only with a guide accompanying.
Earth Lodge is strategically located at Kuala Labua, an area right in the heart of Ulu Muda and teeming with wildlife. As in any rainforest, they are hard to see but signs of their presence are difficult to miss. Along this stretch of Muda River are nearly 15 saltlicks! Probably the largest number of saltlicks in an area anywhere. Three saltlicks, Sira Keladi, Sira Bongor and Sira Ayer Hangat are relatively close to Earth Lodge. The latter is the most known as it combines a mineral hot spring and saltlick.
Among the wildlife found here are the Asiatic elephant (Elephas maximus), Malaysian tapir (Tapirud indicus), barking deer (Muntiacus muntjak), sambar deer (Cervus unicolor), gaur or seladang (Bos gaurus hubback) and the wild pig (Sus scrofa). Most of the wild cats of Malaysia are found here as well, including larger cats like the Malayan tiger (Penthera tigris jacksoni), the leopard (Panthera pardus) and the clouded leopard (Neofilis nebulosa). A list of mammals found at Ulu Muda is found here.
Birdlife is especially abundent here as well with over 306 species recorded. All 10 Malaysian hornbill species are found here including the very rare plain-pouched hornbill (Rhyticeros subruficollis). It is one of only two sites in Malaysia where all 10 Malaysian hornbill species call home.
Other rare and globally threatened birds are the masked finfoot (Heliopais personata), dusky eagle owl (Bubo coromandus), Malaysian peacock pheasent (Polyplectron malacense), blue-banded kingfisher (Alcedo euryzona) and straw-headed bulbul (Pycnonotus zeylanicus). It is also the only confirmed breeding site of the hooded pitta (Pitta sordida muelleri) in Peninsular Malaysia. A list of birds found at Ulu Muda is found here.
Other fauna groups like the amphibians, reptiles and insects are not well studied and little is known of them, which is why efforts will be conducted to identify them.
Mineral springs with a high concentration of mineral nutrients including sodium, calcium, iron, phosphorus and zinc. As plants alone offer poor nutrition, herbivores seek saltlicks to supplement their diet. Elephants, gaur, deers, wild boar and tapirs are frequent visitors, often attracting other predators. Saltlicks are excellent sites to watch wildlife. There are more than 15 saltlicks in Ulu Muda!
Limestone Hills & Caves:
An exciting recent find is the discovery of a limestone hill and associated caves of Bukit Labu. Limestone was previously not known to occur here. The caves are small, most requiring climbing to gain access. The two larger caves, Gua Labu 1 and Gua Labu 2, are open to visitors with a guide accompanying.
Due to its location at the north of Peninsular Malaysia, Ulu Muda has elements of Thai-Burmese flora.
Although parts of the forest of Ulu Muda has been logged or disturbed by human activity (logging stopped over 30 years ago), much still remains pristine and unexplored.
Three man-made lakes, Ahning, Pedu and Muda are found here. They were built to supply water to irrigate the vast and important paddy fields of the coastal flood plains of the states of Kedah and Perlis; also known as Malaysia’s “Rice Bowl”. In addition, these lakes and their forest covered catchment areas are also crucial for domestic and industrial water supply for three states, Perlis, Penang and Kedah; including the tourism island of Langkawi.
Together with its biodiversity, Ulu Muda is a very critical and vital forest landscape. It deserves better protection and management to ensure it remains a viable and sustainable ecosystem for many generations to come. Hunting, collection of forest products, logging, illegal fishing methods and unsustainable tourism activities remains a constant threat to its integrity. Earth Lodge pledges to continue engaging with the Kedah State Government to stop the current logging activities and to ensure Ulu Muda would eventually be gazetted as a protected area with proper management. We hope you will support us.