When the name ‘Kuala Lumpur’ is mentioned, one would commonly think of a modern metropolis where Malaysian city life thrives at its finest. Rarely would anybody relate KL to tropical rain forests or anything relating to nature in fact; something Malaysia takes pride in. However, little do many tourists and even locals know that should they want to catch a glimpse of the country’s tropical beauty while in KL, one fine example exists not too far away.
Located in Kepong, the Forest Research Institute Malaysia (FRIM) is a government based forest reserve which has been around since before Malaysia gained independence in 1957. It is a government agency which is responsible for biological, botanical and other scientific research and development pertaining to the preservation of Malaysian rain forests. However, despite being a center for forestry-based research and education, FRIM also opens its doors to visitors who want to experience firsthand, what it is like to be in a Malaysian tropical rain forest without traveling too far from the city.
FRIM is quite simply a capsule of natural beauty which spans across almost 500 acres of land. Centered within a lush forest reserve, FRIM is also home to the Kepong Botanical Gardens which offers visitors a wonderful landscape to absorb on top of being a research area for botany and horticulture. This garden alongside the Ethno-botanic garden which exhibits local plants used as traditional medicine such as tongkat ali, are perfect for visitors with a green finger or simply those who love nature or plants to be specific.
However, FRIM is more than just a place of nature for visitors to look and see; it caters to the adventurous and outgoing as well. There is an array of nature trails for enthusiasts to go jungle trekking within the forest reserves that surround the establishment. These trails encompass plantations, wetlands and hills among others and most of these paths and the nature that surround them have existed as far back as the 1930s. In weekends and during public holidays you will notice many sports, especially mountain-bike enthusiasts. During our visit at Labor Day, we say many hundreds of semi-professional bike riders having the time of their lives at FRIM.
FRIM picnic area
FRIM also provides camping and picnic areas for casual recreation within its forested compounds. To get there you don’t even have to walk far, as the picnic area is located at the end of the main road (along Jalan Foxworthy) and right in front there is a parking, some restaurants and even a restroom.
The picnic area is located right along a nice waterfall, where you can also relax in one of the pools of water. At weekends and during public holidays it can be quite crowded at this area of FRIM, with many local families enjoying a BBQ and escaping the heat of Kuala Lumpur. It is possible to walk from the picnic area to the Canopy Walkway up the hill, but it’s a pretty steep hike. If you’re in ok condition it will take you no more than 15 minutes to reach the Canopy Walkway from the picnic area.
FRIM Canopy Walkway
The highlight of FRIM that no visitor should miss is its canopy walkway. It is a 150mtr long walkway that is built 30m above ground level.
Originally built for its researchers and scientists to study above-ground flora and fauna more effectively, this walkway is opened to public whereby visitors will literally feel like they are hovering above the forest grounds, taking in views and landscapes that is unbeknown to the eye at ground level. You can even see a glimpse of Kuala Lumpur’s skyline if the skies are clear. The idea of walking at ‘tree level’ may be disorienting to some at first but it is certainly a spectacle that should not be missed out on.
There is a daily limit of 250 people that may enter the Canopy Walkway. Costs are RM10 for foreigners and RM5 for Malaysians. Tickets can be bought at ground level at the One Stop Centre (D5). Keep in mind that the attraction is opened daily from 9.30pm until 2.30pm and the last entry is at 1.30pm. The Canopy Walkway will be closed to public during heavy rainfall, usually it opens 2 hours after it stopped raining.
There are two ways to get to the Canopy Walkway. The easiest (but longest) route is to follow the ‘Rover Track’ up the hill and after a while you will see a clear sign with directions to the Canopy Walk. The last part is quite steep and brings you to the starting point. You can also drive up to the picnic area and park your car there. The walk up the hill is shorter, but much steeper.
Best time to visit FRIM
The best time of the day to visit FRIM is in the early morning as it usually still is cooler at the forest. After a rainy night you need to be aware of leeches that might crawl onto your feet and legs. Leeches do not do any harm, after they are filled with blood they will fall off automatically. During weekends and public holidays it can be quite crowded at FRIM, as many use those days to escape the city for a few hours.
Entrance fees FRIM
FRIM’s beautiful grounds are open to public and only at a minimal fee. Basic entry costs RM1 for Malaysian citizens and students while non-citizens have to pay RM5 for entrance. There are additional charges should visitors want to bring their vehicles into the compounds such as bicycles, motorcycles or cars. Payment is done at the main entrance. Entry to the Kepong botanical gardens is separate but the fees are identical. A fee of RM5 is charged for every SLR camera brought into the compounds by visitors. FRIM’s famed canopy walkway is opened from 9.30pm until 2.30pm whereby the last entry is at 1.30pm. The fees for visitors to board the canopy walkway are RM10 for Non-Malaysian adults, RM5 for Malaysian adults, RM3 for students aged 13 and above and RM1 for children aged 7-12 years old. For safety precautions, the canopy walkway may be closed for service should there be bad weather such as heavy rains or thunderstorms. For visiting groups that are interested, FRIM also provides nature guides at a cost of RM120 per group (RM200 at night) and these guides will ensure safety as well as provide nature briefings to the visitors.
How to get to FRIM
FRIM is located along the Selayang-Kepong Highway, about 30/45 minutes from Kuala Lumpur City Center. Once you are nearing FRIM, you will see the clear (green/yellow) signs to lead you to the Forest entrance. You can also use public transport to FRIM, just get off at KTM Komuter station Kepong and from there you will take a taxi to the forest entrance. Do know that there are almost no taxis at the forest, so it might be difficult to get back to KL (you could ask the people at the One Stop Centre to order a taxi for you). If you are considering an organized day tour to explore the area around Kuala Lumpur, a visit to FRIM can be easily combined with a visit to the Batu Caves and even with a visit to Kuala Selangor (fireflies).
FRIM Opening hours
FRIM is opened daily 5am to 7.30pm. Tickets for the Canopy Walkway can be bought from 8 am onwards. Check out the official FRIM website for details on all the activities that are possible in FRIM.