Sunday, October 8, 2017


The best of nature is at our doorstep—we just need a bit of expert guidance to discover the treasure trove of unique flora and fauna found in the pristine forests of Genting Highlands.

Straggling oak trees, exotic hornbills and rehabilitated pitcher plants are among the wondrous sights that await discovery, and at Resorts World Genting, Treks Nature Enterprise has made it its mission to demystify nature—by also using social media and digital technologies. 

Yes, nature meets technology is the order of the day at the resort—a project dubbed Fashion Forest by the good people behind Treks who proclaim that “an alliance of rainforests waits to be discovered.”

Their answer: A whole range of programmes that would introduce you to the natural features tucked away in Genting Highlands. Essentially, those who participate in the programmes get to learn about nature and mindfully capture it in social media in order to create awareness of the need to conserve it.

Dato' Edward Holloway, Senior Vice President of Resorts World Genting said, ‘Awana offers a 130 millionth year old jungle with very rich biodiversity for nature lovers to savour. We are now working with Treks Nature Enterprise to bring nature to nature lovers in a fashionable way, thus the name Fashion Forest is created.’

The focus of Fashion Forest are the forests in Genting Highlands—located between 3,000 ft and 6,000 ft above sea level. There are three forest types Treks refers to as “alliance of rainforests.” These are divided into four groups, namely Fashion Forest at Awana (upper Dipterocarp Forest 3,000 ft above sea level), Slay Forest at Chin Swee Temple (Montane Oak Forest some 4,500 ft above sea level), Chocolate Forest (Montane Ericaceous Forest some 6,000 ft above sea level), and Skyride Forest in Awana.

The rustic realm of the countryside promises education, fun and adventure whether you are a stressed out urbanite in need of some downtime or a weekend warrior seeking the adrenaline rush provided by sports and vigorous outdoor activities. Treks has programmes for every need—from nature walks for the whole family to sports-oriented teambuilding programmes for corporations and organisations.

The name “Fashion Forest” calls to mind supermodels and catwalks—and, well, it is meant to. Participants are encouraged to dress in their best as they commune with nature. Describing it as “a new paradigm in nature walks,” Treks says it has re-invented the way to explore nature through a concept called Eco Chic—where you “dress up and walk with attitude and with that wow factor.”

This is said to be important in order for you to get passionate about nature and share your experiences through social media.

Certainly all the programmes offered are therapeutic as participants will learn to count their blessings by appreciating the “simpler” things in life—things people do not ordinarily notice like a dead tree trunk or a forest herb, says Treks. The organisation aims to “re-image how art, music, fashion and social media can help us love nature more spontaneously.”

The intention is to introduce art forms like painting and sculpting into the forest environment, while at the same time turning it into a platform for the enjoyment of music. Toward this end, live performances of musical events are held, and likewise designer furniture and other fashionable amenities are installed to create an artistic and creative atmosphere.

In line with this, fashion labels and popular animated characters from the world of film can be introduced to spice things up.

An important element to ensure the success of Fashion Forest is the availability of internet connectivity—participants can expect to enjoy this free. Technology is  utilised to help people “see more, discover more and enjoy more” through fun and practical ways—via visual aids like the Natgeo Frame, living sculptures (like trees and plants), Nature Pergolas and elevated platforms.

Brought to the fore are the many special trees in the forest that are “animated” to heighten appreciation of them. At Fashion Forest, trees have personalities—there are the Supermodel trees, and the Celebri-Trees, among others. Participants are encouraged to help promote awareness of these trees by discovering and recording them via social media.

For as little as RM75 per person, the best of nature can be enjoyed, although generally a full-day walk or nature tour can cost RM130 per person (or RM120 for children aged 11 and below) for a minimum group of three persons. Many types of packages are offered by Treks to cater to various groups including individuals, families and corporations. The packages are all priced differently.

It is a programme that is bound to satisfy every kind of pleasure-seeker there is but those wanting to focus on the environment may just opt for the Fashion Forest Green Campaign that incorporates technology in its line-up of competitions and games. The Mountain Man Challenge, on the other hand, is for those seeking to indulge in sports and physically-challenging recreational activities.

For corporations, there are the Corporate Bonding Activities in store. These would include teambuilding activities like the REEL simulator—an action learning programme based on popular movies—contemporary simulation games, treasure hunt, and Fashion Forest's own Amazing Race!

For children, the Fashion Forest Summer Camp packages are education, adventure and fun rolled into one. The main concept of the camp is to immerse children in multi-disciplinary programmes filled with challenging recreational activities that will help them acquire the right disciplines. Among others, they learn about camping, nature and conservation, and they get to indulge in sports like archery and rock-climbing. Other interesting programmes to pursue at Fashion Forest are the Art, Music & Nature Festival, and the Sax & Jazz Art Club.

Wandering around the countryside can be a hugely exciting adventure, especially when you have an agenda. And at Fashion Forest, you will be armed with a programme—the one you opt for.

Treks Nature Enterprise, based at Awana and the English Garden in Theme Park Hotel, is a consultancy that designs nature activities for everyone. At the helm are Eddie Chan and Pat Ang who ensure there is a programme for every need.

The “stars” awaiting discovery, of course, are the flora and fauna in Genting Highlands—and there are many of them. Most notable are the Montane-Ericaceous forest located above 1,500 metres altitude and the Hill Dipterocarp forest, the most extensive forest type in the country that exists at between 300 and 700 metres altitude.

The Montane-Ericaceous forest is especially fascinating, with trees that are generally smaller in size and are gnarled and stunted. Bamboos, ferns and mosses are also main residents here.

According to Treks, these forests are unique for many reasons including their bio-diversity that is intact and abundant, and the fact that they enjoy protection from public abuse, being part of Genting Highlands. Accessibility and the short distance between the forests and Kuala Lumpur are other interesting factors.

And apart from programmes offering nature walks and recreational outdoor activities, Treks offers some unique programmes like Discover the Elusive Helmeted Hornbill, where you can find out more about the four species of hornbills that call the area home—the other three being the Rhinoceros Hornbill, the Great Hornbill and the Bushy Crested Hornbill. This particular programme is priced at RM250 per person for a minimum group of four persons.

Other programmes worth pursuing: Discover the Elusive Black Gibbons, Discover Birding, and Enjoying Herping Searching. Discover Birding sees avid bird watcher Henry Goh sharing his knowledge of the endemic birds and migratory birds that are found in the Awana area.

Goh is the incumbent President of the Malaysian Nature Society (MNS) and chairman of the Selangor branch of MNS. The society is the oldest and largest local conservation NGO, having celebrated its 75th anniversary in 2015. With his expertise, he'd be able to share interesting knowledge with those hoping to learn more about avian life forms.

Goh has a vast collection of photos to show for his numerous sojourns into the great outdoors. His photos have, in fact, been featured in numerous books on nature and wildlife.

Enjoying Herping Searching means searching for amphibians and reptiles—not a vocation for the faint-hearted! This programme is conducted at night by Steven Wong, the head coordinator of the Herpetofauna Special Interest Group of the MNS (Selangor branch). Night walks are his forte and he is only too keen to introduce people to the world of reptiles, amphibians and other nocturnal creatures.

Wong, who acquired an interest in herpetofauna at an early age after watching Crocodile Hunter, aims to dispel the negative stigma that is attached to reptiles and amphibians by educating the public about them. Through his night walks, he hopes to enlighten people about these misunderstood creatures so they are able to better appreciate them.

No less interesting are the pitcher plants found in Genting Highlands—the main conservation project of Treks. This involves rescuing pitcher plants from roadsides, hill slopes and pieces of land earmarked for development.

The pitcher plants are rehabilitated and are available for public viewing at the Treks Nepenthes Conservation & Display Wall at the English Garden in Theme Park Hotel (and also the Treks outlet in Awana). If you are keen to know more about these wonderful plants, the man to talk to is Mohd Fauzi bin Abu Bakar who has been growing pitcher plants since 2002.

Fauzie graduated from Universiti Putra Malaysia with a Bachelor of Science in Forestry. He designed and built Taman Nepenthes Kledang Saiong for the Perak State Forestry Department in 2013 and is on their Panel of Advisory for Nepenthes. He has also featured as a speaker at the Convention of International Trade of Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) since 2010.

As for the main people behind Treks, Eddie Chan and Pat Ang themselves, their passion for nature stems from the fact that they believe it can inspire people in many ways.  Chan and Ang created a concept trail where nature stories abound in order to help people discover more about themselves.

They see themselves as unison builders who help people achieve “unity of mind, vision and effort.” Their activities are hence filled with self and team-discovery opportunities that stimulate people and help them develop as individuals.