Banding Island is an ideal base for exploring Lake Temenggor and the Royal Belum Rainforest. It is definitely one of Malaysia's most beautiful areas and a place I would like to return to and spend more time.
Lake Temenggor is huge, over 70 kilometres in length, up to 5 km wide in places and as deep as 120 metres.
It is a man-made lake created in the late 1960s and early 1970s by constructing Temenggor Dam and flooding the valleys of the Upper Perak River and its tributaries. This accounts for its highly irregular shape. Banding Island would have been a hill-top before the valley was flooded.
The construction of the dam had two objectives - to generate hydro-electric power and to deprive the communist terrorists of one of their few remaining infiltration routes from their bases in southern Thailand at that time.
Temenggor Lake is surrounded by the Royal Belum Rainforest, a vast stretch of 130 million year old virgin rainforest, one of the last refuges in Peninsular Malaysia for wild animals such as elephants, tapirs, tigers and 10 species of hornbill.
The Belum Forest Reserve is also home to the famous Rafflesia, the world's largest (and smelliest) individual flower, and other rare plant species.
Although the forest was given the 'Royal' and protected status in 2003 I noticed a number of logging trucks on the roads in this area hauling giant, and presumably ancient, tree trunks. Let's hope the logging ban in the Reserve is being properly enforced.
Banding Island itself is fairly small and I visited a small village with a jetty which was partially submerged due to flooding. I would have thought it is possible to open the sluice gates of the dam to prevent flooding but perhaps that would cause greater problems downstream.
A number of Orang Asli people were waiting patiently near the jetty, perhaps awaiting a boat to ferry them to their village.