The Cameron Highlands, is Malaysia’s most extensive hill station. It occupies an area of 712 square kilometres (275 sq mi). To the north, its boundary touches that of Kelantan; to the west, it shares part of its border with Perak. Situated at the northwestern tip of Pahang, the “Camerons” is approximately 90 kilometres (56 mi) from Ipoh, roughly 200 kilometres (120 mi) from Kuala Lumpur or about 355 kilometres (221 mi) from Kuantan, the capital of Pahang. It is the smallest constituency in Pahang.
Discovered by Sir William Cameron in 1885, the outpost consists of three districts, namely Ringlet (5,165 hectares), Tanah Rata (2,081 hectares) and Ulu Telom (63,981 hectares). Its eight sub-districts are Ringlet, Tanah Rata (the administrative centre), Brinchang, the Bertam Valley, Kea Farm, Tringkap, Kuala Terla and Kampung Raja. All are nestled at elevations ranging from 1,100 metres (3,600 ft) to 1,600 metres (5,200 ft) above sea level.
The mean annual temperature of the retreat is about 18 °C (64 °F). During the day, the temperature seldom rises over 25 °C (77 °F); at night, it can drop to as low as 9 °C (48 °F) at the higher reaches.
The resort has a diverse population of more than 38,000 people. It comprises Bumiputeras (Malay (7,321); others (5,668)), Chinese (13,099), Indians (6,988), non-Malaysian citizens (5,193), and other nationalities (202). Most of the residents here are entrepreneurs, service industry employees, farm workers, retirees or government servants. The languages spoken are Malay, Mandarin, Tamil and English. Islam, Buddhism, Taoism, Hinduism, Christianity and Sikhism are the main religions of the haven.
Developed in the 1930s, the tableland is one of the oldest tourist spots in Malaysia. Apart from its tea estates, the plateau is also noted for its cool weather, orchards, nurseries, farmlands, waterfalls, rivers, lakes, wildlife, mossy forest, golf course, hotels, places of worship, bungalows, Land Rovers, museum and its aborigines (Orang Asli).
The Cameron Highlands can be accessed by road via Tapah, Simpang Pulai, Gua Musang or Sungai Koyan. Tapah and Simpang Pulai are the two approaches from Perak. Gua Musang and Sungai Koyan are the entryways from Kelantan and Pahang, respectively.
The “Camerons” is unique when compared to the other hill stations in Malaysia — it is drained by eight rivers. The main rivers are the Bertam, Telom and Lemoi (Malay: Sungai Bertam, Sungai Telom and Sungai Lemoi). Their high points serve as the water catchment for the Pahang and Perak rivers (Malay: Sungai Pahang and Sungai Perak).
Overall, much of the retreat is still forested (estimated at 71 percent). Jungle trails lead visitors to scenic spots, waterfalls and aboriginal villages. Most of the tracks begin at Tanah Rata. There are more than eight paths to pick and choose from. Depending on its distance, some routes can take as long as five hours to cover.
Apart from its walks, the sanctuary is also known for it aborigines. The aborigines or Orang Asli are basically jungle dwellers. On the surface, their lifestyle has always been made out to be backward. But this has altered over the years. While many have left to take up residence in the nearby towns, there are still some who prefer to treat the woods as their home.
To date, there have been many changes at the resort. During the colonial era, the county was developed to be "a healthy hill station similar to Nuwara Eliya.” Today, it is different.
During the Post-Independence Period (1957–1973), vast tracts of land were cleared for agriculture and infrastructure development. After 1974, more land was cleared for agriculture, housing projects, power plants, logging activities, livestock farming, hotel construction, small-scale industries, human resettlement and road building.
There is no doubt some of the advances have brought on economic benefits. This, however, has come with a price. Over the years, the “development (in this area) has been at the expense of the weather and the environment.”