Sunday, September 4, 2011

Jahai Tribe of Belum Rainforest - Temenggor, Malaysia

The Eid celebration this year has been a memorable one. My family and I decided to be close to nature. We spend this whole week in Belum Rainforest area. Apart from trekking, yesterday we visited the Jahai tribe, the sub-ethnic group of the Negritos. 

There are 18 indigenous tribes living in Peninsular Malaysia forest and about 5,600 of them comprising the Temiar, the Jahai and the Kinchu tribes live around Temenggor and Belum Rainforest.  The Jahai tribe is a sub-group of the Negrito, generally short, dark skinned with tightly curled hair. Although today most of the Jahai population live in settlements provided by government, there are families who still retain their forefather nomadic lives outside these settlements. 

He responded well when called - sparkling eyes with thick lashes
We visited a group of Jahai families who just moved to a hilly spot near Banun about 12km from Banding Island.  They speak their tribal language to their children but the adults are able to communicate with us in our national language. We spent some times talking to the mothers and youths and were told that they moved to the spot about 2 weeks ago. Last night, their  area was encroached by a herd of elephants and they didn't sleep the whole night guarding their huts and families. We found fresh feces of elephants all along the path which confirmed their claims. 

When asked about the age of their kids, they didn't know their children's age. There were three mothers with many children.  Their men were not at home and they must have gone out for fishing or gathering of food. Due to their excellent sense of smell, they are usually hired as guide or porter for  trekkers into the Royal Belum Rainforest.  

We distributed gifts to the kids, gave the families some food and money. Initially the kids were reluctant to come close but their mothers spoke gently to them in their native language and it didn't take long for them to get close to us.  Soon the kids were responding very well and they happily collected their gifts one at a time.


  1. I was just watching a TV program about the Jahai and their life in the jungle. I found this post on your most interesting blog on an Internet search. Lovely photo series!

  2. Thank you for reading my post on Jahai, one of the many indigenous tribes in Malaysia. This part of Malaysia is very beautiful, lovely people and wonderful natural environment.