SINGAPORE – With the reopening of borders earlier this year, camping trips in Malaysia are popular with Singaporeans, commercial organizers of such trips said. But after a deadly landslide at a campsite in Selangor, those operators said campers should take some precautions, like avoiding the monsoon season and making sure campsites have a valid permit.
They added that Singaporeans looking to camp in Malaysia should also hire local guides and experienced campers familiar with the campsites and surrounding terrain.
This comes in light of the landslide at Father’s Organic Farm in Batang Kali, Selangor, near Genting Highlands, in the early hours of Friday (December 16).
The tragedy claimed the lives of 24 people and nine more are missing. They were among 94 people at the campsite, which Malaysian authorities say operates illegally as the site is only licensed for organic farming.
Malaysian police have called in camp staff to help with an investigation.
Mr Fayyadh M, co-founder of Prepper Asia, a company that offers emergency and disaster preparedness programs, said he has noticed a growing interest in camping in Malaysia by Singaporeans.
“The interest sparked during the Covid-19 lockdown since taking part in outdoor activities has been one of the few ways people have been able to gather and socialize,” he told TODAY.
“With borders now open, Singaporean trekkers are pursuing adventures in neighboring countries, with camping and trekking trips to Mount Ledang, Mount Tahan and Mount Kinabalu becoming more common,” Mr Fayyadh said, referring to the mountains in Melaka, Pahang and sabah .
The more conservative Singaporeans will embark on guided hikes or camping trips at campsites with amenities, while the more adventurous will opt for the off-the-beaten-track trails, he added.
Mr Vijay Kumar, director of SGTREK, a Singapore-based company that offers outdoor travel services, also said its camping trips in Malaysia are “usually full”.
That’s partly because the company is “taking a smaller number of participants for camping activities,” he added, without elaborating.
Both Mr Fayyadh and Mr Kumar said campers should take precautions before embarking on such camping trips.
This includes avoiding the monsoon season, as places with inefficient drainage systems are more prone to flooding and landslides during this period, which typically lasts from late September through January.
Both operators said campers should also ensure camp operators and individuals have valid permits for all activities and locations.
Mr Kumar added that campers should hire local guides and only camp at designated campgrounds in national parks, as well as stay up to date with the latest campground information.
“Most of the guides and the management of Malaysia’s national parks are always very helpful and provide them with the latest information,” he said.
“If you’re camping at a private country campground nearby, check with them if they’re licensed… and what their overall safety management (procedures) are before heading to their campground.”
Mr Fayyadh said once campers have settled into their campsites they should visually check the area before setting up camp, particularly if camping in an undesignated campsite such as a nature reserve.
“You should be on the lookout for hazards such as areas of fast-flowing water, animal tracks, potential floodplains and tree falls,” he said.
“Then identify and understand the nearby escape routes as well as the location of key infrastructure in the area.”
Campers should also carry tools such as flashlights, Swiss army knives, whistle and cell phones.
He added that campers should let their family know where they are going and how long they will be gone.
“Social media is also good for recording your trip, but don’t share too much information as it could pose a security risk,” Mr Fayyadh said.
Regarding the risk of landslides, he said campers should look out for the following warning signs so they can alert others to evacuate to safer areas as soon as possible if they feel in danger:
- Barren hills, especially where land has just been cleared and the land is still red in color
- Sloping and Leaning Trees Because trees grow toward the sun, trees leaning at a different angle than surrounding trees could be an indicator of an imminent landslide
- Cracks in the ground or in boulders or on cliffs
- Constantly falling or sliding rocks and debris
- Flowing water gradually increasing in volume and carrying mud/debris are signs that the higher land cannot withstand the stresses
- Unusual noises from the ground
- Gases from underground that can give off unusual odors
WHAT EXPERIENCED CAMPERS SAY
Mr Muhd Azuan, who was a regular camper in Malaysia before Covid-19, said he was surprised to learn that the Father’s Organic Farm campground had been operating without a permit, having seen YouTube videos of people living in the camping area.
He said when he camps in Malaysia he usually researches the campgrounds online first and checks information such as location, accessibility, how crowded it will be, weather conditions and what features are near the campground such as: B. a stream or a beautiful view.
“And if there’s news of flooding (in the area) that’s definitely a red flag and we (campers) won’t go. And when someone from our circle leaves, we ask them about their first-hand experience,” says the 34-year-old logistician.
Mr Muhd, who has not been to Malaysia to camp since 2019, added that in the wake of the Selangor tragedy he will be taking extra precautions going forward by checking online that the campsite he is headed to is legally permitted to operate .
Another Singaporean who regularly camps in Malaysia, Mr Mohamed Fayyaz, said he usually takes camping trips with experienced campers from The Hangout, a group of outdoor enthusiasts led by Malaysia-based Singapore volunteers.
The 26-year-old intelligence analyst said he went on off-road motorcycle tours with the group before and after the recent reopening of Malaysia’s borders.
“Usually I take the group on weekend trips and we camp in Malaysia for a night. We make sure we have an experienced camper or local guide who knows the terrain and is good at guiding the campers.”
“To be on the safe side, we make sure we stay in groups, implement a buddy system and remain reachable with phones or other communication devices such as walkie-talkies,” Mr Mohamed said.