A memorable trail in the jungle with a Semai guide: a unique opportunity to see rare and endangered Rafflesia and Raja Brookes butterflies in the Malaysian Peninsula.

Who are they and what do they do


SEMAI or the Friends of Eco-tourism and the Conservation of Nature is a non-governmental indigenous community organization formally launched in April 2005. The aim of SEMAI is to protect the rare and endangered Rafflesia and Rajah Brookes Bird-wing butterfly’s habitats in the Bukit Kinta Forest Reserve that surrounds the village. SEMAI is the acronym for Sahabat Ekopelancongan Memuliraan Alam Indah as well as the name of the indigenous people or orang asal (orang asli) of the Kinta forest. Ulu Geroh is the name of the village made up of three Semai settlements.

This community conservation project started in 2000 with the technical support of MNS and financial grants from IUCN, the International Union for Conservation of Nature ; UNDP,United Nations Development Programme and various corporate funders. 
Since they were settled in Ulu Geroh, the Semai have been farmers practising shifting agriculture called “selai“. They also carry out the hunting and gathering of forest products and trade in wild fruits and vegetables, as well as rattan, honey, resin, and plants for traditional medicine. They used to sell Rafflesia buds for traditional medicine and Rajah Brookes Birdwing Butterflies  to middleman who then sold them in nice framed boxes as souvenirs.

The project has built awareness and created ethnic pride within the Ulu Geroh community: they stopped harvesting Rafflesias and Butterflies and turned into stewards for the natural treasures of their land. Training (botanic, conservation, guiding skills, first aid, administration, English language amongst others) contributed to the increased confidence of the SEMAI guides as well as their independence: Three of them obtained their Green Badges (for nature guiding) from the Malaysian Ministry of Tourism, among them two can guide in English.

semai-guideToday SEMAI comprises about twenty members. Ahha (his full name is Sahak Bah Udal) the young and dynamic chairman has many new ideas to further develop interest in the site and increase the income generated from eco-tourism: a herbal garden, incense production from the Gaharu tree, a butterfly sanctuary He has confirmed that they need more visitors to become financially independent.

What a traveler can experience

Rafflesias and Rajah Brookes trails : These species are very rare and endangered. Don’t miss this unique opportunity to be guided by one of the SEMAI nature guides. If you contact them a few days in advance they will check where the Rafflesias are blooming and inform you of the length and difficulty of the trail that must be traveled to reach them. On the day this post was written the fees for the trails were 22 RM/person for each Rafflesia and Raja Brookes trail. Pick up from Gopeng town can be arranged by the SEMAI guides.
Learn about the Rafflesia and Rajah Brookes: A Visitor Information Center (VIC) was opened in December 2006 with a permanent exhibition on the Rafflesia and the Rajah Brookes butterfly species, and there are also a number of informative brochures and books.
semai-ulu-geroh-villageSpend some time in the village: Two dormitories are now available at the first level of the VIC. With more time in the village, it is possible to either go further into the Kinta forest with a SEMAI guide (there are bigger and smellier Rafflesia to be found deeper in the forest!)or learn about the everyday life of the Semai people.
Detailed information about packages and prices are available on the MNS Website and the Nature Escapes website .


Ahha Bah Udal, chairperson of the SEMAI mobile (+60) 17 324 520 ahha_28@yahoo.com

Sani Sari, SEMAI Secretary (+60) 17 536 0872 or (+60) 17 547 6388

If mobile reception is poor call Sonny Wong at MNS (+60) 2287 9422 or conservation2@mns.org.my

Location SEMAI, Kampung Ulu Geroh , 31600 Gopeng, Perak

How to get there

You have to reach GOPENG first By train : The closest station will be Batu Gajah. You can reach Batu Gajah in 2h45mn from KL Sentral station (Sentral Kuala Lumpur) with one of the KLS-Ipoh trains. Check on KTBM (Keretapi Tanah Melayu Berhad) website for the route map, timetables and fares at http://www.ktmb.com.my. From Batu Gajah you can take a taxi or wait for an omnibus leaving for Gopeng from the bus station. By bus : there are a number of bus that leave for Gopeng, but not I did not find yet a website that provides a list of companies, timetables and fares. If any of you get the information and experience the journey by coach, please share with us at greenselipar@gmail.com

From GOPENG:  1 – you can ask the SEMAI to arrange a pick up at a Gopeng landmark ; 2- you can go to the Gopeng Rainforest Resort (follow the map) and ask the SEMAI to arrange for a pick up from there or 3 – make your own way to the village via the dirt road on foot, by mountain bike or 4WD. I chose the first option so I can’t give you a better description of the other two. We are waiting for your input at greenselipar@gmail.com

Related posts

Gopeng Rainforest Resort

MNS, Malaysian Nature Society

Gerai OA, the indigenous people’s stall

Tompoq Topoh, Mau Mehri women workshop

To go further we recommend

The Center for Orang Asli Concerns (COAC) website provides information and commentary on the Orang Asli


Written by C.Bossis, Kuala Lumpur, 3 Dec. 08.
Permission granted to reproduce for personal use only. Commercial use is prohibited.