For a town whose fortunes were built on the back of tin mining in one of the world’s deepest mines, where the only light source would have been a headlamp, Sungai Lembing’s most appealing natural attractions revolve around light. Rainbow Falls, located 10 kilometres outside of town is it’s prettiest.
Make the journey to Rainbow Falls any other time of day and you’ll be rewarded with a deserted waterfall with a cool shallow pool and a very tall drop. But get there between 9.30am and 10.30am, and it’s a very different story….
Arriving in Sungai Lembing by bus at 6am, we hastily grabbed breakfast at the bustling food court and jumped in the back of a bunch of modified 4 by 4s before heading for the hills.
Crossing the river just after the police station, our convoy wound past a Chinese graveyard shrouded in mist, up past a series of resorts.
The tarmac eventually disappeared into a dirt road. 20 minutes after departing we stopped atop a cleared hill with 180 degree views of the valley below. For 20 minutes we watched as the sun came up. Whisps of mist had gathered between seemingly endless rows of rolling hills, slowly drifting past. It was mesmerising.
From here it was another hour and 10 minutes to the trailhead. The natural beauty of the thick virgin jungle made the time pass quickly for me, and apart from a large clearing piled with logs and a swathe of denuded hill, I was enraptured by the lush scenery as we splashed through streams and trundled alongside Sungai Kuantan. It’s quite mind-boggling to think that this narrow river flows more than 35 kilometres, to the sea.
At the area where the trucks park up at the start of the trailhead, there are toilets and a shelter. To get to the falls, we have to cross the river. A year earlier, we would have had to jump in and get our feet wet but there’s a metal bridge now.
Almost immediately on the other side, the jungle seemed to spring to life, the air filling with the whoop of gibbons.
The hike is short and easy – just over a kilometre – and the trail is clearly marked with signs at intervals of every 200 metres. Most of it is flat, especially at first. At around the ‘600 meters to go’ mark, it starts to gently climb towards the bottom of the falls.
The last 200 meters is along the rocks and across some of the cascades. It can be slippery but it is roped for safety. And then voila!
Towering above us was a 70 meter vertical wall of granite peppered with red and green of moss and ferns; it looked like a watercolour painting. A thin curtain of water cascaded down into the pool below, which I discovered harbours freshwater prawn.
There was a festival-like atmosphere as folks congregated along the rocks and crowded a makeshift stall that served up pot noodle and hot drinks to anyone with a hand stamp. But there was another reason the right side of the falls was popular. It has the best view of the show to come.
Hidden in the shade in the early hours, as the sun starts to break over the falls, its light will refract off the falling water droplets revealing a rainbow at the foot of the drop. Sometimes there’s two or three rainbows, which eventually merge as the sun continues to rise.
Its appearance depends on weather conditions. We were fortunate that it was a hot clear day on our visit, and though we only saw one, we could wade out into the water and touch each end of it. There wasn’t any gold to be found but the experience was priceless.
Like a mirage, the rainbow’s appearance is fleeting. When we were there, he first signs of it appeared at 9.30am, a mere splash of colour, before it slowly spread across the rock face. Though there was no clapping, at 10.15am, when it was all over the crowd dispersed just as if it had been a performance. No encores. At least until the next visit.
Sungai Lembing town to view point 20 minutes
View point stop 20 minutes
View point to Rainbow Falls trailhead 1 hour 10 minutes
Trailhead to Rainbow Falls 40 minutes
Facilities You can grab a light breakfast at the food court in Sungai Lembing before departing. The nearest toilets are in the Thean How temple located opposite but on weekends queues are long. Toilets are available at the Rainbow Falls trailhead (RM0.30 for single use), and adidas kampung and wooden hiking poles are available to rent at RM3 and RM0.50 respectively. The attendant there also seeks water (RM1) and isotonic drinks (RM2.50).
Tip Although plenty make it to the falls in flip flops, trail shoes or sandals with good grip are best especially across the slippery rocks.
Cost Adult RM60; Children under 5 years RM45, includes a pot noodle and a hot drink.