Gunung Ledang/Mount Ophir : DIY full day hike in Malaysia
Gunung Ledang, or Mount Ophir which is what us Singaporeans are more used to calling it by, is a popular hiking destination for amateurs or first time hikers situated in Malaysia. Gunung Ledang is only 1,276 m but it is the highest mountain in Johor. It is an achievable day hike of 4 hours up and 3 hours down, peppered with the thrill of some ladders and rope sections but nothing too dangerous. It is also an inexpensive journey (relatively) which makes it a good weekend day trip to do.
WHY YOU SHOULD GO
Mount Ophir is highly likely the most climbed mountain in Malaysia, with its proximity to KL, Malacca and Singapore. Many Malaysians and Singaporeans climb it regularly, especially noticeable if you climb it on the weekends.
It is also inexpensive to do it relatively. The thing about Singaporeans and hiking is that there are limited hikes you can go around the region without a high cost or time spent travelling. You could go to Indonesia or Taiwan to climb the higher mountains, but the flight costs will set you back at least a few hundred dollars.
With Mount Ophir, the whole trip can be done within 80SGD or less. Personally, I feel that these smaller hikes should be more reasonably priced so that more people can pick up hiking as a hobby or something to do on weekends. There is nature to enjoy, on top of good food. Mount Ophir can also be combined with other hikes or other visits such as to Malacca, JB or Kluang. For me, I wanted to hike and get a full day worth of exercise having not hiked for some time.
Therefore, I am writing down a step-by-step guide on how to do it DIY for less than 80SGD.
Mount Ophir is not the easiest hike, neither is the challenge beyond anyone who is a first-time hiker. It is definitely more challenging than Bukit Timah (164m, highest hill in Singapore), as well as other small hikes in Malaysia like Gunung Lambak (510m) or Gunung Datuk (885m).
However, to put it into perspective, the other hikes secondary school kids of 13-14 years old use Mount Ophir as their first hike. It is a solid day hike (which means you actually spend a day hiking duh) and a good entry hike for people who wish to do that.
So if you are an adult and it is your first time hiking, there is no reason for you to think it is unachievable.
*If you wish for someone to organize the trip for you, check out: http://www.littlemonsterstravel.com/ophir/ and contact me. If not read on!
HOW TO DIY
There are only 2 things you need to take care of. Registration and transport. These are also the only necessary expenses. Expenses for registration is mainly for the guide and some registration fees.
All visitors must register with the national park first. There are limited slots per day. To register, contact the national park directly and tell them which date and how many people you want. You could call to reserve the number of people first. Courtesy dictates that you give an accurate number as there are limited slots. Unless it is peak season (like holiday season), you should be able to get the slots.
To contact them, either fill up the form through the website, email them, call them or whatsapp them (yes it works!).
I found the best way is to call and whatsapp them. They might take longer to respond via email. They have different people manning the registration books. These are the details you require.
It would be good to register as soon as possible. The website suggests 1 month in advance. However, it should be fine if you do it 2 weeks in advance unless it is really peak season.
- Number of people
Please give the confirmed number of people as there are limited permits per day. My experience is that they are quite okay with you changing a few people. If not, just give a really good estimate to begin with. They will call you closer to the date to confirm it.
- Date of arrival/climb
- Route – Lagenda Trail to the Peak
There are various packages, such as camping etc. However, I suggest to just go up to the summit during the day and come back down. It is the simplest and only thing worth doing.
Tip : There is a chance that all the permits are taken up. However, I think each guide or some guides have allocation. So you can contact the individual guide/park rangers to see if there are slots left instead of going to the National Park directly.
The Park is only open at 7am, so it will not be possible to hike earlier from my understanding. After you have registered, print out a piece of paper with all the names of the people going, nationality and passport number. This will speed up the process of registration when you are there.
It is located in the Gunung Ledang National Park, in the Tangkak District, Johor, Malaysia. Tangkak is just around 45 minutes to an hour away from Malcacca, and is 2.5 hours away by road from Singapore.
From Singapore, take a bus to Larkin terminal. From there, take another bus to Tangkak. I am not sure if there are direct buses to Tangkak, it is highly likely that you must take buses to Segamat or Muar and from there change buses. For more information on how to get from Segamat, you can refer to this website.
Alternatively, make your way to Malacca and take a transport from there to Tangkak. Again, from Tangkak you will need to get another vehicle or taxi to get you in.
It is just quite troublesome to take your own transport from Singapore if you wish to go by public transport. However, it is the cheapest option. Your total journey cost can be less than 10 SGD.
The best way is to hire your own vehicle. I would suggest to combine a trip together to Malacca/JB or Kluang. It will be cheaper that way. However, if due to lack of time, you could just hire a vehicle from Singapore. I hired a comfortable 16-seater van for 14 people and it came up to around 35 SGD per pax return trip to Singapore. The more people you have, the cheaper the hired vehicle will be. The ideal range of people to get is at least 4 so that you can hire 1 vehicle. The cost range should be around 40 SGD.
If you wish to hire a van, do let me know!
If you wished for an extremely short trip, you can follow my itinerary which means meeting on Friday Night/Saturday Morning and coming back by Saturday night. This means you still have 1 more day of the weekend to relax! Also, most people are working on Fridays so meeting later allows everybody to have enough time to pack and take the last train!
An alternate timing is to get picked up 4am instead of 1am and take the hired transport to Gunung Ledang National Park as it only takes 2.5h there. However, if you don’t have a car, it will cost more to take a cab to set location and you will have to wake up at a weird timing. Personally, I would rather deal with the lack of sleep or sleeping in the vehicle.
Suggested 1 day Itinerary
1.00 am : Meet @ Marsiling MRT
1.30 – 4am : Transport to Gunung Ledang via Tangkak
5.00 am : Breakfast at Tangkak
6.30am : Tangkak – Gunung Ledang National Park
7.00 am : Arrival @ National Park counter – Registration & Tagging items (checking in)
8.00 am : Start climbing to the top
12.00 pm : Arrive at the peak (safety time at the peak until 2.00 pm)
1.00 pm : Descend back to the base
4.30 pm : Arrive at the park, clear the items and wash up.
5.00 pm : Leave.
5.00 pm – 8.30pm : Reach back JB
8.30pm : Go for dinner or go back to Singapore
You will reach Tangkak pretty early so you can have a long breakfast or sleep in the vehicle while waiting for the park to open.
As I mentioned, Ophir is actually a good day hike from the surrounding region. You can plan a 2-3 day weekend trip to Malaysia like Malacca or JB and include Ophir inside.
If you can set off earlier on Friday night, you can take a bus or hired transport to Malacca. From Malacca, it is only 1hour to Gunung Ledang. This way, you will get a good night rest and only need to wake up at 5+am to travel. After the hike, you can spend the next day exploring Malacca and gorging on its variety of good food and justified by a substantial workout aka Gunung Ledang 1 day hike.
I paired it with a trip to Johor Bahru (JB) as it was cheap to stay in a hotel near there, plus easy to get back to Singapore for my Sunday soccer.
For good food in JB, this blog is pretty good : http://johorkaki.blogspot.com/2017/01/2017-walking-guide-to-good-food-cafes.html
As you can see, there is a standard fixed price for guides. So for 10 people who are non-malaysian, the guide costs RM (Malaysian Ringgit) 710 in total or RM 71 per person. If you have 11-19 people. you have to get an extra guide at RM 220.
Assuming you have around 4 people and took the hired transport :
Guide : ~40 SGD
Transport : ~35 SGD
Your expenses should come up to only 75 SGD in total.
If you can get more people, it becomes way cheaper! If less than 4, consider taking the bus instead and it will be less than 50 SGD in total for you!
What to bring :
One should minimize the things to bring up the mountain as it is a huge altitude gain. Also, at the registration you have to declare everything you bring up, so it will speed things up if you minimize your items.
- Some snacks for the hike – Make sure to have a plastic bag for the trash as you need to bring them down. There is no lunch, so dapao (takeaway) your lunch from Tangkak or from home first.
- Trekking clothes (cover your legs please and no jeans ideally) /Raincoat for wet weather.
- Proper hiking shoes or shoes with good grip as you will walk up rocks and the forest
- Hand gloves – Optional if you ask me, did not even use it once.
- Clean clothes to change to after the hike – Can leave it in the car
- Water bottle – There is one stop point on the way up and one on the way down to fill up water.
- Small day pack – Don’t bring too big a bag for the hike!
- Mosquito repellent – You will want this
- Camera – Phone camera is usually enough because the lighting is quite bad during the hike.
- Money – To pay the guides and registration.
We reached Gunung Ledang National Park at 7+am because our driver got lost slightly. There were already quite a few other groups who had just reached by then. It seemed to be quite crowded. We were praying for good weather and the weather seemed cloudy but fine. Our driver was saying that it was going to rain but I trust my weather senses.
The registration took awhile as we did not bring the piece of paper with all the passport details and names of the people going. We had to write everybody’s details as well as fill up the declaration form. Luckily the payment was in the air-con room so it was quite cooling for me. Outside was quite humid and there were mosquitoes buzzing around. As they say the Malaysian jungle mosquitoes are spartan.
There is a rubbish deposit you have to pay which you will get back at the end of the day. Also, you will have to declare all that you bring up, including how many sets you are wearing. Honestly, the process is quite arbitrary but they can fine you from the deposit for every article you didn’t bring down. So minimize the things you bring and make sure they are packed easily so this process will not be so troublesome or annoying.
There are a total of 7 checkpoints in all before the summit stop. We had some briefing with the guide while getting bitten by mosquitoes. I got bitten 4 times.
There are a few routes, but the most common route is the Lagenda trail. You will actually go back down by a different way (notice the dotted line in the map).
I was quite stoned as I did not sleep a bit during the whole journey. The weather was quite humid and it was only going to be worse in the forest.
There was a cut off point, of 2pm at the summit. For the day-hike, you have to come back down by night fall.
I wanted everybody to reach the summit near 12 so that we can have some time for a good dinner later.
The first part was pretty standard. It was just some stone slab of steps that went up and up. It goes on for quite some time so there were definitely several hundred of steps but not very steep. I read somewhere there are 700+ steps.
Checkpoint 1 should be reached within 15 minutes. The trail will start to be more forested with rocks and boulders. Checkpoint 2 was just another 15 minutes away. Checkpoint 3 takes slightly longer, maybe around 25 minutes. The trail throughout these is quite gradual and easy to hike.
After CP3, it starts to be slightly steeper. There will be some fallen logs to walk over, some boulders here and there. CP3 -CP5 should take another hour. It should be pretty easy until you reach CP5.
We took around 2 hours to reach CP5. It was on schedule. At CP5, there is a running stream where you can drink the water. As I had been perspiring like mad, I immediately went to gulp the water from the running stream like a happy thirsty dog and doused myself with it too. Ah, that refreshing cold water. I was pretty sure half of my body fluids came out of every orifice and pores in my body as my pants were soaked, I looked like someone who got drenched in the rain.
It was a good time to take a short break of around 15 minutes here.
After CP5, it gets more exciting.
You will hit the infamous KFC. It is quite a funny acronym I must say. I suspect it is supposed to say “Killer Fitness Center” instead of Killing. The gradient becomes steeper. At times, the trees and branches are your best friends to your hands to help yourself up. Ropes will also magically appear to be your sidekick. The steel ladders will make their grand appearance.
For some parts, you can actually climb up without using the ladder. The ladder is usually more stable, but slower. It was quite exciting when we first encountered the ladder. One portion of it had consecutive 3 tall ladders. It was quite an adrenaline rush to scale the ladder.
However, the ladders sometimes become a choke point. For safety reasons, it is better to not have too many people on the ladder at one time, or only one at a time. This meant that for a big group, it slowed us down a lot. After a few repetitive rounds of the ladder, it lost its lustre and become a staple and was just another obstacle to go through.
There will be a section of scaling a rock face with ropes. This part was quite fun as you were ascending with your body on the incline. If your shoes are slightly wet and slippery you might slip clinging on to the rope for your dear life, a very unsightly picture if it happens. You wouldn’t want to be doing this when it is raining.
Your arms muscles will scream, and your leg muscles will scream more. The trick here is to get a good grip with your toes or front of our feet and use your leg muscles more to push yourself up fast rather than use your hands to pull.
The main steep inclines are done! There are some switchbacks, means you descend at times and ascend again. I hate descending before the summit because I know that all the effort i made before was wasted.
The Summit is still considered CP8. After KFC, there was still some more checkpoints. There will be some steel ladders and ropes along the way but nothing too dramatic.
Once you hit a long flight of ladders, you will know it is close to the summit. After which, you will hit the clearing and see this huge piece of rock, that’s the summit rock! Climb up the final ladder which looks like it’s been rusted over the ages and reach the summit!
The summit is just atop a flat piece of rock. There is no shade at the summit. When we reached at 12 pm, just nice for the afternoon sun, it was quite blazing hot. We just sat there in the sun and ate our lunch snacks. Being the first group there, we had all the space for some time before other groups arrived. So if you reach at 12 pm you are pretty safe to be the first group. I think the best would be to start at 7 if possible so you have more time to relax and the sun is more forgiving.
The lighting was not very good the whole journey as it was cloudy, so that meant that my pictures were really crappy. The summit was the only place I could take pictures but by then, I couldn’t be bothered to whip out my camera from my bag. I had lugged my 3kg DSLR up for nothing, well maybe not nothing as this became training for my Nepal Hike.
Admittedly I was quite tired by the time I reached the top. The total ascent was practically 1200m. It was surprisingly a huge altitude change.
I was quite happy that everyone made it at this timing even though it was a first-time hike for most of them. Nobody got injured or slipped and everyone was sporting for the ropes and ladders!
After an hour of resting, we made our way down. The route we used to go down was slightly different, but it still encompassed using ladders to go down. At some points, you will use a bit of the rope to help but not much.
Somehow, going down was really quite boring for me. It was slow and tedious due to the ladders and the trail was slightly slippery. I have done many hikes but going down Ophir felt like a never-ending journey. I alluded it to being a forest hike, so going down has no view as compared to other hikes like Rinjani or in the Philippines.
It took us another 3.5h at least to get down. We did not stop much, but at some points, it felt like forever. There were a small hut and stream along the way to refill your water. CP1-3 felt really fast on the way up, but when going down, it was crazy how long it seemed to stretch.
I was quite exhausted by the time I reached back to the base. From then on, the process is quite simple.
Remember the declaration form you did at the start? “Check out” and declare that you brought down the same items you brought up. Therefore, remember to make sure to keep all your trash!
Also remember to get back the rubbish deposit!
You can buy an ice cold bottle of 100plus for just RM 1 or 2 I think. It is quite worth it to drink a can of sugary isotonic after the hike. I gulped down mine happily while getting back my rubbish deposit.
There are places to shower for free. For the guy’s toilet, the shower facilities are very basic, you are literally using the hoses in each cubicle. Don’t expect nice premium toilet facilities.
My salty perspiration had seeped into my shoes and socks and soaked them. I have no idea why the rest didn’t have such issues so I took some time to dry them out in the sun. Luckily for us, the weather stayed clear the whole time!
We left at around 5 pm to go back to JB for some seafood dinner. I decided to extend my trip by staying over in JB for 1 night and exploring it on a Sunday while the rest went back to Singapore.
Mount Ophir is a solid day-hike. Would I do it again? I wouldn’t, because I like dramatic views.
However, it is a good full day of exercise as you will ascend 1200m in altitude and go down the same. That’s akin to most other hikes (Kinabalu, Rinjani, Agung etc) in the region in 1 day. You will feel slightly tired, push yourself at times but nothing too overly demanding. When you complete it, you will feel a sense of accomplishment as a short-day trip!
For beginners, I would highly recommend it because it is not technically difficult, yet the rope and ladder sections make it exciting and doable enough for most.
So I hope most people will consider doing Mount Ophir/Gunung Ledang, on top of their trips to Malacca or JB.
For more links on Mount Ophir, do check out these links :