Ten hotspots in Malaysia for nature lovers
Are you a nature lover who simply loves to bask in the beauty of Mother Earth? Fancy jungle trekking, mountain climbing, cave exploring or scuba diving to explore the rich biodiversity that nature has to offer? Ever dreamt of camping amidst wildlife, rowing a boat down a rainforest river, stepping into a huge cave or swimming with aquatic life to get closer to your natural surroundings? If you’ve answered yes to any one of those questions, then Malaysia is the place for you!
Quick facts about Malaysia:
- Malaysia is a tropical country that experiences hot and humid weather yearlong, being situated near the equator
- Slightly more than half of Malaysia’s total landmass is covered by tropical rainforests and mangrove jungles
- Malaysia has a total of 878 islands within its waters
- Mountains and caves in Malaysia are made up of mainly granite
- Both the highest mountain in Southeast Asia and the second largest cave in the world are found in East Malaysia
- An estimated 20% of the world’s animal species are found in Malaysia
- Malaysia is home to an estimated 25,000 species of plants
So, for all of you nature lovers out there, here’s a list of ten of the most popular hotspots throughout the country.
1. Taman Negara / National Park
The largest and perhaps most well-known of all nature hotspots in Malaysia is the Taman Negara or National Park. Established in 1938 during the British colonial era as the King George V National Park, this park covers an area of 4,343 km2, spanning over the states of Pahang, Terengganu and Kelantan. It is home to many Orang Asli (indigenous people) settlements and one of the world’s oldest tropical rainforests. Gunung Tahan, Peninsular Malaysia’s highest peak, is situated within this national park, and it is a popular site for mountain climbing as well. Besides jungle trekking and mountain climbing, visitors can also spend time here fishing, exploring small caves, bird watching and even visiting some of the Orang Asli settlements that are open to tourists. In addition, those who are more daring can venture into walking across the longest suspension bridge in the world to get a good view of the park’s biodiversity.
2. Endau-Rompin National Park
Spanning a total area of 870 km2 across the south of Pahang state and the northeast of Johor state lies the second largest national park in Peninsular Malaysia, the Endau-Rompin National Park. This park takes its name from the Endau and Rompin Rivers that flow through it. The main attractions in this park include some of Malaysia’s most pristine waterfalls, as well as the Sumatran rhinoceros, which is facing extinction and is strictly protected under Malaysian laws. Just like the Taman Negara / National Park, the Endau-Rompin National Park is also home to several Orang Asli tribes, mainly the Jakun tribe.
3. Gunung Ledang National Park
Gunung Ledang (Mount Ledang), which is a mountain situated within this national park, is arguably one of the most popular sites for mountain climbing in Malaysia. The mountain is situated at the border between the states of Johor and Malacca, standing at a height of 1,276 metres. This mountain is an excellent place for amateur mountain climbers, as there is a clear trail that leads to the summit. Besides being rich in wildlife, Gunung Ledang is a popular feature in Malay folklore, in which a mystical princess was said to have lived atop the mountain during the era of the Malacca Sultanate in the 1400s. According to the folklore, the princess’ beauty was so overwhelming that it captured the heart of Sultan Mahmud Shah, the Sultan of Malacca, but because he could not fulfil her outrageous dowry requests, she rejected his hand in marriage.
4. Tioman Island
Ask any local for a good diving spot, and chances are you’ll get Tioman Island as your first answer. This island is one of the most well-known in Malaysia and Singapore, owing to its location off the eastern shores of the southern state of Johor, close to Singapore. The waters around this island are very rich with marine life and coral reefs, thus making it a haven for scuba divers and snorkelers. White sandy beaches can also be found around Tioman Island, and its interiors, which are still covered with dense jungles, offer nature lovers opportunities for jungle trekking as well. On top of that, there are several smaller uninhabited islands near Tioman Island where the more adventurous can venture into for a little exploration, both on land and underwater.
5. Redang Island
Besides Tioman Island, Redang Island is probably another awesome spot for scuba divers, snorkelers and beach lovers looking for a quiet corner of the world to escape to. Redang Island, together with several nearby smaller islands, form an archipelago within a marine park located off the shores of Malaysia’s Terengganu state. Stretches of white sandy coastlines, spots of secluded beaches and clear blue waters are what characterize this archipelago. Scuba divers and snorkelers can expect to be astounded by the variety of tropical fishes swimming amidst coral reefs within the archipelago’s ecosystem. Redang Island is one of the few places throughout Malaysia that is frequented by sea turtles for laying eggs, thus the Terengganu state government and several voluntary organizations take up proactive roles in conserving the island’s natural state.
6. Kinabalu National Park
Perhaps the most well-known feature of this national park is Mount Kinabalu, the highest peak in Malaysia and the island of Borneo, reaching a total height of 4,095 metres above sea level. This site, designated by UNESCO in 2000 as Malaysia’s first World Heritage Site, is located in the East Malaysian state of Sabah, across the sea from Kuala Lumpur. It is the natural habitat for more than 4,500 species of flora and fauna, including those unique to Borneo Island, such as the renowned orang utans and rafflesias. For centuries past, Mount Kinabalu has been the most sacred site for the indigenous Kadazandusun and Murut communities of Sabah. Today, the mountain and national park attract throngs of nature lovers and mountain climbers searching for challenging terrain.
7. Tunku Abdul Rahman National Park
This marine national park comprises five islands off the shores of Sabah, namely Gaya, Sapi, Manukan, Mamutik and Sulug Islands. These islands are easily accessible from Sabah’s state capital, Kota Kinabalu. With its rich aquatic life and beautiful seas, TAR National Park is another favourite for scuba divers, snorkelers and other water sport enthusiasts. Rocky coastlines and white sandy beaches line much of these five islands, and the well-preserved hilly tropical rainforests on these islands are home to diverse wildlife such as proboscis monkeys, macaques, wild boars, lizards and vipers. Furthermore, mangrove forests found on certain parts of these islands add to the national park’s overall rich ecosystem. Named in honour of Malaysia’s first Prime Minister, the TAR National Park’s Manukan Island was featured as the eighth Pit Stop in Amazing Race Season 4.
8. Sipadan Island
To most scuba divers and snorkelers out there, Sipadan Island is definitely no stranger at all. This island is located off the east coast of Sabah, and the waters surrounding it has gained international reputation for being one of the most unspoiled and magnificent underwater ecosystems in the world. The seafloor around Sipadan Island was formed on top of an extinct volcano, and over thousands of years hundreds of different species of corals have grown on top of it. Besides the corals, more than 3,000 different species of marine life have been recorded to dwell in this natural ecosystem, making Sipadan Island’s waters one of the richest marine habitats worldwide. To begin with, entering this island can be rather difficult and requires early application, as this island is vigorously protected by the Malaysian government in order to preserve its pristine state. It is said that only a few thousand visitors are granted entry into this island annually. Moreover, all resorts formerly operating on the island have been closed, and visitors are strictly prohibited from staying overnight there. Resorts, however, are available in the nearby islands of Mabul and Kapalai, or on the mainland in Semporna.
9. Gunung Mulu National Park / Niah National Park
The Gunung Mulu National Park, located near the town of Miri in the East Malaysian state of Sarawak, is another one of Malaysia’s prized UNESCO World Heritage Site. Sarawak’s second highest mountain, Gunung Mulu (Mount Mulu) is found within this park. Visitors who embark on jungle expeditions here can expect to see a vast variety of flora and fauna, most notably insect-eating pitcher plants and hornbills that are unique to Sarawak’s rainforests. This national park also features amazing limestone pinnacles, cliffs and gorges perhaps not seen anywhere else in Malaysia. Another major attraction in this park is its extensive limestone cave networks that form the natural habitat for many species of bats dwelling in their high ceilings. The Sarawak Chamber, found within Gua Nasib Bagus (Good Fortune Cave), is in fact the largest known cave chamber in the world.
Alternatively, visitors can also venture into another national park near Miri, the Niah National Park. Being the smallest national park in Sarawak, visitors mainly come here to see the Niah Cave, a well-known settlement for ancient humans living as early as 30,000 years ago. The cave features not only the natural habitat for several bat species, but also interesting prehistoric art on its walls. Additionally, there is an indigenous longhouse belonging to the Iban people nearby, where visitors are welcomed to visit and have a feel of Iban culture and hospitality.
10. Bako National Park
Situated at the mouth of the Bako and Kuching Rivers in Sarawak, near the state capital of Kuching, lies the Bako National Park, another popular site of exploration for nature lovers. Despite being one of the smallest national parks in Sarawak (27.27 km2), it is one of the oldest in the state, featuring a multitude of species dwelling in both rainforest and coastal ecosystems. In addition to its tropical rainforest and waterfalls, the park includes stretches of secluded sandy beaches and coastlines filled with queer cliff and rock formations, offering unique panoramic views for seaside lovers. Bako National Park is also a fascinating site for bird-watchers, as the park’s wonderful rainforest and coastal ecosystems provide an ideal habitat for many rare bird species. On a related note, this park was featured as the final Pit Stop for Amazing Race Asia Season 1.
So nature lovers, what are you waiting for? Malaysia calls!