By Muhammad Hasif Mohd Jelani on February 19, 2020
Apart from being a multicultural country, Malaysia is also known to be among the world’s richest countries in terms of biodiversity, thanks to its geographical location and tropical climate. Though some cities are well-curated for travellers who are into shopping and entertainment, the places listed below, on the other hand, are more suited for you, nature lovers.
Now, get your binoculars, trekking shoes, and hats ready!
Good to know: Kuala Lumpur (KL), which is Malaysia’s capital and main international gateway, is also green and even has the world’s only forest reserve (KL Forest Eco Park) to be situated right in the middle of a city! On top of that, find out other interesting places to visit in KL HERE.
1. Sukau, Kinabatangan River, Sabah
There are plenty of lodges that travellers can stay along this iconic Bornean river that is known to be the home of the prehistoric predator, the crocodiles. A trip to this place is incomplete without getting on a boat to search for these sea-dwelling creatures. When they are in sight, the boat’s engine will be turned off and complete silence ensues so as not to frighten the crocodiles away. If you were to stay at any riverside lodge in Sukau, there is a chance for you to catch a glimpse of these silent-but-deadly giants as you sip your coffee at the restaurant next to the river in the morning!
While cruising along Kinabatangan, be sure to give attention not just to the water but the land as well because you might just witness proboscis monkeys, silver-leaf monkeys, rare species of birds, pygmy elephants and orangutan.
Find out other nearby places where you can witness orangutans, sun bears and more HERE.
Taman Negara (simply means National Park) is where you can immerse yourself with nature while experiencing numerous nature trails, water-based activities, caves and aboriginal villages. To note, Taman Negara is 130 million years old, making it one of the oldest tropical rainforests in the world!
Kuala Tahan and Sungai Relau are its entry points. While Kuala Tahan is more touristy with many budget homestays and chalets, Sungai Relau on the other hand is more popular for hikers to climb up Tahan Mountain, the highest mountain in Peninsular Malaysia.
But if you want to spot wildlife, you can for opt the night walk to find insects and various nocturnal creatures; take a boat cruise along Tahan River; or stay around at bumbun (hideouts) to observe animals like reindeers, wild boars, tapirs, porcupines, and monitor lizards.
In November 2019, the last surviving Bornean rhinoceros was declared dead in here. It was a tragic news to many nature enthusiasts, raising the alarm to us all that more will, effort and resources need to be channelled towards preserving precious wildlife.
As such, despite the woeful death, Tabin Wildlife Reserve continues to conserve the remaining fauna. There is a resort within the area that offers packages depending on travellers’ interests, whether they prefer to watch rare endemic birds and frogs all the way up to large mammals like elephants, bearded pigs, wild cows, and predators.
Good to know: This place is popular with mud volcano since it is situated near salt-water springs. There is a tower nearby to observe the place at night.
Besides Kilim Karst Geoforest Park, Machinchang Cambrian Geoforest Park and Dayang Bunting Marble Geoforest Park, Langkawi has one more up-and-coming wonder called Kubang Badak Biogeotrail, where travellers can witness the icon of Langkawi – the Brahminy kite eagle – in its natural habitat.
More than just adoring this swashbuckling bird, the park is worth-visiting due to its pristine mangrove that creates a stunning panorama, the tidal river estuary ecosystem, and culturally significant historical site of an early Thai community settlement.
Royal Belum State Park is part of the Belum-Temenggor Forest Complex that is four times the size of Singapore. The ancient rainforest is best discovered on houseboat for at least a night. There are many things travellers can do including finding the Rafflesia, trekking to waterfalls, visiting aboriginal settlements, swimming with kelah (Malayan mahseer fish), and more.
But if finding wildlife your main goal, there are over 10 salt lick areas around the park that supply nutrients to animals like wild boars, tapirs, deer, and even tigers. Along the nature trails, travellers can get to witness flying lizards and hornbills.
We also encountered a family of wild otters when relaxing on our houseboat. Catch the whole experience HERE.
This area is popularly known as Sabah’s Lost World. It is so pristine that it has been listed among the few remaining relatively untouched jungles in the world. With many parts still unexplored and undocumented, Maliau Basin has been declared as a conservation area for research, education, and training in 1981 by Yayasan Sabah. In 1997, the state government declared the area as Class 1 Protection Forest Reserve in order to legalize its status as a protected area.
Though travellers are welcomed here, access to the area is is strictly controlled and travellers need to obtain entry permit in advance from Yayasan Sabah.
But once you step in, the adventure ahead is otherworldly. Maliau Basin is home to wildlife such as clouded leopards, sun bears, pygmy elephants, gibbons, silver-leaf monkeys, wild cows, langurs, civets, and endemic frogs. However, it can be difficult to catch them in sight. But when it comes to nature, we have to agree on one thing: it entirely depends on one’s luck to see the animals coming out in the open.
Fair warning: Many said that the area is not for novices. Since it is remote and atavistic, travellers will find it limited to communications, access and safety facilities.
Danum Valley is another one of Malaysia’s finest forest reserves. It is reported that a new species of plant is discovered by researchers here every week, making it one of the world’s most complex ecosystems.
The lowland dipterocarp forest houses a stupendous list of wild creatures including pygmy elephants, orangutans, deer, tarsiers, bearded pigs, wild cows, clouded leopards, red-leaf monkeys, proboscis monkeys, gibbons, flying squirrels, and even the longest venomous snake in the world, the king cobra.
Though the chances to see them all are fairly slim, travellers can try their luck while doing activities like jungle-trekking, birdwatching and night jungle walk.
Though it is more popular for anglers due to its mind-blowing spectrum of freshwater fishes like snakehead, Malayan mahseer, tinfoil barb, and 300 other species, the country’s largest man-made lake also attracts many other land animals like tigers, elephants, deer, snakes, pangolins, tapirs, white-handed gibbons, panthers, and more. Though fishing is the most obvious thing to do here, travellers can participate in other activities within the 38,000-hectare lake too such as jungle-trekking to try spotting them.
Get some interesting ideas on how to make your trip to Kenyir Lake memorable HERE.
Located around 45 minutes from Kuching, this centre is the biggest orangutan rehabilitation centre in Sarawak. It began in 1975 as a sanctuary for orangutans that are injured, orphaned or illegally-captured-as-pets. This nature reserve has now grown to become a natural habitat where these semi-wild creatures can roam freely. Except during fruit season, orangutan will gather at the centre during feeding times (morning and afternoon), which is the perfect opportunity for travellers to admire these precious creatures live.
Apart from orangutan, Semenggoh also has other rare, protected residents for instance giant squirrels, pygmy squirrels, gibbons, and selected bird species.