Malaysia is home to lush, tropical rainforests, majestic caves, emerald hills and crystal clear waters teeming with marine wildlife – and with over 30 national parks in the country, eco-tourists can experience a slice of this abundant natural beauty in its most pristine form. Here are five beautiful national parks no nature lover should miss.
At over 130 million years old, one of the oldest tropical rainforests in the world can be found in Malaysia. Taman Negara or the Malaysian National Park covers an area of over 4,000 square kilometres and spans three states, namely Pahang, Terengganu and Perak. The place is a popular ecotourism destination, with jungle trekking and camping activities, where – if you’re lucky – one might get to see local wildlife such as Asian elephants, macaques and gaur (Indian bison). One of the best ways to enter the park is via a relaxing 2.5 hour boat ride down the Tembeling River to Kuala Tahan, taking in the lush view of vegetation on both sides of the river.
Mulu National Park
Home to the majestic Gunung Mulu and the UNESCO World Heritage Mulu Caves, the Mulu National Park in Sarawak provides a tranquil escape for nature lovers, deep in the jungles of Borneo. Particularly stunning is its network of caves, which cover over 295 kilometres and are filled with swiftlets and bats that come pouring out in a cloud of darkness at sunset, in search of food. Another iconic part of the park is the limestone pinnacles of Mount Api, which form a series of sharp, jagged spires towering above the jungle canopy.
Tunku Abdul Rahman National Park
Not all national parks in Malaysia cover tropical rainforests. The Tunku Abdul Rahman National Park in Sabah comprises of five islands, as well as pristine waters teeming with marine wildlife surrounding them. The largest island, Gaya, is covered in greenery and has beautiful sandy beaches with crystal clear waters. There are also several resorts on the island, offering activities such as scuba diving and snorkelling.
Bako National Park, Sabah
While small at only 27 kilometres square, the oldest national park in Sabah is well worth the visit for its rich biodiversity and ecosystems, ranging from beach and cliff to mangrove, grasslands and peat swamp forest. It is also home to a unique species of monkey endemic to Borneo – the proboscis monkey. Males grow up to 20 kilogrammes, making them one of the largest monkeys in the world, and sport a giant, pendulous nose and large potbelly – the bigger the better to attract females. Other indigenous wildlife found here include macaques, water monitors, wild boar and mouse deer.
Gunung Ledang National Park
The Gunung Ledang National Park in the southern Peninsula Malaysia state of Johor is a protected area that features verdant tropical vegetation and cool waterfalls – but the epicentre is the imposing Mount Ophir or Gunung Ledang. Long shrouded in mystery and local legends, the mountain is said to have been home to a magical princess, who demanded for bridges of gold and silver to be built in exchange for her hand in marriage to a sultan. Visitors can trek up the mountain with permission from the park’s Headquarters and a guide to come along.