Be one with nature while admiring the beauty of the country's natural reserves.
There are around 66 national and state parks as well as forest reserves in Malaysia, so you’ll never be left wanting if you’re thinking of exploring the country’s natural beauty. Here’s what you can expect to find at some of the best ones to start with!
Straddling the borders of Johor and Pahang, the Endau-Rompin National Park covers a total area of 870 square kilometres. The park contains some of the world’s oldest rainforests and features beautiful rock formations shaped by volcanic eruptions that happened more than 150 million years ago. It is also home to a number of the country’s indigenous species that freely roam around including the Malayan tiger and the Asian elephant. Some of the country’s best waterfalls — the Buaya Sangkut, Upeh Guling and Batu Hampar waterfalls — are all located within two hours’ trek of each other.
While most consider the prime attraction of this national park is its namesake — the Mount Kinabalu — there’s still plenty to see at this UNESCO World Heritage Site. It’s home to numerous flora and fauna ranging over 4 climate zones and is notable for housing a number of carnivorous plants and orchids including the Nepenthes rajah. If you’re not looking to climb the mountain, your other options include trekking through any of the 8 forest trails, taking the canopy walk, visiting a botanical garden, a butterfly farm, an orchid conservation centre or the natural sulphuric hot springs (which is an hour away from the main park). You can also trek your way to either the Kipungit or Langanan Waterfall if you prefer a more adventurous route and destination.
True to the moniker of the land before time (from the word “sebelum” meaning “before”), the Royal Belum State Park is home to rainforests older than both the Amazon and the Congo at more than 130 million years old. As one the last and the largest contiguous forest complexes in Malaysia, the park is home to many plant species endemic to the northern part of the Peninsula, rare limestone flora, 101 mammal species as well as Lake Temenggor, a man-made lake that’s also the second-largest lake in Malaysia. Avid and casual birdwatchers will delight in the fact that the park houses 316 avian species, which include all 10 species of Malaysian hornbills.
Fun fact: the entire forest of Belum and Temenggor was considered a ‘black area’ due to the active presence of the Malayan Communist Party since WWII, and it was placed under a State of Emergency (or “darurat”) from 1948 until 1989.
Part of Malaysia’s first and only UNESCO Global Geopark, the Kilim Geoforest Park is noteworthy for its mangrove swamps, untouched beaches and vertical karstic hills extending towards the open Andaman Sea. The park contains various limestone formations that date over 500 million years old and numerous caves filled with fossils as well as gigantic stalactites and stalagmites, with interesting names such as Cherita (meaning “story”) and Crocodile Caves. There are also plenty of wildlife hiding in the mangroves to see, and birdwatchers should make a point to stop by during the migratory bird seasons of September to March: kingfishers, white-bellied fish eagles and kite eagles are among some of the frequently spotted birds.
Penang National Park is actually Malaysia’s smallest national park — covering only 23 square kilometres! — and one can take a Rapid Penang bus (bus number 101, to be exact) from central Georgetown to and fro. The highlight of this park is the meromictic lake en-route Pantai Kerachut: it’s composed of two separate layers of unmixed freshwater on top and seawater below. The beach itself is also a popular nesting spot for green turtles from April to August, and the olive ridley from September to February. Otherwise, the beach is a perfectly serene picnic spot.
Bookending the list is Malaysia’s first, oldest and largest national park: the Taman Negara, which spans 4343 square kilometres across the borders of Pahang, Terengganu and Kelantan. Home to the country’s largest swath of continuous lowland dipterocarp rainforest, more than 150 species of mammals as well as 3,000 species of plants and flowers can be found here. Highlights include the peninsula’s highest peak, Gunung Tahan as well as the world’s longest ropewalk at 500 metres long and 45 metres above the forest floor. Taman Negara can be accessed via its headquarters at Kuala Tahan in Jerantut, Pahang, or the quieter Merapoh in Terengganu, or the Kuala Koh entrance in Kelantan.
From sandy beaches, to the chilly mountainside, and the humid, cool rainforests with cascading waterfalls: Malaysia’s national parks have plenty of natural wonders to offer. It’s never too late to plan a quick day trip, or a full-blown getaway if you haven’t - they are all accessible to be visited year- round.