Soroptimist Sisters’ Recommendation - Nature & Adventure
Whether a lover of nature and the outdoors, or a supporter of the eco-tourism efforts to lift the local community, here’s the good news.
Malaysia is host to some 30 national Parks in Peninsular Malaysia, and the East Malaysian states of Sabah and Sarawak. Whatever your interest, be it trekking through the jungle trails, birdwatching, caving, fishing, or mere relaxation, the range and diversity its national parks is indeed wide. Here are 10 national parks to select from, so plan ahead for the best results.
Taman Negara National Park – Pahang, Terengganu & Kelantan
It is Peninsular Malaysia’s largest national park at 4,343 sq km, and home to the oldest rainforest in the world. This 130 million years-old diversity hotspot boasts countless species of rich flora and fauna that covers the 3 Malaysian states of Pahang, Terengganu & Kelantan.
As a must, navigate the canopy walk above the dense forests to see the endangered but ferocious Malaysian tiger, Asian elephants, the Malaysian ‘gaur’, and many others wildlife in their natural habitat. Your guide can lead you to the salt licks where these animals gather to get their dose of much-needed minerals. Your experience is a surreal ‘up close & personal’. Do visit an aboriginal settlement, and cruise leisurely down the Tembeling river to enjoy nature’s wonders.
Royal Belum National Park – Perak
Whether traversing northern Peninsular Malaysia like I did via the East-West Highway from Kelantan, or travelling north from Ipoh on the western coast, the Royal Belum National park offers breath taking scenery. 290,000 hectares of land of which 146,000 hectares are virgin rainforests. In scale that’s about 4 times the size of Singapore.
Largely unexplored, it is home to a variety of some 3000 species of flowering plants, 10 species of hornbills, and 3 species of Rafflesia – the world’s largest flower. The Sambar deer, tapirs, wild boars and many other mammalians roam the Belum Forest Reserve. Stay at the eco-tourist Belum Resort or a houseboat to indulge in kayaking, fishing, bird watching and naturally, jungle trekking. Visit an Orang Asli settlement to experience their way of life and naturally, enjoy the sunset over the Temenggor Lake. You will not want to miss this.
Penang National Park – Telok Bahang
As Penang is a must-visit UNESCO World heritage attraction, take the time out to savour its National park in Telok Bahang within relatively easy access from the city, Georgetown. Within its 2,300 hectares are hiking trails, a meromictic lake (that’s fresh & salt water lake), mangrove swamps and nesting sea turtles. Stop first at the Interpretation Centre for detailed info, register your presence and plot your trail.
Walk the Monkey beach if your choice is an easier route along the coastline. This is generally the most popular trail. But if a steep climb is what you want, then head to the Muka Head Light House. There are other trails to Kerachut Beach to test your stamina too.
Tunku Abdul Rahman (TAR) National Park - Sabah
The five islands that make up Tunku Abdul Rahman National Park are simply divine. Close to the capital city of Kota Kinabalu, island hopping within the park has become a favourite pastime. Lovely beaches to laze by or to picnic, the surrounding coral reefs and clear waters make snorkelling and scuba much desired sports activities. With its lush verdant forests merging seamlessly with the dazzling beaches and surrounding seas, this gives the TAR park added appeal and a convenient must-visit attraction in Sabah.
Kinabalu National Park – Sabah
Located in Kundasang, the Kinabalu Park gained Malaysia’s 1st UNESCO World heritage status in 2000. Its highest point, Mount Kinabalu (4,092m) is also South East’s tallest mountain, attracting adventure seekers and marathon runners seeking to conquer this granite peak.
The trek up is blessed with a wealth of vegetation that includes endemic pitcher plants, the showy tropical rafflesia flower and more than 1500 orchid species. With an abundance of more than 205 species of birds, of which 17 are endemic to the Kinabalu National park, there are fertile opportunities for bird and butterfly-watching. Explore the Botanical gardens and the cool surrounds at leisure. Check in at the Visitor Centre and seek advice from the Park guides for your memorable outing.
Lower Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary – Sukau-Sandakan, Sabah
This 27,000 hectares wildlife sanctuary offers views of dense tropical rainforests and large mammals. These include the Borneo pygmy elephants, 10 primate species including the Orangutans, 8 species of hornbills as well as resident and migratory birds.
River cruises are best accessed through Sukau, the gateway to the Kinabatangan heartland. With many eco-homestays and lodges in the area, the choice is yours. Crème la crème of the crop is the award winning Sukau Rainforest Lodge, highlighted by National Geographic.
Gunung Mulu National Park – Sarawak
This is Sarawak’s 1st UNESCO Heritage Site. Covering some 544 sq km of primary rainforest dotted with stunning karst rock formations, Gunung Mulu National Park has the most spectacular cave system found on earth. The ‘Sarawak Chamber’ boasts the world’s colossal natural chamber; ‘Deer Cave’ the largest cave passage whilst ‘Clearwater Cave’ is South East Asia’s longest cave. Be here to experience seeing the famed ‘Bat Observatory’, the longest tree-based walkway in the world, and if you wish, challenging treks to the Mulu Pinnacles and Gunung Mulu Summit. You have come so far to this part of ASEAN, we are sure you would not want to miss this attraction.
Niah National Park – Sarawak
Nah is an important archaeological site, the birthplace of the earliest human habitation in South East Asia, 40,000 years ago. Traces of pottery artifacts, axes, and even jewellery testify to these caves being used as havens for shelter and protection, as showcased in the informative Archaeological Museum.
Be sure to explore the spectacular ‘Great Cave and Painted Cave’ for their impressive geological formations, and the thriving flora and fauna that surrounds this complex of caves. Trekking the trails, watching the bat and swiftlet swarms are a must-do when at the Niah National Park.
Bako National Park – Sarawak
While only 37 km from Kuching, access to this unique place is only via the sea. Bako features seven distinct plant ecosystems and is known for its extraordinary variety of natural scenery, plant life and wild life too. Catch the long-nosed proboscis monkeys feeding in the mangroves. Bako has 16-colour coded hiking trails to choose from, ranging from the easy ones to the more challenging. So take your pick.