From ancient rainforests to a Unesco cave network, these stunning national parks in Malaysia are well-worth a visit
With over 30 national parks in the country, that run from ancient rainforests and cave networks to pristine islands and rock formations, Malaysia is home to some of the world’s most majestic and thrilling natural landscapes. Although very much a destination in itself, they also make for a rewarding pit stop on an epic road trip adventure. Here are five incredible national parks in Malaysia no nature lover should miss.
1. Taman Negara
At over 130 million years old, Taman Negara is one of the world’s oldest rainforests. It 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, especially for trekking and camping. And, if you’re lucky, you might even 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 two-and-a-half hour boat ride down the Tembeling River to Kuala Tahan, where you can take in views of the lush vegetation along both sides of the river.
2. Mulu National Park
Owing to its rich biodiversity and karst landscapes, the Gunung Mulu National Park in Sarawak is the most studied tropical karst area in the world. It’s home to the majestic Gunung Mulu, a 2,377-metre sandstone pinnacle, and the UNESCO World Heritage Mulu Caves, a network of limestone caves spanning over 295 kilometres. This includes the Sarawak Chamber, the largest known cave chamber in the world; and Deer Cave, the world’s largest cave passage that’s said to be large enough to house London’s St. Paul’s Cathedral. The limestone pinnacles of Mount Api are perhaps its most iconic feature; a series of sharp, jagged spires that pierce through and tower above the jungle canopy.
3. Tunku Abdul Rahman National Park
The Tunku Abdul Rahman National Park in Sabah is a cluster of five islands, surrounded by pristine waters teeming with marine wildlife. 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. To get here, hop on a 15-minute ferry ride from Kota Kinabalu.
Read more: 5 incredible dive spots in Sabah
4. Bako National Park, Sabah
Spanning an area of 27 sq km, the Bako National Park is seemingly small, but offers a gateway and peek into Sarawak’s wildlife. Located just an hour out of Kuching, it’s the oldest national park in the state and well worth the visit for its rich biodiversity and distinct ecosystems, which range from mangroves to rainforests and beaches to grasslands. Bako is also known for its excellent wildlife photography opportunity. You’ll find the proboscis monkey here, a species that’s endemic to Borneo, and other indigenous wildlife like macaques, water monitors, wild boar and mouse deer.
5. Gunung Ledang National Park
The Gunung Ledang National Park, located in the southern Peninsular Malaysia state of Johor, is a protected area that features verdant tropical vegetation and cool waterfalls. Visitors flock here to visit and hike the imposing Mount Ophir or Gunung Ledang. Long shrouded in mystery and local legends, the mountain is said to be home to a magical princess, who demanded bridges of gold and silver in exchange for her hand in marriage to a sultan. Visitors can trek up the mountain with permission from the park’s headquarters and it is mandatory to have a guide.