Here are some of the green spaces we’re looking forward to revisiting
While living in a city certainly has its perks, even the most hardened urban dwellers among us crave a little slice of nature from time to time. Thankfully, Malaysia boasts plenty of urban parks and gardens – either located within or just a short drive out of a city – that offer welcome respite from the hubbub of the concrete jungle. From a sprawling botanical garden in the heart of Kuala Lumpur to a rainforest gem in Sandakan, here are eight green lungs we’re excited to head to, now that trips to the parks are an option again.
1. Perdana Botanical Garden, Kuala Lumpur
Located smack-dab in the middle of the capital, this 91.6-hectare urban oasis has a plethora of different natural attractions to explore. The beautifully landscaped Hibiscus Garden – which includes fountains, pools and even a four-metre-high waterfall – is dedicated to showcasing several varieties of Malaysia’s national flower, the bunga raya (Hibiscus rosa-sinensis). The Sunken Garden, which features greenery clustered around a star-shaped fountain, is also a must-see. The lush gardens also contain gazebos, picturesque jogging paths and wide lawns. If you’re lucky, you may even catch a glimpse of some otters swimming in the lake.
2. Mount Keriang Recreational Park, Alor Setar
Located around 10km away from Alor Setar, this hilly park is well worth the short drive out of the city centre. The star of the show here is Mount Keriang – a 250-million-year-old predominantly limestone rock formation that juts out at a height of 218 metres amid the surrounding flat rice paddy fields. Entrance to the park is free, and a slightly challenging, unpaved hike up to the peak of the mountain (which many say is shaped like an elephant) offers panoramic views of the surroundings. Another highlight here is caving – the park’s numerous karst caves are rich in unique geological formations, including calcite crystals.
3. Penang Botanic Gardens, Penang
Also known as the Waterfall Gardens – in reference to nearby waterfalls – the site was originally established by the British in 1884 as a research centre and has evolved over the years into what it is today. You’ll find plenty of different natural attractions here: those with a penchant for rare plant species can explore the Perdana Conservatory, Bromeliad and Begonia House and Herb Garden; those after a relaxing stroll can wander along one of the different walking tracks; and those after a more rugged experience can explore the Quarry Recreational Park extension.
4. Rainforest Discovery Centre, Sandakan
There’s no better place than the Rainforest Discovery Centre for a unique opportunity to get up close and personal with the birds of Borneo. This haven for birdwatchers is part of the 4,300-hectare Sepilok-Kabili Forest Reserve, which contains hundreds of bird species, including the Bornean bristlehead and the black-and-crimson pitta. Don’t fancy yourself much of a birder? You can drop by the Plant Discovery Garden to learn more about the different flora found at the park and check out 250 varieties of native orchids; traverse the 147m-long canopy walk and snap a few pictures for the ’gram; or take in the verdant rainforest foliage by hiking along one of the jungle trails.
5. World of Phalaenopsis, Genting Highlands
Genting Highlands’ World of Phalaenopsis is truly a sight for sore eyes. Though technically not an urban park, this idyllic orchid farm is Malaysia’s largest grower of phalaenopsis (moth orchids), a species native to the region. You’ll find an assortment of orchid varieties in full bloom daily, with guided tours that explain how to care for these flowers at home.
6. Taman Tugu, Kuala Lumpur
Taman Tugu is a lush 66-acre urban park in KL known for its forest trails and rainforest conservation efforts. Over 4000 trees have been planted in the park since it first opened in 2018, in addition to the existing flora that has been tagged for preservation. On your hikes, spot the 200 indigenous tree species that now inhabit the site, including the endangered Meranti and Keruing. The park has plans to unveil even more trails across its space.
7. Tropical Spice Garden, Penang
Tropical Spice Garden is home to over 500 species of plants from all around the world, including plants indigenous to Penang and Malaysia. A walk through the gardens is special any time of day, but extra magical at night, when nocturnal plants bloom and animals come out to play.
8. Sama Jaya Forest Park, Kuching
It’s hard to believe that Kuching’s Sama Jaya Forest Park – which spans roughly 38 hectares and is primarily made up of kerangas forest, also known as heath forest – was once a landfill and sewage dumping area. Today, it stands as a thriving urban jungle that provides a safe habitat for local flora and fauna and a recreational area for the city’s residents. Visitors can get their fitness fix on one of the different jogging tracks, take a walk around the reflexology path, drop by the serene Japanese garden and take a trip to the ethnobotanical garden, which has over 80 species of plants and herbs from around Sarawak. The park is also home to fruit bats, tarsiers, squirrels, nine frog species and 20 bird species.