There are two sides of Malaysia: Peninsular Malaysia and East Malaysia (Borneo). Both are filled with an abundance of natural wonders and government-run national parks. Malaysian forests, with some estimated to be over 130 million years old, are teeming with incredibly diverse plant and animal life that is unique to its habitat. If you’re interested in a foray into a forest, underwater or atop mountains, National Parks are a good marker of particularly great places for outdoor experiences right bam in the middle of eco-rich nature. There are several well-known national parks in Malaysia, such as Batang Ai National Park, Niah National Park, and Lambir Hills National Park. Which ones are the best to explore? Here are our top 6 picks!

The Best National Parks in Malaysia

Taman Negara, Kuala Tahan

Trek in a forest over 100 million years old

With an estimated age of 130 million years, Taman Negara is one of the most ancient rainforests in the world. Covering an area of over 4,000 square kilometres, Taman Negara is one of the most exciting and diverse forests in the world that you can visit. If you’re lucky, you’ll be able to spot the park’s famous, albeit rare, residents, such as the Malaysian tiger, Asian elephant, and the Malayan peacock-pheasant.

Best Time to Visit

The climate of this rainforest is always hot and humid, although February-October often brings the driest weather. Since November-January can be wetter than usual, some areas of the park may be inaccessible.

Getting Around
Visitors can trek through the forest, go to the canopy walk, or take a wooden longboat down one of the park’s green snaking rivers.
Where to stay
Great for groups and located in the midst of the jungle is Mutiara Taman Negara, a resort that offers villa-style rooms, family rooms, as well as camping facilities.

 

Bako National Park, Kuching

See gravity-defying natural sea sculptures

Located in Malaysian Borneo, Bako National Park offers an impressive range of vegetation – from mangroves and swamps to forests and ocean life. Add to that beautiful and rare animals, and you’ll find that the variety found at this park is especially unique. Don’t miss the sea and wind-worn limestone and sandstone cliffs, especially the curvy Sea Stack.

 

Best Time to Visit
The forest can be extremely hot and humid with a little breeze, so if you’re looking to visit when it’s less humid, April-September would be a good idea. Otherwise, the weather is pretty much constant throughout the year.

Getting Around
 Bako National Park has 16 official trails which range from 30 minutes to over seven hours. String the trails together and camp overnight in the park.

Where to stay
 Although Cove 55 is not situated inside Bako National Park, it’s only 20 kilometres away, making it a good option for nature lovers with a taste for luxury. With only 12 rooms, look forward to beautiful sea-view rooms and a stunning swimming pool.

 

Penang National Park, Penang

Make like a monkey and traipse the canopies

Why visit: The thrilling 250-meter canopy walk, dangling 15 meters off the ground, allows nature lovers a view of the forest from above. This scenic portion of Penang National Park connects two trails and is built on gorgeous dipterocarp trees.

Best Time to Visit
 Come during March-October for the driest months but note that weather doesn’t change significantly throughout the year.

Getting Around
 You can easily walk around this small park on your own, but if you want to have a tour, you can hire private guides and boats on the premises.

Where to stay
 A short 20-minute drive from the Penang National Park is PARKROYAL Penang Resort, a sprawling retreat located on Batu Ferringhi Beach.

Kinabalu National Park, Kota Kinabalu

Visit one of Malaysia’s first national parks

Why visit: Kota Kinabalu’s famous Kinabalu Park is home to the first Unesco World Heritage Site in Malaysia and one of the country’s first national parks. The real star of this park is Mount Kinabalu, a 4,000 metre-high giant that’s still growing. The rest of the park spans 750 square metres and contains a variety of landscapes and animals such as the sun bear, Bornean ferret badger, and the oriental small-clawed otter.

Best Time to Visit
 If you wish to spot orangutans more easily, come here during May-September when the weather is drier.

Getting Around
 There are a total of nine trails in the park ranging from 15 minutes to two and a half hours. If you’re planning to trek up the mountain, note that climbers must be accompanied by an official guide.

Where to stay

Splurge a little and treat yourself after a hard climb to the well-appointed Shangri-La’s Tanjung Aru Resort & Spa – a hotel that has something for everyone in the family.

 

Tunku Abdul Rahman National Park, Kota Kinabalu

Zipline from island to island at this unique park chris davey / CC BY-NC 2.0

Located just off Kota Kinabalu are the five pristine islands that create the Tunku Abdul Rahman National Park. This marine park has terrific (and often uncrowded) beaches and excellent options for snorkelling and diving. Not to miss is the Coral Flyer which connects Pulau Gaya and Pulau Sapi by a zip line.

Best Time to Visit
 As the seas can be choppy during the months of November-February, it’s a good idea to avoid the islands then – especially if you don’t have good sea legs.

Getting Around
 There are regular ferries from Kota Kinabalu, and you can hire small boats to bring you to each of the islands.

Where to stay
 Manukan Island Resort is a secluded beach resort that offers direct access to the beach with a lush forest in the background. It’s here where you can experience peaceful isolation in nature.

 

Kuching Wetlands National Park, Kuching

Spot amazing sea, land, and air animals Bernard DUPONT / CC BY-SA 2.0

An impressive array of animals take refuge in the mangroves of Kuching Wetlands National Park. Keep your eyes peeled for an abundance of all kinds of wildlife such as proboscis monkeys, monitor lizards, crocodiles, white-bellied sea eagles, and mudskippers. Bird watchers and animal lovers will especially take to this park.

Best Time to Visit
 Like the rest of Malaysia, the weather is relatively stable throughout the year. However wet December and January can put a damper on your activities.

Getting Around
 The park has a variety of trails that are fairly easy for beginner outdoors men.

Where to stay

The nearby Hilton Kuching is perched on the banks of the Sarawak River and comes with five-star amenities such as a tropical-style pool and several dining options.

 

From crystal clear beaches to massive mountains to damp and diverse forests – fans of the great outdoors will certainly find no shortage of adventure in Malaysia. With such a range of activities and landscapes in all corners of the country, the national parks of Malaysia have something in store for travellers from all walks of life.