The 10 Best Ecotourism Experiences in Malaysia

Jungle trekking in Borneo
Jungle trekking in Borneo | © Stephane Bidouze / Shutterstock
Sam Bedford

Malaysia is known for its food, jungles and biodiversity. With a variety of visitors from shoestring backpackers to luxury tourists, enjoying ecotourism in Malaysia ranks among everyone’s top priorities. Here are our favourite must-have experiences.

Experience the jungle

Jungle covers large areas of west Malaysia and vast regions of Malaysian Borneo. Getting out into the rainforest is both a rewarding and enlightening experience. Visitors can choose between multi-day expeditions to following short trails in national parks. And it’s possible to get in the midst of the steamy forests within less than an hour of Kuala Lumpur.

Malaysia’s national parks

Out of Malaysia’s dozens of national parks and protected areas, most are surprisingly accessible. Tourists can have an experience of a lifetime without spending long hours travelling to get to them. Malaysia’s national parks include parts of the protected jungle, the caves in Sarawak and Mount Kinabalu in Sabah. Nature is never too far away and taking advantage of this is among our favourite ecotourism experiences in Malaysia.

Breathtaking views from Mount Kinabalu

1. Explore the mangroves in Langkawi

Forest

ecotourism experience malaysia
© Gregorio02 / WikiCommons

The 100-square kilometre Kilim Karst Geoforest Park on the northeast corner of Langkawi offers some of the best ecotourism experiences in Malaysia. The network of mangrove swamps surrounding the branching and meandering river is an ecological haven. Not to mention the various geological sites mixed in too. Visitors can appreciate the nature, views and wildlife including swimming macaque monkeys and circling eagles from the comfort of a boat.

See the wildlife

Tourists can expect to see a plethora of wildlife in Malaysia. Drive a short distance from Kuala Lumpur into the hills and you’ll find monkeys hanging from the trees. Or watch as dozens of eagles circle in pairs high in the skies of Langkawi and Sabah. Head to Borneo to see several types of endemic species including the iconic orangutan and proboscis monkey.

See the endangered proboscis monkeys in Borneo

Some of the world’s best diving sites

Apart from offering the full ecotourism experience on land, divers and snorkelers will witness an explosion of life under the waves. From PADI or SSI courses in either Langkawi, Penang or the Perhentian Islands to taking trips to world-class diving spots off the coast of Borneo, Malaysia promises an unparalleled diving experience. We recommend Sipadan and Lankayan Islands in Sabah.

Beautiful view of Lankayan Island

Hundreds of tropical islands

With almost 900 islands littering the thousands of kilometres of coastline along both Peninsular Malaysia and Malaysian Borneo, beach-lovers are in for a treat. Expect to find everything from tiny deserted islands such as Sabah’s Pulau Tiga to the tropical wonderland of the Perhentian Islands. Most have soft sand, clear waters and a thick jungle covering much of the island.

One of the must visit islands in west Malaysia are the Perhentian Islands

Experience the diverse landscapes and ecosystems

There are 12 places in the world classified as mega-diverse. Malaysia is one of them. Large portions of the nation’s rich flora and fauna live in either the tropical rainforest, freshwater and marine habitats. Nature-loving tourists can take tours to many of these for the ultimate ecotourism experience. Other landscapes include the Cameron Highlands, thousands of kilometres of rivers as well as caves.

Fantastic view of BOH plantation in Cameron Highlands

The endless hiking opportunities

What could be better than experiencing the very best of nature and the environment than doing a few jungle treks in Malaysia? Some follow short trails along boardwalks passing through the edge of the forest, while others feature multi-day expeditions to climb remote mountains. Sabah and Sarawak in Borneo offer long hikes, canopy walks in the rainforest and the chance to visit the relatively unexplored Maliau Basin. Or head to the more temperate climates of the Cameron Highlands in west Malaysia for an entirely different experience.

Endless hiking and trekking opportunities in Malaysia

See the stinky Rafflesia and insect-eating pitcher plants

Few ecotourism experiences in Malaysia meet the wow factor of seeing the world’s largest (and smelliest) flower. Rafflesia holds many titles and attracts a lot of attention for its bizarreness and odour that smells like rotting flesh. While the flowers bloom for just a few days each year, it’s still possible to join a tour to see the rare flowers in both Borneo and west Malaysia. Equally fascinating are the bell-shaped pitcher plants that attract insects inside before dissolving and absorbing them as food.

One of the world’s largest and smelliest flowers, Rafflesia

Meet an orangutan

The critically endangered orangutans live in Borneo and Sumatra. But sadly, the number of these remarkably intelligent primates are in sharp decline due to habitat loss. Sabah’s Sepilok Orangutan Sanctuary and Sarawak’s Semenggoh Wildlife Centre adopt and rehabilitate the young and orphaned in a semi-wild sanctuary. Seeing these orange haired, almost-human orangutans is always one of the top ecotourism experiences in Malaysia.

Visit the rescue centres or national parks in Borneo to see the adorable orangutans

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