Malaysia offers unrivalled biodiversity, jungle experiences and opportunities to get down and dirty with nature. But not everyone can travel deep into the rainforest on multi-day expeditions. Culture Trip explored how to have these same ecotourism experiences near Kuala Lumpur.
Millions of visitors come to Malaysia’s capital for shopping, food and to get a taste of their famed biodiversity. Here’s how to have an ecotourism experience near Kuala Lumpur, including jungle hikes, seeing monkeys and watching fireflies dance.
Visit an oasis in the centre of metropolitan Kuala Lumpur
The easiest way to have an ecotourism experience near Kuala Lumpur is to visit Lake Gardens. Covering more than 100 acres, the sprawling park creates a refreshing haven in the city centre. Lake Gardens, also called Tun Abdul Razak Heritage Park, includes both botanical and orchid gardens. Gangs of monkeys call the park home too. Take the LRT to Pasar Seni near the National Mosque (one stop from Kuala Lumpur Sentral).
Centuries ago, rainforest covered Kuala Lumpur in the same way as the jungle covers much of Borneo. Fast forward to today, and the decades of development have taken most of this rainforest away—apart from the small remaining stretch inside KL Forest Eco Park. Located near Bukit Bintang, it offers a convenient ecotourism experience in the capital. Stroll along the short nature trails through the dense foliage. Or get your adrenaline pumping by crossing the 200-metre-long (656 feet) canopy walk in the treetops.
Kuala Lumpur’s Forest Research Institute of Malaysia lies approximately 20 kilometres (12.4 miles) north of the capital. With a network of cycling and hiking paths inside the 3,700-acre complex, it acts as a magnet for fitness-oriented city dwellers. Visit the education centre to learn about their conversation efforts as well as the various ecological habitats. Keep your eyes open for the different species of wild fern, tropical birds and an occasional monkey.
Cheras 9 Miles is a satellite township some 18 kilometres (11.2 miles) to the southeast of Kuala Lumpur’s city centre. Steep hills covered in thick forest fringe the neighbourhood. Several colour-coded hiking trails penetrate the foliage, giving hikers a mini-jungle experience. Vantage points offer views of the steamy rainforest. Families of monkeys compete for space in the canopy with a plethora of tropical birds. Climbers share the trails with squirrels, lizards and the occasional wild boar.
Explore Ampang Jaya’s rolling hills
Like Cheras, Ampang offers a gateway to Malaysia’s wild side within reach of Kuala Lumpur. Trails intersperse the hilly terrain as the capital’s residents take advantage of escaping the noise and fumes. Expect to meet local (mostly Malaysian Chinese) hikers along the trails in the cooler mornings. If you’re looking for a jungle-related ecotourism experience near Kuala Lumpur, get up early and head to Ampang Jaya’s hills.
Templer Park in Selangor combines a rainforest experience with waterfalls, streams and wildlife. Located just 25 kilometres (15.5 miles) from the capital, it provides a convenient and accessible ecotourism experience near Kuala Lumpur. Plan to spend half a day hiking along medium-length trails. Keep your eyes open for monkeys, lizards and the circling eagles above the canopies. Because of its proximity to Batu Caves, we recommend Templer Park in the morning and Batu Caves in the afternoon.
Few things in life compare to mesmerising fireflies dancing and lighting up the inky darkness. Kuala Selangor’s mangroves and swampland, approximately one hour west of the capital, hosts this mesmerising biological event. Half a century ago, the fireflies were so bright they lit up the entire river. Sadly, their numbers have been declining rapidly. Join a tour from the capital or drive to Belimbing in Kampung Kuantan near Kuala Selangor. Or make your way to the town and the locals will take you out on a traditional wooden sampan.
Outdoor enthusiasts and amateur mountaineers revel at the opportunity to climb Mount Datuk in Sembilan State. Red arrows painted on the trees mark the path to the summit of this 885-metre (2,904-feet) mountain. Climb the ladder to the giant rock at the top for views as far as the Straits of Malacca. Consider Mount Datuk if you missed out on climbing Sabah’s Mount Kinabalu or don’t fancy the week-long slog up Mount Tahan. The average climber takes four or five hours to complete this trek.
Kuala Selangor Nature Park covers a whopping 800 acres of protected mangrove and swampland. Thousands of migratory birds call the eerie environment home. Learn about the importance of mangrove ecosystems and keep your eyes peeled for lizards, amphibians and giant otters. Combine this ecotourism experience near Kuala Lumpur with the fireflies show in the evening. If you really want the full swamp experience, spend the night in the park’s chalets and bungalows.
For the ultimate ecotourism experience near Kuala Lumpur, make the four-hour trip north to Taman Negara. Spread across Kelantan, Terengganu and Pahang State, this is Malaysia’s largest national park. This 130-million-year-old jungle once covered most of the Peninsular. Spend at least two nights in the onsite accommodation to get the most out of the hiking, bird-watching and cave exploration opportunities. The real highlight is the 500 metre- (1,640 feet-) canopy walk. We suggest Taman Negara as an alternative for those who don’t have the time to visit Borneo. Pro tip: Bring long sleeves and leech socks.