The Best Nature Reserves in Malaysia

Rock coastline of Bako National Park
Rock coastline of Bako National Park | © zaferkizilkaya/Shutterstock
Sam Bedford

Endless plants and animals, including several species of primates, birds and mammals fill Malaysia’s vast areas of rainforests and protected areas. Discover our selection of the best nature reserves in Malaysia and Malaysian Borneo for jungle activities and wildlife spotting.
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Danum Valley Conservation Area

Located deep in the Bornean jungle, the Danum Valley Conservation Area holds a special place in ecotourism. The lowland dipterocarp rainforest covers 438 square kilometres and has remained unchanged for millions of years. With one of Asia’s most prominent conservation field centres, filled with scientists and experienced guides, visitors will receive exposure to a wealth of expertise found nowhere else in Malaysia. On-site accommodation ranges from a hostel bed to chalets. Daily activities include jungle trekking, wildlife spotting, night safaris and canopy walks. Lucky tourists might see orangutans, pygmy elephants and sambar deer.

Nature Reserve at Shangri-La’s Rasa Ria Resort

The Shangri-La’s Rasa Ria is one of the most luxurious resorts in Kota Kinabalu. Apart from providing a world-class retreat, Rasa Ria has an impressive nature reserve near Pantai Dalit. Offering short jungle walks during the day and night, the resort is one of the more accessible nature reserves in Malaysia. Night treks in search of the elusive pangolin while wearing infrared goggles is a particular highlight. Expert guides, who seem to know almost everything about the jungle, give commentary on the flora and fauna.

Maliau Basin Conservation Area

Maliau Basin is said to be a mystical place. Located in an almost circular basin and reaching an altitude of 1675 metres (5455 feet), this nature reserve in Malaysia almost has its own self-contained ecosystem. With a range of activities, such as jungle treks, waterfall swimming and wildlife spotting, a trip to Sabah’s Maliau Basin provides the rare opportunity to experience untouched wilderness. Accommodation and guides are available, as well as an on-site research facility.

Semenggoh Nature Reserve

Semenggoh, located approximately 28 kilometres (17.4 miles) south of Kuching, is both a nature reserve and an orangutan rehabilitation centre. After injured or recently homeless orangutans are taken care of, the animals spend their time in the nearby forest. Try to visit this nature reserve in Malaysia between 9:00am and 10:00am or 3:00pm and 4:00pm to witness the spectacle of orangutan feeding.

Bako National Park

Bako National Park is Sarawak’s oldest nature reserve, receiving its protected status in 1957. Located on the Muara Tebas peninsula that’s approximately 23 kilometres (14.3 miles) northeast of Kuching, Bako National Park boasts an impressive range of fauna and flora. Expect to find everything from resident proboscis monkeys, colourful kingfishers and wild boars to various types of environments, including mangrove, swamp and dipterocarp forest inside this relatively small nature reserve in Malaysian Borneo. Combine hiking, jagged cliffs, rock formations, beaches, and the famous Borneo sunset with a good chance of seeing wildlife, and it’s easy to understand why Bako National Park rates among the best nature reserves in Malaysia.

Taman Negara Malaysia

Translating to ‘National Park Malaysia’, this 4343 square kilometre nature reserve combines rainforests, wildlife, canopy walks, caves and West Malaysia’s tallest peak: Gunung Tahan (‘Mount Tahan’). Believed to be 130 million years old, Taman Negara’s virgin vegetation holds the title as the world’s oldest deciduous rainforest. Activities include jungle treks, visiting the aboriginal Orang Asli villages, night treks, safaris and snapping photographs from treetop observation decks. Taman Negara has been featured as one of the best and most accessible nature reserves in West Malaysia.

Matang Mangrove Forest Reserve

The large mangrove reserve near Taiping offers tourists the chance to walk along trails, experience mangrove ecosystems and see a variety of birds and mammals. Housing up to 80,000 migratory birds, Matang Mangrove is an often overlooked nature reserve in Malaysia. Boat rides during the day to see eagles and sunset cruises are available. River dolphins occasionally swim into the mangroves too.

Kilim Geoforest Park

Covering an area large enough to fill most of Langkawi’s northeast corner, Kilim has limestone rock formations, mangroves and caves. Regular tours take passengers along the river through the mangrove swamps. Expect lots of monkeys, including macaques that dive into the water and swim towards the boat. Look up and see dozens of eagles circling. Not only is Kilim Geoforest Park a favourite excursion in Langkawi, but it’s also one of the best nature reserves in Malaysia for its accessibility and likelihood of seeing wildlife.

Penang National Park

Located in the extreme northeast of Penang Island, Penang National Park is one of the smallest nature reserves in Malaysia. The oceanfront-protected zone has a long beach lined by secondary rainforest with a number of hiking trails. Activities at Penang National Park include canopy walks, enjoying secluded beaches and spotting some of the 417 species of flora and 143 different types of fauna.

KL Forest Eco Park

Anyone who has visited Kuala Lumpur will know it as a sprawling and polluted metropolis. But KL Forest Eco Park, or Bukit Nanas Forest Reserve, provides a small section of jungle in the heart of the busy capital. Located next to the Kuala Lumpur Tower and offering a few nature trails, a canopy walk and several monkeys, this nature reserve in Malaysia provides a haven among the skyscrapers. The main entrance is on Jalan Raja Chulan.

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