By Chris Wotton
MALAYSIA’S national parks teem with wildlife, and whichever park you choose to visit you are bound to come across a whole host of critters large and small getting on with life in their natural habitat. Mostly, you do not even have to travel far from the nearest big city to get back to nature and up close and personal with nature’s finest. Don’t forget to whip out your camera and get some snaps of all that colourful wildlife while you’re here. Here are a few picks of where you might want to head for your first glimpse of Malaysia at its best.
Bako National Park, Sarawak
Sarawak, on the island of Borneo hosts both the Bako and Batang Ai National Parks. The closest departure point for either is the captivating city of Kuching – less than 40km away, and well worth a visit in itself.
Bako National Park lies at the tip of the Muara Tebas peninsular and is one of the smallest in Sarawak but also one of the oldest in the state. With its coastal location it boasts secluded beaches and plenty of panoramic rocky shoreline as well as all you would expect of a national park including jungle streams, waterfalls and plenty of opportunities for easy or more challenging nature trails through the jungle canopy – there are a total of sixteen different colour coded trails, in fact.
Home to around 275 rare, reddish brown furred proboscis monkeys, found only in Borneo, Bako is a wildlife junkie’s idea of heaven. What’s more the area has also been protected for over fifty years so the animals are less wary of humans than in other places, making it easy to get up close with them to see, experience and snap away. There are also silvered leaf monkeys and langurs, the Bornean bearded pig as well as more common water monitors, plantain squirrels, wild boar and mouse deer, plus the fearless macaques monkeys – keep your bag tightly sealed or they will be in there before you know it! Many of these tend to hang out at popular tourist spots – like the dining areas outside the overnight accommodation.
Don’t forget about the animals you might see at night either. Accommodation is possible inside the park and there are organised night excursions, with flashlights, for you to get a glimpse of nocturnal animals. You might spot a python, a flying lemur, bats, the civet and even owls. Keep an eye out too for vipers that come out after rain. There are also plenty of animals you might hear at night that you won’t see – cicadas, insects, frogs and crickets.
Two species of otter also call Bako home – the oriental small clawed otter and the hairy nosed type. You might catch them swimming or feeding in the water – Bako sits at the mouth of both the Bako and Kuching rivers – or in the mangrove forests. As well as over 150 different species of birds to spot, the coastal location of Bako also brings another advantage by way of the abundance of aquatic life waiting in the rock pools along the shore. If for nothing more than the sheer variety of environments, habitats and species, Bako National Park is a winner.
Taman Negara National Park, Pahang
Pahang state’s Taman Negara National Park, meanwhile, is one that feeds on superlatives. Largest national park, highest peak in peninsular Malaysia – it can boast them all. The sun bear and Asian elephant are among the species that call Taman Negara home, along with the Sumatran rhinoceros, clouded leopard and Indian pied hornbill. The Orang Asli, Malaysia’s original inhabitants who now live hunter gatherer style, are also at home within Taman Negara.
For plant life, too, this park ticks all the boxes – just the huge trees that tower above you as you follow trails around the park are enough to take your breath away, but plenty of other flora is also ready and waiting besides. The rivers that flow through the park offer a handy way to reach higher ground for even better views and more nature fuelled discoveries, while caverns and hilltop viewpoints complete the mix.
To get to Bako National Park, take the bus for a forty five minute journey to get you to Kampung Bako village, from where a thirty minute boat ride from the national parks ticketing counter will get you into the park proper. Guided treks around Taman Negara National Park leave from nearby Kuala Tahan, which you can reach from Kuala Lumpur by taking a four hour bus ride to Jerantut followed by another hour on a second bus.
If you enjoyed this article and would like to find out more about travelling to Malaysia, please visit the Tourism Malaysia website
Abut the author…
Chris Wotton (UK)
A twenty-something with a medically incurable addiction to travel and a taste for southeast Asia in particular, Chris is a travel writer who is most at home seeking out lesser known spots and discovering their local culture and food – in Malaysia and beyond. Chris tweets @mountsushi and writes about regional and global destinations at www.theworldandhistuktuk.co.uk.