David Bowden lists 10 areas in the country that nature lovers can explore post-pandemic
THE oxygen we breathe, the food we eat and the sunlight we absorb all come from nature, and maintaining a healthy environment is essential for humanity.
World Environment Day is celebrated this Saturday — as it has been since 1974 — as a day when Malaysians should step into their natural environment to appreciate what nature provides to us all.
As we celebrate World Environment Day, do reflect upon the suggestion that every day should be a time to think about protecting our environment.
Take positive steps to reduce our impact, do something to improve a natural area, join a group of like-minded people to help restore the planet, and stop the destruction of ecosystems on the eve of the United Nations Decade of Ecosystem Restoration.
People on the planet are only as healthy as the ecosystems we all depend upon. Malaysians are fortunate in that we all have ready access to a variety of natural areas.
The best way to protect these areas is to use them sustainably and to give them tourism value so they will be protected and maintained for future generations.
Here are 10 natural areas to explore.
Spanning 4,343 square kilometres, Taman Negara is Malaysia’s largest national park and apart from shooting rapids and jungle trekking, a highlight of visiting one of the world’s oldest, tallest and most species-rich rainforests is to walk the 450m-long canopy trail there. The aerial trail transverses the rainforest’s upper storey, 25m above the ground. From here, visitors get a unique perspective and glimpses of birds, squirrels and reptiles. In the distance, booming gibbons can be heard. Visitors can walk to the canopy walk or catch a longboat along Sungai Tembeling. Multi-day walks to Gunung Tahan at 2,187m can also be attempted or take a softer option, such as a boat ride up Sungai Tahan through avenues of shady trees. The park extends over Pahang, Terengganu and Kelantan, with the main access via Pahang.
TURTLE ISLANDS, SARAWAK
These four specks of land known as Talang-Satang National Park in the South China Sea are home to a turtle hatchery with a programme to release hatchlings back to sea. Overnight visitor numbers are limited and accommodation is basic, but the rewards are high. During the day, relax, read or swim in the clear waters. At dusk, turtles will start landing on the beach to lay their cache of eggs. Rangers lead tourists to watch the laborious task and then to the hatchery to release young turtles. This is a great destination for adventurous travellers as turtles arrive on many nights of the year. Several operators do arrange tours to the island.
BAKO NATIONAL PARK, SARAWAK
This national park of 2,742ha appeals because it is a habitat to a variety of animals. Gazetted in 1957, Bako is Sarawak’s oldest national park and its 16 sign-posted trails extend over 30km. Spend a day or a few relaxing in the on-site chalets, eating in a restaurant serving basic meals. During that time, admire the mangroves, open waters, beaches, sandstone cliffs and outcrops, heath forest and peat swamps. In addition to macaques and boars, look out for proboscis monkeys feeding in the mangroves. The 30-minute boat journey to the park commences at Kampung Bako and ends on the beach at Teluk Assam park headquarters. On the way, look out for saltwater crocodiles and dolphins!
LANGKAWI UNESCO GEOPARK, KEDAH
Large parts of Langkawi’s 99 islands are recognised as a Unesco Geopark (due to its significant rock formations). Not only are the mangroves lining parts of Langkawi important for protecting the coastline from natural disasters like tsunamis but they also provide an exciting educational experience for visitors. The gnarled mangrove roots provide a habitat for fish and crustaceans, with monkeys and various birdlife making their home in the foliage. Get close to scores of brahminy kites and white-breasted sea eagles, but only book tours with guides and operators who don’t feed these mighty raptors. Nature lovers can also enjoy jungle trekking, cycling, kayaking in mangroves, bird watching, waterfalls and island hopping.
GUNUNG MULU NATIONAL PARK, SARAWAK
Despite being named after one of Sarawak’s highest peaks, it’s the subterranean landforms that attract visitors to this 52,866ha national park in remote Borneo. The list of superlatives is as big as the caves in this Unesco World Heritage Site. There are four main caves — Deer, Lang, Clearwater and Wind. Deer Cave is the world’s largest passage while the Sarawak Chamber is the world’s largest chamber. Millions of bats exiting the caves in the evening is a spectacular sight. It’s also possible to climb to the peaks of Gunung Api and Gunung Mulu, but this is best undertaken accompanied by experienced guides.
MOUNT KINABALU PARK, SABAH
Malaysia’s highest peak at 4,095m is clearly visible from many parts of the state. While the challenge of a two-day climb to the summit attracts adventurous travellers, the cool air and plant diversity also appeals to armchair travellers content on lazing around the park headquarters. Climbers overnight half-way at Laban Rata and head off in the darkness of the second morning to reach the summit for sunrise. While the climb doesn’t require mountaineering skills, climbers need to be fit as it’s no stroll in the park. Being a Unesco World Heritage Site, the park is recognised as an epicentre of biological diversity with 5,000 plant species within its 750 sq km, as well as a venue for various adventure activities.
ROMPIN STATE PARK, PAHANG
Pahang’s Rompin State Park is one of the largest natural areas in Peninsular Malaysia and forms contiguous forests with the Endau State Park in neighbouring Johor. Just inside the park, the 50m-high Seri Mahkota waterfall is a must-photograph sight. The just-completed Rainforest Discovery Centre provides excellent information on the park. Seeing animals in Malaysian rainforests is never easy, but local guides will do their best to find traces of Asian Elephants that live here. Well-prepared adventurers can head upstream to remote campsites in the park. Alternatively, accommodation is available at park headquarters.
KENONG RIMBA PARK, PAHANG
Travel to Kuala Lipis and on to Kenong Rimba Park in the Kenong Valley adjoining Taman Negara in Pahang. This protected reserve of primary lowland forest is also home to limestone outcrops, caves and wild rivers. Access is via the forest-lined Kenong river and kayaking on the river is one of the main activities. Use local guides to access forest trails and remote caves deep in the forests. Experienced cavers can head further into the forests where few have ventured. Established campsites provide rustic, but comfortable accommodation. Pictures by David Bowden.
PERLIS STATE PARK, PERLIS
The limestone hills extending over the Nakawan Range and shared by the Thaleban National Park (Thailand) and Perlis State Park are dominated by limestone peaks, caves and outcrops.
KINABATANGAN WILDLIFE SANCTUARY, SABAH
Much of Malaysia was once covered by lowland rainforest, high altitude montane forests and coastal mangroves.
By : David Bowden – NST