Sunday, 28 October 2012

Hiking in Malaysia's National Parks

The oldest tropical rainforest in the world - Taman Negara Nationa Park. Pic: HooLengSiong, Flickr.
Taman Negara Nationa Park. Pic: HooLengSiong, Flickr.

From high-altitude mountain tops to underground caves, virgin rainforests to alpine ecosystems, and freshwater swamps to salty shorelines; Malaysia’s National Parks make up an area comparable in size to the United Kingdom and stretch from Sabah and Sarawak, on Borneo, to Peninsula Malaysia. Most reserves offer a range of trails suitable for anyone from the occasional walker through to pioneering explorers.
The 4343 sq km Taman Negara, on Peninsula Malaysia, is the world’s oldest tropical rainforest. It has been protected since 1938 and forms the country’s largest conservation area. The flora and fauna here has evolved over millions of years and can be experienced via day-long treks, extended expeditions, night safaris or canopy-level walkways. Ambitious trekkers can tackle the 4-7 day ascent of Gunung Tahan (2,187 m) the highest mountain in Peninsular Malaysia.
Renowned for: Ancient flora and fauna
For the best experience: Book a multi-day trek
 Endau-Rompin National Park is the second largest in Peninsular Malaysia. The 900 sq km park nurtures a host of rare species such as Peninsula Malaysia’s largest population of Sumatran rhinoceros and native Malay tribes like theOrang Asli people. It also features outstanding natural landscapes. A trekking highlight is the route to the three waterfalls, Pandan, Beringin and Tinggi – a cascade over volcanic rock formations dating back 200 million years.
Renowned for: Waterfalls and Sumatran rhinoceros
For the best experience: Spend at least three days here and visit the waterfalls
Sumatran Rhino - Peninsula Malaysia’s biggest population is found in Endau-Rompin National Park. Pic: Just chaos, Flickr.
Sumatran Rhino -  Endau-Rompin National Park. Pic: Just chaos, Flickr.
 At just 10 sq miles, Penang National Park is Malaysia’s smallest – you could explore it in one day. Highlights include nesting beaches for endangered turtles, shorelines patrolled by macaque monkeys and one of the few mixed saltwater and freshwater lakes in the world. Take your pick from three different marked trails, or explore the park via the canopy walkway.
Renowned for: Its compact size
For the best experience: Stay a couple of days
Batang Ai National Park, in Sarawak, links with Lanjak-Entimau Wildlife Sanctuary (Malaysia) and the Bentuang-Karimun National Park (Indonesia) to form 10,000 sq km of protected rainforest. The park boasts Borneon gibbons, hornbills, giant squirrels, the clouded leopard, Malaysian honeyguide and the densest concentration of orang-utans in central Borneo. Experience the diversity via the five marked trails; visitors must be accompanied by a registered guide.
Renowned for: Orang-utan sightings
For the best experience: Book a multi-day orang-utan spotting expedition
10,000 sq km of protected rainforest - Batang Ai National Park. Pic: tajai, Flickr
Batang Ai National Park. Pic: tajai, Flickr
Niah National Park, in Sarawak, harbours 31 sq km of dense forest and is considered one of the world’s most important archaeological reserves. Thought to be one of the birthplaces of civilisation, the oldest human remains in Southeast Asia were found here in 1958 at the Niah caves. Watched over by the summit of Gunung Subis (394m) this small reserve draws archaeologists, ecologists and tourists from across the globe, and is marked with a network of trails.
Renowned for: Archaeology
For the best experience: Explore the caves and then walk through the forest at sunset to see millions of swarming swiflets and bats
Gunung Mulu National Park in Sarawak has also been a UNESCO World Heritage site since 2000. Best known for its spectacular limestone karsts, Mulu is characterised by its network of underground caves and its razor-sharp rock formations, known as ‘The Pinnacles’. Home to some of the largest caves in the world, it’s thought that around 70 per cent of these still lie undiscovered.
Renowned for: Caving and limestone karsts
For the best experience: Hike to the Pinnacles or explore the underground caves
Bako National Park, is Sarawak’s oldest park. Located near Kuching, Bako stretches along the coastline for around 27 sq km featuring plunging cliffs, white sandy beaches and craggy headlands. Seventeen colour-coded trails offer a range of challenges. A guide is invaluable for pointing out the mouse dear, bearded pigs, proboscis monkeys and other wildlife.
Renowned for: High concentration of wildlife and plant diversity
For the best experience: Look for proboscis monkeys along the Telok Delima trail
Kinabalu National Park in Sabah was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2000, and over its 754 sq km boasts every type of plant-life, from eucalyptus to oak. It is also crowned by Mount Kinabalu (4,095m) – Malaysia’s tallest mountain. The astounding diversity of flora and fauna, spectacular scenery and irresistible summits here draw in excess of 400,000 visitors each year.
Renowned for: Mountain climbing and biodiversity
For the best experience: Attempt the Mount Kinabalu ascent
tallest mountain in Malaysia – Mount Kinabalu. Pic: Chang'r, Flickr.
tallest mountain in Malaysia – Mount Kinabalu. Pic: Chang'r, Flickr.
If you enjoyed this article and would like to find out more about travelling to Malaysia, please visit the Tourism Malaysia website

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