Who, and what exactly. is the Eco-traveller?
According to the International Ecotourism Society, eco-travel is “responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment, sustains the well-beings and involves interpretation and education”
It basically begs the question of how we can travel greener? Yes, be that person who is conscious of their natural surroundings, and strive to minimize the impact of their presence to the environment.
How can we be ‘greener’?
First of all, educate yourself. Learn about the natural resources and attractions of the area. See how you can create as minimal an impact as possible, keeping the destination or attraction as pure as possible for future visitors.
One very good way to learn is by volunteering. There are many ways a person can participate in volunteerism, and this way, the benefits are two-thronged – both parties gain a little from the experience.
Another way is by incorporating good, ‘green’ habits in your daily life – reduce use of plastic (drinking straws, disposable containers), recycle and reuse as much as possible, and aim for zero-waste, especially food.
Lush green rainforests cover a large area of West Malaysia and regions in Malaysia Borneo, and Malaysia too is home to an impressive diverse marine life. Love the beach? We have that too, in abundance! All of these places welcome visitors. Responsible visitors, more so! Read on!!
Fancy the Jungle?
- Sg Yu Forest Reserve, Pahang
Located on the edge of Taman Negara Pahang, Sg Yu Forest reserve is a large forest reserve under the Permanent Forest Estate (PFE) of Peninsular Malaysia that is a mixture of secondary and primary forest. The area is home to a number of wildlife, including elephants, tapir, a few species of deer, as well as a variety of hornbills.
If you feel up to it, you could also opt for a guide to visit some ‘Orang Asli’ Settlement which can be found along the river throughout the Park.
2. Royal Belum State Park, Perak
The huge Royal Belum State Park is located in the northern parts of Peninsular Malaysia, and is part of the much larger Belum-Temenggor Forest Complex which is shared with Thailand. Together with Taman Negara Pahang, they form the oldest rainforest in the world at over 130 million years old! Belum has the huge potential of becoming one of Malaysia’s premier eco-tourism destination choice.
There’s much to see and do around Belum State Park. As many of the attractions are located along Lake Temenggor, exploring by boat would be the best option. There are trails to hike, falls and ponds to dip in and cool off, and wildlife to look out for. Boars, tapirs, the white-handed gibbon and the Malaysian sunbear roam free in these jungles, as well as the elusive Malayan tiger. If you’re in luck, you may even stumble across a rafflesia. And don’t forget to look up, in search of the various hornbills within the area.
3. Kilim Geopark, Langkawi
Part of the UNESCO network of global geoparks, the Langkawi Geopark Forest is first of its kind in the South East Asia Region. It covers 100 square kilometres of nature reserve and countless nature wonders, including flora and fauna.
The beautiful diverse natural geological, biological and cultural resources makes Kilim unique, especially the co-existence of coastal karst and mangrove ecosystems. One recommended way to surround yourself, and embrace the spectrum of geological and natural heritage, is by taking a kayak tour, with an experienced guide of course!
Apart from the rich mangrove flora and geological wonders, look out also for the Pit Viper, whose natural habitat lays within this mangrove.
4. Mulu National Park, Sarawak
If you refer to Gunung Mulu National Park’s official website, you will learn that “to qualify for world heritage status a property must meet one of the four following criteria:”
- Be an outstanding example of the world’ geological history (Caves and cave deposits)
- Be and outstanding representative example of on-going evolutionary processes (current research programmes)
- Be of exceptional beauty!
- Contain significant natural habitat for in-situ conservation of biological diversity and the protection of threatened species (wide range of cave and forest habitats).
And amazingly, Mulu meets all four criteria!
Needless to say, you will be enthralled with all that Mulu National Park has to offer!
5. Penang National Park, Teluk Bahang Penang
While you can hike to the National Park, it is advisable to take a boat so that you can cover more area, and experience the different nature attractions within the Park. Within the park is a rare meromictic lake, a lake of two separate layers of salt and fresh water do not mix. Pick the time and season you visit very carefully because the wrong timing will see the lake rather dry!
Further along the beach, you will find the Penang Turtle Sanctuary. Here, Green Turtles and Olive Ridley Turtles are the two most common species that come to lay their eggs.
Perhaps experience a jungle within a city?
If you are in a rush, and can only squeeze in a quick visit, and yet still wish enjoy a bit of nature, then consider the following in-the-city rendezvous places.
6. National Botanical Park, Shah Alam Selangor
The National Botanical Park in Shah Alam covers and impressive 72 hectares, and is among the favourite destinations for locals to experience a bit of nature and provide some fun education for their kids. There are farm animals, an aviary, and some other common small mammals for the kids to enjoy and interact with.
7. FRIM, Selangor
FRIM, or the Forest Research Institute Malaysia, is one of the leading institutions in tropical forestry research. An introduction in its official website states that 545-ha site “was gazetted as a Natural Heritage Site on 10 February 2009 under the National Heritage Act 2005, and officially declared as a National Heritage on 10 May 2012. FRIM is working towards attaining the recognition as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.”
Visitors are welcome to picnic, trek or even camp within their grounds, limited to the visitor guidelines issued by the Institute. Bird watching is another encouraged activity within FRIM’s grounds.
8. Bukit Nanas Forest Reserve, Kuala Lumpur
Recently renamed KL Forest Eco-Park, the Bukit Nanas Forest Reserve is a small patch of rainforest located in the heart of Kuala Lumpur, at the base of the KL Tower, one of the tallest telecommunications structures in the world. This small patch of greenery within the bustling city preserves many species and features of the original rainforest that covered Kuala Lumpur a long time ago.
There are several trails that run through the reserve, but are mainly to one side of the hill. The main entrance is located near Jalan Raja Chulan but it is most convenient to take the KL LRT and proceed on foot from the Dang Wangi LRT Station.
Fancy a bit of diving? Or just snorkeling?
9. Pulau Perhentian, Terengganu
Located just off the edge of Pulau Redang, Pulau Perhentian, which means ‘stopover island’, should not be missed. The island consists of two islands, Pulau Perhentian Besar (literally Big Island) and Pulau Perhentian Kecil (Small Island). Of the two, the Small Island is preferred due to less development and the absence of huge resorts.
Covered largely by unspoilt jungle, gentle swaying palms, sparkling white powdery beaches and the enticing sapphire gleaming waters, Pulau Perhentian is a sanctuary for fishermen, migratory birds and of course, the discerning holiday-makers. The excellent seascape offers endless opportunity for diving and snorkeling, with gentle turtles and fleeting fishes surrounding you.
10. Pulau Lang Tengah, Terengganu
Located between Redang and Perhentian Islands, Lang Tengah is a precious gem, very low key and not as heavily visited. The clear tropical waters surrounding the island, which is also a designated marine park, are teeming with corals and sea life which occasionally include sharks and rays. Green turtles commonly come to nest during the season which starts from April to October, and the hawksbill turtle makes an occasional appearance as well. The island is also covered with primary forest, and has a wide variety of birds, lizards, frogs and insects.
11. Pulau Tiga, Sabah
Gained ‘popularity’, thanks to the Survivor Series, Pulau Tiga is surrounded by the pristine South China Sea. Once there, you can opt to hike in the jungle, visit the nearby Snake Island to spot some wildlife, or choose to camp in the wilderness. Mud pools are also available for that beauty therapy you’ve been wanting to get!
12. Lankayan Island, Sabah
Slightly differing from all the above, Lankayan is a private luxury island, but would still be much appreciated by the discerning eco-traveller who wouldn’t mind splurging once in a while. They offer luxurious beachfront, as well as over-the-water chalets, for that unique holiday experience.
There are 4 dive wrecks to choose from if you fancy a bit of underwater activity, and located along what is known as the ‘Sea Turtle Corridor’ you will not be disappointed!
13. Talang Satang National Marine Park, Sarawak
The Talang Satang National Park is a national park in Kuching Division, Sarawak, Malaysia. It is Sarawak’s first marine protected area, and covers the four islands Pulau Talang-Talang Besar, Pulau Talang-Talang Kecil, Pulau Satang Besar and Pulau Satang Kecil and surrounding coral reefs.
The Park is mainly set up as a turtle sanctuary, of which three of the islands are known as Sarawak’s “Turtle Islands”.
Or maybe wildlife are more your thing?
14. Kuala Gandah Elephant Sanctuary, Pahang
The Kuala Gandah Elephant Sanctuary, which lies within the Krau Wildlife Reserve, is the only one of its kind in Malaysia. The centre’s main objective is to relocate elephants which natural habitats have been encroached for development, to a safer, more suitable, permanent area such as the Taman Negara. Orphaned elephants are also raised and given shelter here.
The centre welcomes visitors, and is open throughout the year, and conducts various public awareness activities. There is no entrance fees, but donations are welcome. For those interested, there are also volunteer programs available.
15. Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre
Set up in 1964, its main purpose was to rehabilitate orphaned and displaced orangutans before sending them back into the forest.
Today, the centre also provides medical care and shelter for other species of wildlife as well, including sun bears, gibbons, Sumatran rhinos and occasionally, elephants.
Visitors are treated to witnessing the feeding of the orangutans twice a day, from a designated platform and viewing gallery which is accessible via a boardwalk through the forest. Here, visitors aren’t allowed any physical contact with the orangutans to help and keep diseases at bay. Sepilok also had a volunteer program, as well as ‘adopt an orangutan’ program for those who are interested.
16. Tabin Wildlife Reserve, Sabah
Tabin Wildlife Reserve is considered the largest wildlife reserve in Malaysia, comprising an area of approximately 300,000 acres! Tabin was declared a Wildlife Reserve mainly due to the large number of animals inhabiting the forests, some of which are highly endangered. Three of Sabah’s largest mammals are found in Tabin, and they are the Sumatran Rhino, Pygmy Elephant and Tembadau, and many other species of wildlife that are protected.
17. Turtle Island, Sabah
Selingan Island, or more commonly referred to as Turtle Island, is the second largest of the three islands with an area of 8 hectares and is also the first turtle hatchery in Malaysia.
The number of visitors who can stay overnight on the island is restricted, and you will need to apply for permits to visit the island. Basic accommodation is available, as the best time to see the turtles lay eggs are after dusk, and there is also a visitor centre where you can learn more about the conservation efforts carried out by the centre all these years.
Both Green and Hawksbill Turtles come to shore throughout the year to lay their eggs. However, the peak season for the Greens turtles is between July to October while the peak season for the Hawksbill turtles is between February to April.
18. Semenggoh Nature Reserve, Sarawak
Situated just a short distance away from the city of Kuching in Sarawak, The Semenggoh Nature Reserve serves as a mostly-temporary home the gentle Orangutans. Established in 1975, it initially became a centre for injured and captured orangutans, and has now developed into a place where visitors can learn about other rare and endemic species as well. The orangutans are trained to get back to the centre during their feeding times, but when it is fruiting season and they can forage for food themselves, they sometimes do not appear.
Rare flora and fauna can also be found here, and you will appreciate the sounds of the jungle when you drop by for a visit.
You may also opt for the cooler highlands…
19. Cameron Highlands, Pahang
Cameron Highlands is easily the most popular highland retreats in Malaysia, offering a moderate climate ranging between18 to 25 degrees Celcius.
However, this moderate weather also serves as a ‘curse’ to the destination as the environment makes it an ideal location for growing various produce, both for local consumption as well as for export.
During the Colonial era, the British grew tea on the fertile mountain slopes, and these plantations exist till today. More suited as a family getaway, places like Cameron Highlands can offer a pleasant surprise to the discerning eco-tourist.
Hiking trails and breathtaking views await you!
20. Fraser’s Hill, Pahang
Fraser’s Hill is one of the oldest, but less popular, highland resort destination located among the mountains of Pahang. Only 2 hours away from Kuala Lumpur, this cooling retreat offers nature activities which include jungle trekking
The iconic Fraser’s Hill clock tower sits in the middle of the quaint village town, always a popular photo spot.
Fraser’s Hill is also hosts the International Bird Race, which has been an annual event since 1988. The main objectives of the bird race is to encourage the preservation of nature, considering there are over 250 species of birds within the area, as well as to promote Fraser’s Hill as a bird sanctuary.