There are also events organized to create awareness about the importance of conserving the country’s natural and cultural assets like the Tabin Wildlife Conservation Conquest in Sabah, Fraser’s Hill International Bird Race and Taman Negara Eco-Challenge competition. Visitors can also join in the Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia’s package tours dubbed, “Knowledge Eco-tourism”, and visit seven restricted research facilities, or “living labs”, to learn about plants and animals in their natural habitats.
Call Of The Wild
Malaysia is one of 12 mega-biologically diverse countries in the world, home to more than 15,000 species of flowering plants, 286 species of mammals, 150,000 species of invertebrates and 4,000 species of fishes.
The country is also home to several UNESCO World Heritage Sites including Sarawak’s Mulu National Park and Sabah’s Kinabalu Park. Langkawi in Peninsular Malaysia, has also been recognised by UNESCO as a geopark for its outstanding geological landscape; the only geopark in the Southeast Asia.
Tourism MalaysiaMalaysia is one of the best places to see the magnificent orang utan. Literally translated from Malay as “Man of the Forest”, these creatures are fast losing their habitat to development. The Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre in Sabah was established in 1964 to return orphaned orang utans back to the wild. Here, they are taught to adjust to living wild in the forest in gradual phases. To date, the Centre has successfully released over 100 orang utans. Besides orang utans, the Centre has also looked after sun bears, gibbons, Sumatran rhinos and elephants.
In Semanggol, Perak, Orang Utan Island, within Bukit Merah Laketown Resort, on the shores of a freshwater lake, is designed to resemble the primate’s natural rainforest habitat as much as possible. This research centre breeds, monitors, trains and rehabilitates its residents, in an effort to increase the population of healthy orang utans in the wild. The Centre also educates the public on how close these primates are to extinction. Starting off with three orang utans in 1999, the island’s population has grown to 23, 12 of which were born on the island.
Tourism MalaysiaGetting Down To Business
Due to the convergence of the bodies of water that surround it, Malaysia boasts an extremely rich marine environment. The warm tropical seas feature some of the richest coral reefs, seagrass beds and mangrove forests in the world. They are also home to one of the world’s largest populations of endangered green sea turtles and other marine species such as hawksbill turtles, dugongs, whale sharks and humphead wrasses.
Marine turtles here are heading toward extinction. In the 1950s, about 10,000 leatherback turtle nests were recorded at Rantau Abang, Terengganu, where they primarily nest. Today, they number less than 10. The olive Ridley and the hawksbill turtles are in a similar situation. Only the green turtles are thriving.
Tourism MalaysiaFortunately, there are several volunteer sea turtle conservation projects in action. Under the Terengganu Turtle Expedition package organized by Help Our Penyu (HOPE), a non-profit set-up, you can help collect vital sea turtle nesting data, among other things. For every beach holiday booked via HOPE (www.helpourpenyu.com), five per cent of the package price is donated to sea turtle conservation in Terengganu. The Universiti Malaysia Terengganu’s Institute of Oceanography offers internship and attachment programs. Students there have been taking the initiative to stop people from eating turtle eggs – a local delicacy in Terengganu.
Tourism MalaysiaThe Gayana Eco Resort houses seven of the eight giant clams in the world. Known as Merc, these endangered crustaceans are protected under the Giant Clam Restocking Programme. Another program involves saving remaining mangroves within forest reserves or protected areas to safeguard the eco-system. Some mangrove forests are already protected such as the Matang Forest Reserve in Perak, the Kuala Selangor Nature Park in Selangor, the Bako National Park in Sarawak, the Kota Kinabalu City Bird Sanctuary and Sepilok Forest Reserve in Sabah.
Since 1989, the Kuala Gandah elephant sanctuary in Pahang, has been raising public awareness of the elephant’s plight in Malaysia and to support research into elephants’ translocation and conservation. Visitors are welcome to participate in elephant activities, like washing these gentle giants in the nearby river. The sanctuary now houses a number of elephants brought in from Thailand, India and Myanmar.
For a taste of local life, under Tourism Malaysia’s homestay program, you can stay with a local family in a rural community, eating and working at the same jobs as the host family (e.g. tapping rubber or planting rice), while learning the culture of the country. At the end of the stay, you can plant a tree in the community.
Meanwhile, Malaysia is waiting to see if its two nominations, Taman Negara National Park in Pahang, and the joint Lanjak-Entimau Wildlife Sanctuary and Batang Ai National Park in Sarawak will be considered as UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Taman Negara National Park is the first national park in Malaysia, created in 1938. It is the largest protected area in the country covering 434,350 hectares of pristine tropical rainforest, estimated to be around 130 million years old. An estimated 185,000 species of animals and 8,000 species of flowering plants are found there including the native crested argus, mountain pheasant and the world smallest rhinoceros, Dicerorhinus sumatrensis, which is nearly extinct and can only be found in Penisular Malaysia, Borneo and Sumatra.
Tourism MalaysiaIncluding two watersheds with elevations ranging from 60 to 1,285 metres, Lanjak-Entimau Wildlife Sanctuary and Batang Ai National Park are among the richest sites for flora and fauna in Borneo. Here, there are eight distinct forest types including the rare montane mossy forest. The 168,758-hectare Lanjak-Entimau Wildlife Sanctuary is a relatively undisturbed primary forest. It is home to orang utans – estimated population 1,360 – and other protected species such as Borneo gibbons and hornbills, and 41 endangered floral species, including the giant Rafflesia flower. Batang Ai National Park’s primary forest is unlogged and home to mixed dipterocarp forest, kerangas forest or tropical heath, and secondary forests. Stretching 24,040 hectares, the area is home to the white fronted langur and ungulates.
The Malaysian government has committed itself towards sustainable development of the tourism industry. Under the government’s Economic Transformation Plan 2020, its mandate is to protect, preserve and conserve the environment. Among its promises is to retain at least 50 per cent of its land area as forests. It has also vowed to reduce up to 40 per cent of carbon emissions by 2020. The Plan also calls for the Global Biodiversity Hub (GBH), an accreditation body, to monitor areas to ensure a high level of commitment to sustainable use and a high level of excellence. In the near future, marine and rainforest discovery centres will be set up to showcase biodiversity offerings and offer visitors an experience they can play a part in helping to protect.
• Getting There: No direct flights from Canada. However, several Asian airlines offer connections: Cathay Pacific (via Hong Kong) to Kuala Lumpur/Kota Kinabalu/Penang; China Airlines (via Taipei) to Kuala Lumpur/Penang; Korean Air (via Seoul) to Kuala Lumpur/Kota Kinabalu; EVA Air (via Taipei) to Kuala Lumpur; Air China (via Beijing) to Kuala Lumpur; China Eastern Airlines (via Shanghai) to Kuala Lumpur.
• Getting Around: Malaysia Airlines, Air Asia, Firefly and MAS Wings service domestic routes. For RM35, the Express Rail, from the KLIA takes 28 minutes to reach the city. The Airport Coach charges RM18 for the hour-long journey to hotels. Flag down rate for taxis is RM3 and there is a 50-per cent surcharge between 12 a.m. and 6 a.m.
• Visa: Not required. Passports must be valid at least six months from the intended departure date from Malaysia.
• Currency: Malaysian Ringgit (RM). Canadian bank cards can be used at selected ATM machines and banks to withdraw cash in local currency. Major credit cards and travellers cheques widely accepted.
• Electricity: AC 220V. Uses three-square-pin (British) sockets, although some older places have three-round-pin sockets. Packing a converter is recommended.
More Information: Tourism Malaysia (Vancouver), Tel: 1-888-689-6872, (604) 689-8899, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org, website: www.tourismmalaysia.ca