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Walk through the treetops of the tropical rainforest and come face-to-face with a spider monkey. Cool off in the jungle in a colonial mountain village at an altitude of 1500 metres. Or take a nocturnal boat ride in a sampan surrounded by thousands of flickering fireflies. In addition to cities and beaches, Malaysia boasts a spectacular natural world full of bizarre plants and animals.
Nature lovers will find much to explore in Malaysia. Conservation International named Malaysia one of the 17 countries with the greatest biodiversity in the world; together these countries are home to two-thirds of all flora and fauna. Tropical rainforest covers almost half of the country; here we find 650 species of birds, 210 types of mammals, 150 kinds of lizards, 80 frog species, thousands types of insect, and 14,500 plant and tree species. You don’t need to travel far: there are three beautiful nature reserves close to the capital Kuala Lumpur.
Located on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur, the 1500-hectare nature reserve Bukit Lagong has been managed by the Forest Research Institute since 1929. Walking trails wind through the rainforest leading visitors to waterfalls, natural pools and scenic picnic spots along the river. The top attraction is a 150-metre-long walkway through the tree tops – an impressive location 30 metres above the ground where you come face-to-face with tropical birds and spider monkeys, the skyscrapers of Kuala Lumpur looming in the background. Open from 9.30am to 2:30pm, except on Mondays and Fridays, and when it rains.
One-and-a-half-hour drive from the capital awaits a very different kind of jungle, with strangler trees, gigantic ferns and mangroves. This forest is the scene of an enchanting natural phenomenon. Thousands of small beetles gather here every night – their sparkling lights are created by a biochemical reaction in their abdomen. These fireflies transform the trees along the river banks into twinkling Christmas trees and they flutter around your head as you sail down the river in a sampan. Firefly Park is open from 7pm to 9pm. Do note that weekends can be very busy.
The British founded Fraser’s Hill to escape the sweltering heat of Kuala Lumpur. Built on 7 hills in the cool mountain air at an altitude of 1500 metres, the village encompasses nothing more than a colonial clock tower, post office, golf course, pub and some hotels. It is surrounded by green valleys, covered with pristine rainforest and home to 270 bird species. Fraser's Hill is a 2-hour drive from the capital. The last few kilometres are one-way traffic only: cars drive up on the odd hours and down on the even hours.