Malaysia is one the world’s premier wildlife destinations. Covering two-fifths of the peninsula and over two-thirds of Sabah and Sarawak, Malaysia’s rainforest is incredibly diverse and supports hundreds of animal, bird, plant, reptile, marine and insect species – many of them extremely rare or endangered.
1. Danum Valley Conservation Area
Covering a vast swathe of northern Borneo, the undisturbed primary rainforests of the Danum Valley are at the heart of a wider ecosystem of global importance. This area has never been permanently settled by humans and has an incredible variety of trees, plants, mammals, birds, reptiles and insects. The rainforest here is known to be the oldest in the world with the canopy, in some parts, reaching close to 60 metres. Orangutan, gibbon and proboscis monkey, sunbear, deer, clouded leopard, 300 bird species and the exceptionally rare Bornean rhinoceros and Borneo pygmy elephant have been recorded.
Location: In the far north east of Sabah, Malaysian Borneo Best time to visit the Danum Valley Conservation Area: Between March and October
2. Taman Negara National Park
With its high mountains, thick impenetrable rainforest and extraordinary biodiversity of both animal and plant life, Taman Negara is a wonderful place. Its location in the centre of mainland Malaysia and within driving distance of the city makes it easier to visit but also means it plays an important role in education and conservation initiatives. All hard to imagine, the rainforests of Taman Negara are thought to be around 130 million years of age and support a wide variety of flora, including the rare rafflesia, and animals from deer, elephant and monkey to hornbill and monitor lizard.
Location: Peninsula Malaysia to the north east of Kuala Lumpur Best time to visit Taman Negara National Park: From March to November
3. Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre
Established in 1964 with the founding principle to protect, rehabilitate and, ultimately, return orphan orangutans back into the wild, Sepilok was the first centre of its kind in the world when it opened. The rescued orangutans reach the centre for a variety of reasons but most arrive due to poaching, deforestation or the illegal pet trade. The primary aim of the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre is to prepare young orangutans for realise back into the forest by teaching them the skills needed to survive. The wider reserve adjoining Sepilok covers a large area of rainforest with around 200 orangutans living free here.
Location: Northern Sabah to the west of Sandakan Best time to visit the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre: March to October