Are you an adventure traveller?
Traditional tourism activities, like sightseeing and visiting museums, tend to cast tourists in the role of an observer on the outside looking in.
Many places in Malaysia are inspiring just to lay eyes on, but for more adventurous types, the best part of travelling to an exotic destination is jumping in and experiencing it for yourself.
By actively engaging with a new place, you tap into a limitless source of energy that stems from being in nature and connecting with people from different backgrounds. These are the unforgettable moments of your life that can’t be captured in a picture or on the printed page.
And the best part? You don’t have to be an adrenaline junkie to get a taste of the excitement.
Read on for a full range of adventure tourism activities in Malaysia, including low-risk options like snorkelling or zip lining as well as wilder feats like jumping out of an airplane.
Hiking in Malaysia
Hiking is as easy as putting one foot in front of the other, right? Wrong.
A journey of a thousand miles may begin with a single step, but when hiking in Malaysia, it’s important to research the hike you want to do beforehand. Many of the most famous treks are very challenging and should not be tackled without previous mountain climbing experience.
If you’re not looking for a hardcore trekking experience, there are options for light hiking. Remember to always take a water bottle and plenty of insect repellent.
Malaysian Hiking Trails for Beginners
- Broga Hill (Bukit Lalang)
This easy hike just an hour’s drive from Kuala Lumpur is 3.4 kilometres long and takes 1 to 2 hours. Start in the wee hours of the morning to catch a beautiful sunrise over the hills.
- Bukit Gasing Forest Reserve
Here you will find easy to moderate hiking routes that can take you over a suspension bridge through the tropical forest or up to a Hindu temple. There are wooden benches around the park where you can stop and take a rest.
- Canopy Walkway in Taman Negara National Park
Stroll along the canopy walkway and look out, over and up at the flora and fauna of the lush green forest. The suspension bridge is over 500 metres long and sits 40 metres above the ground. It is only about 1.7 km from the park’s Wildlife Headquarters, reachable with 20 to 45 minutes of hiking or a 5 to 10 minute boat ride. There are many other hikes you can also do inside the park.
- Sungai Lembing’s Rainbow Waterfall
A beautiful waterfall with a daily rainbow? How magical is that! A 4X4 off-road vehicle is needed to get to the trailhead, so book a ride ahead of time in the small mining town of Sungai Lembing. The ride up to the trailhead takes about 45 minutes, and the hike takes another 45 minutes. The rainbow is only visible from 9 am to 10 am, so expect an early start! This popular hike can get crowded on weekends.
If you’re an avid trekker and want to challenge yourself with some Malaysian mountain climbing, here are some formidable trekking experiences you can tackle.
Difficult Treks in Malaysia
- The Pinnacles Trail in Gunung Mulu National Park.
- Mount Kinabalu, Malaysia’s tallest mountain, in Kinabalu National Park Ranau. Must be booked in advance.
- Mount Tahan, the highest point in Peninsular Malaysia, in Taman Negara National Park.
These treks are both mentally and physically demanding, requiring several days of gruelling determination. It is best to go with a guide or tour. Not only is this the safest option, you will also enrich your experience by meeting other adventurous people from the area and around the world.
Rock Climbing in Malaysia
Located about 40 km from Kuching and 8 km from Bau, the Fairy Caves are a legendary place for rock climbers, with several separate walls including Batman Wall, Tiger Wall, Stage Wall, Orchid Wall, Staircase Wall and Zoo Wall. Climbing difficulty ranges from 5 to 8 on the French grading system.
The enormous and enchanting Fairy Caves are also worth visiting just for the breathtaking views. Bring a torch and wear good shoes to climb up a steep and slippery concrete staircase. The beautiful Wind Cave is only about 10 minutes away.
If all that walking and climbing doesn’t appeal to you, why not take a ride on a zip line, also known as a flying fox?
Coral Flyer is the world’s longest island-to-island zip line. That’s right, you fly through the blue skies and over the blue-green ocean between Gaya and Sapi, 2 of the 5 islands that make up Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park.
If you prefer to soar through a leafy green rainforest and over the crashing Seven Wells Waterfall, try the 12-zipline course at Umgawa Zipline Eco Adventures in Langkawi’s UNESCO Geopark.
ATV Riding in Malaysia
If you like to be in control of your own adventure, get behind the wheel of an all-terrain vehicle (ATV) and explore a variety of Malaysia jungle trails, many of which go by stunning waterfalls. Prepare to get muddy! You can find lots of tour packages online, available from Kuala Lumpur or Pangkor Island.
White Water Rafting in Malaysia
One of the joys of white water rafting is the opportunity to glide through pristine natural areas far from the masses of landlubbers.
When considering a rafting trip, it is essential to research the river rapids and understand the level of risk involved. There is an international rating system used to grade rapids, which ranges from class 1 to class 6.
Class 1: Moving water with little or no rapids. No skills required.
Class 2: Some mild rapids, suitable for children. Some basic paddling may be needed.
Class 3: Larger rapids but with a low-risk level. Intermediate paddling skills needed.
Class 4: Whitewater, powerful rapids. Advanced skills required.
Class 5: Very difficult. Long and violent rapids. Experts only.
Class 6: Extremely dangerous, professionals only.
Keep in mind that a river can become more or less dangerous as water levels and conditions vary throughout the year. Make sure to speak to the rafting company providing your equipment about the current state of the rapids, and consider rafting with a guide on board.
Many places also rent kayaks if you prefer to go kayaking in Malaysia.
For beginners and families, the Kampar River (Class 1 – 3), Kiulu River (Class 1 – 2), or Slim River (Class 1 – 3) are safe options.
For intermediate challenges, the Selangor is one of Malaysia’s most popular options for whitewater rafting. The Upper Selangor is calmer, while the Lower Selangor has Class 3 and 4 rapids. You can plan a whitewater rafting adventure on the Selangor as a day trip from Kuala Lumpur.
For experienced rafters only, the Padas River offers larger and faster rapids. For a multi-day, adrenaline-filled ride, veteran rafters may dare to tackle Sungai Singor, with rapids up to class 6. There are 2 impassable waterfalls that will require you to get out of the water and lug the raft to the other side.
Best Scuba Diving and Snorkelling in Malaysia
Malaysia forms part of the Coral Triangle, the area of the world with the greatest marine biodiversity. The CT, also known as the ‘Amazon of the Seas’, is home to more than 2,000 species of reef fish (including the iconic clownfish), hundred of types of mollusks and crustaceans, and 6 of the 7 types of marine turtles that exist on the planet.
Over 75% of Malay coral reefs are located in Sabah, Borneo, making this the area one of the best for underwater adventure tourism.
Top Snorkelling and Diving Sites in Malaysia:
- Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park, which spans 5 islands: Gaya Island, Manukan Island, Mamutik Island, Sapi Island and Sulug Island.
- Lankayan Island.
- Selingan Island.
- Mataking Island.
- Sipadan Island.
- Toman Island.
- Langkawi Pulau Payar Marine Park.
- Perhentian Islands.
- Kapas Islands.
- Redang Island.
Some of these are widely considered the best diving spots worldwide, so be sure to check pricing and availability before you travel. Some of the islands are less accessible, so you may need to budget extra for transportation. Another factor to take into consideration is the time of year you’ll be visiting (think about the general weather, the monsoon season and the high season).
If you’re new to scuba diving, Malaysia is a wonderful place to take an open water diving course or a PADI diving course. The only risk of starting off in this world-class diving spot is that other places you go in the future will pale in comparison!
So far we’ve gone over the land and under the sea; now it’s time to fly through the sky!
Have you always dreamed of getting a running start and launching into the air? Paragliding is the simplest way for humans to take flight. If this is your first time, try tandem paragliding: you’ll get to share your wing with a professional who will stay with you for the entire journey. Each person gets their own harness, with the passenger in front and the pilot behind.
If you’re in the western part of the country, you can try tandem paragliding in Selangor. On the east side, Ranau near Kota Kinabalu offers paragliders spectacular views of tea plantations and mountain tops. Other top spots are Pedas Paragliding Park and Kota Putera Paragliding Park.
Skydiving Over Malaysia
The quintessential adventure sport is skydiving. There’s nothing quite like the death-defying thrill of jumping out of an airplane and falling freely toward the Earth. However, skydiving is a very extreme experience, and it is not for everyone.
For an extra boost of confidence, try tandem skydiving, where you are connected to a professional instructor the entire time. Skydiving beginners can also try static line jumps, where you jump from a lower altitude (a mere 3,000 feet off the ground). The parachute automatically opens itself just 3 to 5 seconds after you leave the aircraft.
One of the best places to skydive in Malaysia is Langkawi, the only skydiving destination in Asia with a beach landing.
There are hundreds of reasons to turn your eyes toward the skies without the need to go up there yourself. Over 700 bird species have been spotted in Malaysia, including several endemic species found nowhere else in the world.
Top Spots for Bird Watching in Malaysia Include:
- Fraser’s Hill.
- Taman Negara National Park.
- Kinabalu National Park.
- Danum Valley Conservation Area.
- Kinabatangan River.
- Kuala Selangor Nature Park.
- Kuala Gula Bird Sanctuary.
- Tanjung Tuan Forest Reserve and Wildlife Sanctuary.
- Belum-Temengor Forest Complex.
- Langkawi Island.
- Gunung Mulu National Park.
- Cape Rachado Forest Reserve.
Expert birders may want to check out the list of Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas (IBA) that have been identified in Malaysia. There are more than 50!
If birding is more a flight of fancy than a serious passion, when you’re in the capital city of Kuala Lumpur, it’s easy to plan a stop in nearby Gombak or take a day trip to Fraser’s Hill.
Plan Your Trip
If none of these activities appeals to you, maybe it’s time to admit that you’re not a big adventure traveller. Nothing wrong with that!
There are a million different reasons to visit Malaysia, like sunbathing on the beaches of Langkawi, visiting museums and galleries and sampling the delicious local flavours.
Before you pack your bags, don’t forget to check out the Malaysia visa requirements and get the travel authorisation you need.