Set on a Malaysian adventure this year
Go Wildlife Spotting
Malaysia has a rich diversity of wildlife. The orangutan, Malaysian tiger, monitor lizard, and Sumatran rhinoceros are all indigenous to the country. Malaysia's national parks and wildlife reserves are the best places to see wildlife, including Taman Negara and Bako National Park. For orangutans, go to Borneo! Most day tours will cost less than 500 MYR ($121 USD), while a multi-day tour will cost more than 10,000 MYR ($2,426 USD).
Dive on Sipadan Island
Sipadan Island is one of the best diving destinations in the world. Jacques Cousteau once declared the island an "untouched piece of art". Barracudas, manta rays, hammerhead sharks, whale sharks and greenback and hawksbill turtles fill these crystal waters. A three tank dive in the area will cost around 350 MYR ($85 USD) per person while a snorkel trip will cost 150 MYR ($36 USD).
Taman Negara National Park
An estimated 130 million years old, Taman Negara is the oldest rainforest in the world. You can go on the world's largest canopy walk, take a 4x4 safari to see elephants and tigers, go spelunking, or visit some of the Orang Asli villages (belonging to the indigenous people of the country) . Admission is 1 MYR ($0.25 USD) and 5 MYR ($1 USD) if you want to take photos inside the park.
Relax in Pulau Langkawi
Featured in thousands of different magazines, websites and articles, Pulau Langkawi is a picturesque retreat on an archipelago of over 100 islands framed by white sandy beaches and endless sunshine. Pantai Cenang is the most popular beach area, especially for its strip of restaurants, bars and shops. For something a little slower, visit some of the traditional villages in the area, go snorkeling on Payar Island, or visit the Telaga Tujuh Waterfalls on the island's northwest side.
Go Whitewater Rafting
Apart from diving, Malaysia is also known for its challenging whitewater rafting conditions. You can find all grades of river rafting here, and prices start at around 200 MYR ($49 USD). Two popular options are the Kuala Kubu Bharu River and the Ulu Slim River.
Understand Malaysia's Colonial Roots
Malaysia experienced a varied colonial history, falling into Portuguese, Dutch and British hands before finally gaining independence. For a good understanding of this colonial influence, consider a trip to Malacca (or Melaka). The city center was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2008, and the Baba and Nyonya Heritage Museum gives an in-depth overview of Malaysia's colonial past.
Just east of Malaysia is Borneo, the third largest island in the world, with some of the most diverse rainforests on the planet. Pair that with unlimited wildlife viewing opportunities (including orangutans and proboscis monkeys!), and a rich indigenous culture with the likes of Sarawak's famous headhunting tribe, and you've got a memorable trip. If you are an experienced climber, you can also climb Mount Kinabalu, the highest mountain in Malaysia at 4,095 meters high.
Batu Caves, Selangoro
Located less than an hour outside of Kuala Lumpur, the Batu Caves complex consists of three main caves and smaller caves, most of which contain statues and 100-year-old temples dedicated to Hindu deities.
The main cave, known as the Cathedral Cave, is at the top of a huge colorful staircase - make it 272 steps, and you'll find a space decorated with statues, altars, and lights. At the bottom of the stairs, a 43 meter high gold statue of Lord Murugan welcomes the visitors.
Visitors are allowed to explore the caves themselves or can join a guided tour to learn more about the caves. During the Hindu festival of Thaipusam in January, thousands of people visit the cave for the festivities.
Mount Kinabalu, Sabaho
At an altitude of over 4,000 meters, Mount Kinabalu is the highest mountain in Malaysia. The mountain is part of Kinabalu Park, one of the oldest national parks in Malaysia and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Due to its unique ecosystem of a mix of alpine meadows, grasslands and shrublands, Kinabalu is home to an impressive range of plant and animal species, including threatened orangutans.
Mount Kinabalu is a prime destination for climbers - but it can be difficult to climb here. Only 185 climbing permits are issued daily by the park, and visitors must make accommodation reservations and hire a mountain guide in advance to be allowed to hit the trails. Although people under the age of 16 are allowed to join climbing groups, there are restrictions in place.
Climbers should plan a stay in Kinabalu National Park before attempting the climb – as the park is already at an altitude of more than 1,800 meters, this will allow for adaptation before attempting to reach the summit.
Once a stopping point used by merchants traveling to Southeast Asia, this group of small islands is part of a marine park and has become a major tourist destination in northeastern Malaysia. Most of the islands can be reached by ferry or small motorized boats, although only the two larger islands offer accommodation, shops, and facilities – of the two, Pulau Perhentian Besar has more of the backpacking scene, while Pulau Perhentian Kesil is a bit more Advanced and family oriented.
While you can hop on a water taxi here to get from one beach to the next, it's also possible to follow the island's walking route instead – a highly recommended option as you trek through the jungle paths and Along the way get stunning views of the open water.
Scuba diving, snorkeling, and kayaking are popular activities here, but visitors can volunteer in turtle conservation programs and have unparalleled access to areas where turtles come to lay eggs.
Sipadan Island and its surrounding ocean waters are part of the world's richest marine habitat, home to endangered hawksbill turtles, whale sharks, monitor lizards, and hundreds of coral species. The island is considered one of the best diving destinations in the world and is fiercely guarded – permits are required in advance to visit and only 120 permits are granted per day.
A one-hour ride on a speed boat is required to reach the island. Once here, the island can be easily explored on foot, with various beaches and reef sites within minutes of each other.
Since it is not possible to stay on the island due to environmental protection laws (nearby Mabul Island offers accommodation), visitors usually arrive early in the morning as part of snorkeling and diving tours. All visitors must leave the island by 3 pm.
Gunung Mulu National Park, Sarawaki
This UNESCO World Heritage Site may be more famous for its impressive karst limestone summits that resemble those standing in large formations, but the park's towering caves are just as stunning.
Dense rain forests cover most of the park and make some areas difficult to reach—one reason some of the caves here weren't actually discovered until the 1970s. Another reason is how vast the cave system is: both the largest passages in the world and the largest underground chambers are located in caves here.
Deer Cave is particularly beautiful, with terraces more than 122 meters high, cascading waterfalls from cliffs, and an opening above a more than a kilometer wide sinkhole. Park visitors can also walk up to the Sarawak Chamber and Paku Falls or try climbing The Pinnacles Summit Trek, which takes three days and includes ropes, ladders, and an uphill walk through the forest.