Running Wild at 10 National Parks in Malaysia
With its rich rainforests and pristine coastlines, Malaysia is rapidly becoming a favourite destination for eco-tourism and adventure tourists alike. Malaysia is one of the most developed nations in Asia, boasting a strong infrastructure and a renewed dedication to preserving the abundance of their natural resources.
Whether you consider yourself a recreational jogger, distance runner or trail runner, Malaysia has a wealth of options. The Department of Wildlife and National Parks has put considerable effort into setting aside designated lands and improving existing parks. Hence, pick your park and take your mark. The stunning natural beauty of Malaysia awaits.
1. Taman Negara
Widely viewed as the oldest rainforest in the world, the Taman Negara is the leading ecotourism destination in Malaysia. 3 hours from Kuala Lumpur in the northern section of Pahang, this is the biggest park in the nation with more than a million acres. There are numerous resorts in the area, ranging from rustic to luxurious. There are endless trails, most of them unpaved and through the jungles with plenty to explore and do. Though the casual jogger might find these trails too challenging, the avid trail runner will be in heaven.
2. Kuala Selangor Nature Park
This is a lovely old-growth hardwood 800-acre coastal site, easy to reach from Kuala Lumpur. There is a 1.5km (0.932 miles) circular trail around the lake and a mangrove walkway. With the ocean, mangroves and mud flats, this park is a bird sanctuary. Recreational joggers will enjoy this tranquil flat park. It can get very hot and muggy and mosquitoes can be a nuisance. Be sure to bring water and bug spray.
3. Kanching Rainforest Waterfall
This is a stunning park full of several waterfalls just north of Kuala Lumpur. It is very popular for camping, swimming and hiking. You can visit several layers of waterfalls by following the concrete path, then the steps and then a steep dirt trail. You can swim in the falls and pools, and there are changing areas. This is a challenging trail/stair run, particularly after level 4. However, the scenery is spectacular, and you can jump in a crystal cool pool when you have finished.
4. Taman Wetlands or Taman Tasik Titiwangsa
Right in the heart of Kuala Lumpur lies the man-made Taman wetlands. This charming park is nestled in the wetlands creating wildlife habitat, flood mitigation and water filtration. There is a nature interpretation center and paths through the bamboo forests. Parking and entrance to the park are free. Very popular with joggers and runners, these flat trails are clearly marked and accessible.
5. Taman Wawasan
This park is bordered by the Putrajaya Lake and Canal on one side, while along the Western side is the hard-edged city fabric of the Persiaran Perdana in the heart of Putrajaya. Conceptualized as the principal Metropolitan Park, it features platforms for views over the 137 acres. Beautifully landscaped with lotus, hibiscus and a pebble beach, there are jogging paths throughout the park. Some of these paths are hilly, and the mosquitoes can be fierce.
6. Putrajaya Botanical Garden (Taman Botani)
25 kilometers from Kuala Lumpur is this gem in the middle of the city; the Putrajaya Botanical Garden is the biggest garden in Malaysia covering an area over 92 hectares. These exquisite gardens are highly acclaimed with more than 700 species of flowers and plants. There are multiple walks and trails through canna, fern, hibiscus, palm, orchid, bougainvillea, African and tropical American collections. These jogging trails are not challenging; still, they can be very hot, so plan accordingly. The explorer's trail, Heliconia Trail, palm hill, sun and floral gardens are necessary to visit for runners who wish to experience more from the Botanical Garden.
7. Bukit Gasing
This park is next to the heavily populated area of Petaling Jaya. It’s a popular spot with many hiking trails for all levels. This is an excellent spot for those wanting to improve their trail running endurance as the main trail can be covered in about 45 minutes and repeated as desired. For those who want to work on a steeper incline, it also offers the accessible challenge of a smaller 160-metre hill. Beware of aggressive monkeys and mosquitos.
8. Malaysia Agricultural Park or National Botanical Garden Shah Alam
This is a massive park with hundreds of trails to explore. It is popular with locals, and it is huge and never crowded. Its 2,000 acres feature beautiful vegetation, wildlife and clean air. It is home to paintball activities, an animal park, an indoor “4-Season” building and Skytrex adventures. Runners can enjoy relatively flat terrain and never do the same trail twice.
9. Gunung Mulu National Park
Gunung Mulu National Park named after Mount Mulu, the second highest mountain in Sarawak is near Miri, Sarawak, Malaysian Borneo and is one of the largest national park in Malaysia. This park consists of 3 adventure treks, all of which require a certain level of physical fitness. They are the Pinnacles trail, the Headhunter’s Trail and the Gunung Mulu Summit Trek. They are not really a running trail per se, but would be a challenge for an ultimate runner, and the views are unparalleled.
The Pinnacles trail is one of the most popular in the park but be warned as it is a tough and challenging one. The trail itself is very steep. You must hike in to an overnight camp before getting up early to make the climb up the Pinnacle Trail. This is a difficult endeavor, but you are rewarded with some of the most spectacular scenery in not just Borneo but also in all of Asia.
For less adventurer seekers, you can take a jog at your own pace to the Paku Waterfall or Mulu Canopy Skywalk. It is strongly recommend to engage a guide for the activities at the park.
10. Tanjung Piai Johor National Park
No list would be complete without mentioning this park, containing the southernmost spot on the continent of Asia. Located 90km south of Johor Bahru's city centre, this national park is home to mostly mangrove swamps and mudflats. Runners can enjoy the flora and fauna on the relatively flat trail along the boardwalks. The trail opens onto a concrete jetty with a large globe showing the southernmost point.
Pick Your Park And Take Your Mark
Since many of the national parks are home to wild animals, insects and reptiles, take extra care when you run. They can get very hot and humid, so bring some water, hat and mosquito repellent. The popular parks may be crowded on the weekends and holidays, so consider visiting on a weekday. Always be conscious about your safety. Jog with a friend or hire a guide, particularly if you are unfamiliar with the area.
Whether you like to take your time and enjoy the magnificent scenery, or you relish a challenge, Malaysia has a park for you. Pick a trail, lace up your shoes and get out there! The breathtaking wild awaits.