From beach paradises and jungle adventures to thriving modern cities, Malaysia ought to be the next trip on your bucket list.
In the news, Malaysia is reportedly drowning in the struggle to protect its diverse environment – a primary draw for tourists.According to the BBC, Malaysia is one of the world’s largest producers of palm oil, rubber, timber and computer disk drives, all of which require exploitative extraction processes. As Malaysia further industrialises, there is great concern that these practices are unsustainable; key areas such as the Borneo rainforest are exploited with more efficiency than ever with advanced technologies.
However, there are a multitude of projects across this country offering tourists a chance to support these fragile ecosystems and the local economy, all from the lap of luxury.
Relax in plush beach resorts – scuba-dive in the clear azure waters, sunbathe in the glorious Malaysian sunshine and watch turtles lay their eggs under the stars.
Indulge in the local food – from flavourful soups and curries to local doughnuts – there is so much to experience.
Stay in jungle eco-lodges – watch magnificent orangutans swing through the trees and enjoy your meals with the natural backdrop of the lush rainforest.Malaysia has a lot to offer, so why not make a difference on your next trip away? In a world increasingly fraught with concerns about our suffering environment, a visit to Malaysia can satiate your travel desires as well as aid conservation efforts.
Here are a couple of luxurious Malaysian destinations to visit as examples of Malaysia’s innovative environmentally oriented tourism.
The Perhentian Islands
Put your mind at ease and visit the Perhentian Islands – relax on the beaches and dive into paradise with the comfort of knowing you are helping the local community and environment.
These islands can only be accessed by boats from the port of Kuala Besut, half an hour away from the small Kota Bharu airport, and are often neglected by travellers. However, from the minute you step off the brightly painted pier, you step into paradise.
Pulau Perhentian Besar, one of the two largest islands, is peppered with luxurious resorts, dive centres and admirable conservation projects. Speaking from my own experience at Bubbles Dive Resort, a resort, dive centre and conservation project all-in-one, the Perhentian Islands are combatting environmental degradation with ecotourism – environmentally minded travel.
At Bubbles, the team spend their nights patrolling the beaches; they watch for poachers, guard turtles while they lay eggs, and take various measurements to identify the turtles. In the day, the team also maintain a thriving artificial coral reef to support the existing fragile reefs.
As a guest, you can watch the turtles laying eggs; sit underneath the clear milky way which arches across the sky most nights, watch the fireflies dance through the air and observe the turtles constructing their nests. In the day, you can dive at the numerous dive spots around the islands and see the beauty of such a fragile ecosystem up close.
Make sure to visit neighbouring Pulau Perhentian Kecil, just a short boat journey away. I stayed on this island for a couple of weeks with Ecoteer – an environmentally minded organisation with projects all over the world. They work very closely with the local community, running environmental and computer classes at the school, supporting local businesses and doing regular beach clean ups. Many people stay at the Ecoteer house – from young families to solo travellers – to get a flavour of the true Malaysian culture and I would highly recommend this.
A trip to this island will provide a taste of the incredible local Malaysian food – not to mention, the local women’s group sell the best (and cheapest) doughnuts I have ever tasted – buy some to eat while there and make sure to save some for later!
Of course, the experience on these islands cannot be completely sugar-coated. Some of the resorts do favour guest satisfaction and profit over conservation (even though a sustained environment means sustained tourism and, therefore, profit) and poaching is a complex issue to contend with. However, do your research and choose a sustainable resort for a guilt-free visit to paradise.
Visiting the Perhentian Islands is an opportunity for some sustainable travelling. Stay in luxurious resorts, snorkel around the coral reefs, dive around a ship wreck and support the local economy and environment.
Borneo is famous for its lush rainforests, home to an enormous number of exotic plants and animals – but this beautiful environment is fragile and faces increasing pressure from international corporations wishing to extract various resources from this green utopia.
Take the time and do your research before visiting these rainforests. There is plenty of accommodation to choose from across Borneo, all with varying degrees of sustainability and luxury.
For instance, the award-winning Borneo Rainforest Lodge prides itself on its sustainable practices. Situated in the Danum Valley Conservation Area, one of the few remaining protected lowland rainforests in Borneo, these luxury eco-lodges provide panoramic views of the surrounding rainforest.
The Borneo Rainforest Lodge is very conscious of its environmental impact and has enforced many initiatives to minimise this influence. For instance, the Green Practice Initiative aims to reduce waste and maximise reuse and recycling, reduce chemical usage, water pollution, energy consumption and much more.
Guests can see these efforts in the sale of reusable drinking bottles, biodegradable shampoo, the use of solar water heaters, ceiling fans instead of air conditioning units and eco-friendly detergents and toiletries.
The Lodge is also heavily involved in Orangutan Conservation and Research with the purpose of clarifying the ecology of these animals in their natural habitat. Guests can watch these majestic animals swinging through the trees, snoozing in the high branches and playing amongst themselves.
Admittedly, this lodge is a rather expensive choice of accommodation, however there is a wide range of options available across Borneo – just do your research and relax with the knowledge that you are helping sustain your beautiful surroundings.
Visit Malaysia for a taste of paradise and help the country sustain its wonderful environment!
Written for The National Student: