Adventure activities aplenty in Malaysia

05 August 2015

Do you like going to great heights, only to find yourself hurtling towards the ground at breakneck speed? How about plunging to great depths to swim with colourful fishes and majestic seaturtles? There's plenty to get your adrenaline going in Malaysia, says Teh Eng Hock.

"It is a good thing to make short excursions now and then to the bottom of the sea among dulse and coral, or up among the clouds on mountain-tops, or in balloons, or even to creep like worms into dark holes and caverns underground, not only to learn something of what is going on in those out-of-the-way places, but to see better what the sun sees on our return to common everyday beauty," John Muir, the Scottish-American naturalist and preservationist wrote in 1894. 

Fast forward 120 years, and the beauty of Mother Nature is still as much appreciated, especially in Malaysia, where you could walk among the clouds at one of the region's highest peaks. 

At 4,095m, Mount Kinabalu in Sabah is one of the tallest mountains in South East Asia and located in the Kinabalu National Park. It is not a tough climb, although only a fool would take the eight-kilometre trek for granted.

Although no specialised mountain climbing skills are needed, one should have a reasonable level of fitness, as well as the willpower to push through fatigue to reach the summit. It takes about two days to ascend and descend, starting at the the Timpohon Gate near park headquarters, with an overnight stay at the guest house at Laban Rata, before the final lap to the summit early the next morning. 

Once at the summit, you will forget your aches and pains as you immerse yourself in the spectacular view from the top. The view at sunrise, in particular, is awesomely breathtaking.

Back in Kuala Lumpur, adventure-seekers are scaling a different type of heights. Rock climbers flock to Batu Caves, a limestone hill with a series of caves and cave temples, as they attempt to scale up the natural rock. Those making the switch from indoor climbing will love it, as there are a wide variety of routes, graded between intermediate and expert.

Meanwhile, for thrill seekers who prefer to, literally speaking, jump off a cliff, the KL Tower is a must visit destination.  Annually, hundreds of BASE (Bridges, Antennas, Skyscrapers, and Earth) jumpers leap off the tower, 300m off the ground, against the Kuala Lumpur skyline. With only a parachute strapped to their back, the jumpers perform all kinds of acrobatics in mid-air, before yanking on their parachute open to break their fall.

Should all the skyscrapers in the world be deemed too low for a dive, though, perhaps you would fancy jumping off a plane instead. Several operators offer skydiving activities in Malaysia, where divers are usually flown on a light aircraft such as a Cessna 206 to between 3,000 and 4,000 feet above sea level… And then comes the big leap!

One usually spends about 35 seconds freefalling, although it may seem longer with the wind in your hair as you speed towards the ground at 190km/h. Nervous first timers can try tandem skydiving, where they are strapped to the jumpmaster. All they need to do is undergo a 15-minute briefing, get geared up, and off they go! There's not a thing to worry about, as your jumpmaster will deploy the parachute after a reasonable amount of freefall. If one has more time, the freefall classes would be worth taking - and before you know it, you will be jumping off the plane solo.

From diving off great heights, you can also dive to great depths off Malaysia's numerous islands in Sabah and on the east coast of Peninsula Malaysia.


One of the world's best dive sites is Pulau Sipadan in East Sabah. The island, only spanning some 30 acres, is covered by pristine rainforest, and is uninhabited. While Pulau Sipadan used to house resorts, they have all been closed in recent years to protect the environment. Divers in Pulau Sipadan now stay in resorts in nearby Pulau Mabul or in Semporna, a town on the mainland.

The slight inconvenience of living away from the island is worth it, though, as the crystal clear waters around Pulau Sipadan, with visibility ranging between 10m and 30m, teem with a wide range of reef life consisting of both hard and soft coral as well as a diverse range of colourful reef fish. 

It’s been reported that at almost every dive, divers usually manage to sight sea turtles and white tip reef sharks, while hammerhead sharks and leopard sharks have also been spotted by the lucky ones.


Over in West Sabah, Pulau Layang-Layang is another diver's haven. Situated some 300km from Kota Kinabalu, the state capital of Sabah, the island only spans about 15 acres. Its uniqueness lies in the coral island that surrounds it. At about 7km long and 2km wide, the coral island highlights a 2,000 metre abyss, making it a great diving spot. The waters are warm and lovely, with visibility is in the range of 50m.

Over in the peninsular, there is no shortage of diving sites, either, with Pulau Perhentian, Pulau Redang and Pulau Tioman being the more popular destinations.

Of the three, Pulau Perhentian is the least developed (but prettiest!) with no electricity and piped water supply. Here, chalets and resorts rely on generators for power, while water is obtained from underground wells or springs.

Pulau Redang is known as the site for Hong Kong blockbuster Summer Holiday, which starred Sammi Cheng and Ritchie Ren. A replica of the tea house featured in the movie now serves as a gift shop. Meanwhile, Pulau Tioman sets itself apart from the rest by virtue of having duty-free status, which means cheap alcohol and tobacco to enjoy during your island vacation.

From the seas, adventure seekers can head inland to fresh water where the rapids await. White water rafting is particularly popular in Gopeng and Kampar in Perak, which is about a two-hour drive from Kuala Lumpur. With a range of rapids ranging from Class 1 to Class 5, the ride is suitable for both beginners and experts.

There’s no fear of running out of things to do for the adventurer in Malaysia, as there are many activities available to suit just your type of adrenaline rush.

This article is related to NATURE MOUNTAINS BEACHES TRAVEL


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