Stephanie Holmes - Five Malaysian islands worth a visit

Publish Date
Thursday, 17 May 2018, 3:14PM
  1. Penang

This Malaysian state is on the northwest coast, near the Strait of Malacca. The capital city, George Town, is on Penang Island and is a fascinating mix of Malay, Chinese, Indian and Nyonya cultures. This diversity makes for fantastic food, of course, but there are plenty of other reasons to visit Penang, including many temples, the National Park, a tropical spice garden and Penang’s Blue Mansion —a stately home built in the 1880s and restored to its former glory in the 1990s.

  1. Langkawi

An archipelago made up of 99 islands, Langkawi has paddy fields and lush, rainforest-clad hills in its interior; ringed by white sand and tropical waters, with excellent diving and snorkelling. There are luxurious resorts where you can sip cocktails by an infinity pool; or affordable accommodation for families on a budget. One of Langkawi’s top attractions is the Sky Bridge, a 125m curved pedestrian bridge 700m above sea level at the top of Mt Mat Cinchang, which you reach by cable car.

  1. Sabah and Sarawak

These two Malaysian states are on the island of Borneo — the world’s third largest island, also shared by Indonesia’s Kalimantan (Indonesia) and the nation of Brunei. The rainforests are home to wildlife including orangutans, proboscis monkeys, crocodiles and clouded leopards. Sepilok has an outdoor nursery for juvenile orangutans, as well as the Sun Bear Conservation Centre. To experience traditional living in the longhouses of the Kelabit Highlands, take a riverboat along the Batang Rejang — also known as the Amazon of Borneo and one of Southeast Asia’s great river journeys.

  1. Tioman

With a land area of only 136sq km, Tioman is small but perfectly formed. There are less than 500 residents on the island, but plenty of international visitors flock to the tiny island every year, thanks to its abundance of marine life and clear, tropical waters.

  1. Perhentian

Once used as a staging point by traders travelling between Malaysia and Bangkok, Perhentian translates as “stopping point” in Malay. An hour by boat from the east coast of Malaysia, the two main islands — Besar (Big) and Kecil (Small) — are popular with backpackers and intrepid travellers thanks to their rugged, laid-back, off-the-grid atmosphere. There are no roads on either island — water taxis transport visitors between the two, and crossing each island involves a trek through the jungle. The only permanent inhabitants are found in a small fishing village on Perhentian Kecil, so it’s the perfect place to find a deserted patch of sand and feel like a proper castaway.

Stephanie Holmes is NZ Herald’s Deputy Travel Editor, you can find her work here:

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