Best National Parks In Borneo
Malaysian Borneo is home to some of the most stunning national parks in the world. With its lush rainforests, diverse wildlife, and crystal-clear waters, it's no wonder that these parks are a popular destination for nature lovers and adventure seekers alike.
In this comprehensive guide, we'll take you on a journey through the best national parks in Malaysian Borneo, showcasing the top attractions, wildlife encounters, and essential visitor information for each one.
1. Kinabalu National Park
Kinabalu National Park Info
Kinabalu Park is one of the most popular national parks in Malaysian Borneo. It is located in the state of Sabah and covers an area of 754 square kilometres. The park is named after Mount Kinabalu, which is the highest peak in Malaysia.
home to a diverse range of flora and fauna, Kinabalu National Park has over 5,000 species of plants, 326 species of birds, and 100 species of mammals.
Activities In Kinabalu National Park
Visitors to Kinabalu Park can enjoy a range of activities, including hiking, birdwatching, and wildlife spotting. The park has over 200 kilometres of hiking trails, ranging from easy walks to challenging treks. The most popular hike is the climb to the summit of Mount Kinabalu, which takes two days and one night.
For those who prefer a more leisurely pace, there are several shorter hikes that offer stunning views of the surrounding landscape. Visitors can also take part in guided nature walks, which are led by knowledgeable park rangers.
Check out All Trails for the latest list of trails you can do in Kinabalu National Park.
Visitor Information – Kinabalu National Park
Kinabalu Park offers a range of accommodation options, including lodges, chalets, and campsites. The lodges and chalets are located within the park and offer comfortable accommodation with stunning views of the surrounding mountains. The campsites are located in the lower reaches of the park and are a great option for those who want to experience the park's natural beauty up close.
There are also many private hotels, guesthouses and lodges close to the park. Check out accommodation in Kundasang if you have a car and are driving to the park.
Visitors can also enjoy a range of dining options within the park, including restaurants and cafes that serve local and international cuisine. There are also several souvenir shops where visitors can purchase gifts and mementos to remember their visit to Kinabalu Park.
Overall, Kinabalu Park is a must-visit destination for anyone traveling to Malaysian Borneo. The park's stunning natural beauty, diverse wildlife, and range of activities make it a perfect destination for nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts alike. It's proximity to Kota Kinabalu is another draw card.
Kinabalu Park Opening Hours
Kinabalu park is open from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm every day. Last entrance to the botanical gardens is at 3:00pm. If you are hiking to the top of Mount Kinabalu, you will stay overnight at one of the camps on the way up the mountain.
If you don't want to hire a car and do all the work yourself, consider taking a tour of the national park from Kota Kinabalu. These 3 from Viator offer slightly different options, but all are top rated on Viator.
Day Trips From Kota Kinabalu to Kinabalu National Park
2. Bako National Park
Bako National Park Info
Bako National Park is located in Sarawak and is known for its stunning scenery and wildlife. The park is home to a variety of animals, including proboscis monkeys, bearded pigs, and monitor lizards. Visitors can enjoy hiking, bird watching, and exploring the park's beautiful beaches.
Wildlife Encounters – Bako National Park
With 16 well-marked hiking trails, Bako National Park is an excellent destination for independent trekking and wildlife watching. Keep your eyes peeled for the pendulous-nosed proboscis monkey, long-tailed macaques, silver-leaf monkeys, and monitor lizards, all of which can be spotted in the park's dense foliage.
Visitor Information – Bako National Park
Bako National Park can be reached via a short bus ride from Kuching, followed by a 20-minute speedboat trip. The entrance fee for foreigners is 20 MYR ($6.50). There is no accommodation around Bako National Park as it is very close to Kuching, about a 40 minute bus ride away.
There is a small kiosk on site where you can purchase light snacks and lunch, however taking your own food is always a good idea.
Bako is open 8.00 a.m. – 5.00 p.m. (Daily)
PLEASE beware of the monkeys though. They are super cheeky and as soon as you open a packet of crackers they can have swung down and ripped it out of your hand. They typically won’t hurt you but they are horrible thieves so sit somewhere out in the open where you can see them coming or be very aware that your food could be stolen at any minute.
Get all the info on visiting Bako National Park including the bus to and from Kuching and which hiking trails to choose. Some of the trails around the base of the mountain are boardwalks or paths and some look like this below. This particular photo is from the hike out to the Sea Stacks and this is a mild section. Some sections are just roots and nothing else.
Bako National Park Day Tours from Kuching
If you don't feel like negotiating the bus and would like a tour instead, there are multiple day tours to Bako from Kuching. The top 3 listed by rating are below.
Bako National Park Tour from Kuching
3. Gunung Mulu National Park
Gunung Mulu National Park Information
Gunung Mulu National Park is located in Sarawak and is known for its impressive caves and limestone formations. The park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is home to the world's largest cave chamber. Visitors can explore the caves, go hiking, and enjoy the park's beautiful scenery.
Wildlife Encounters – Gunung Mulu National Park
Mulu is home to 326 bird species and 100 mammal species, as well as 20,000 invertebrates. The park's surface trails offer glimpses of monkeys and lizards and no visit to the park is complete without heading to Deer Cave for the departure of thousands of bats every evening.
There are a multitude of walks, hikes, cave adventures and of course the famous Pinnacles Trail trek, a challenging three-day adventure with stunning views of the karst formations. Don’t take on the Pinnacles Trek lightly – it is hard core. Possibly one of the hardest day hikes I’ve ever done.
Accommodation In The Park
On site inside the park you can find a variety of accommodation from Garden Bungalows to family longhouses and even hostel beds.
Just outside the park lies the Mulu Marriot which is a lovely hotel offering fantastic facilities not to mention a POOL!
There are also quite a few homestays in the area. Check out the map below for prices for your dates.Booking.com
Visitor Information – Gunung Mulu National Park
To visit Gunung Mulu National Park, you'll need to fly in by small plane. Once in the park, you can explore its 204-square-mile wonderland of trails, caves, and limestone formations.
Maswings, a subsidiary of Malaysian Airlines, offers daily flights to Mulu from Miri, Kuching and Kota Kinabalu.
Gunung Mulu was one of my favourite national parks in Borneo. It has everything from flat jungle boardwalks, to extreme caving adventures and you can fill a few days easily in this park. If you are feeling fit (and I mean fit!), consider doing the Pinnacles hike. It is not for the faint hearted and even though the hike itself is only 1 day you do need to stay out at the camp for at least the night before and possibly the night of the hike depending on your return time.
4 Days 3 Nights Mulu Showcaves with Pinnacles Hike
Check Prices (around $550 AUD in June 2023)
- This 4 day tour starts and ends at Mulu airport.
- You can choose your accommodation options
- It visits all the major show caves in Mulu National Park &
- You also get to do the Pinnacles hike.
If you are after something a little more gentle and suitable for non hikers, try this 3 day adventure that also starts and ends at Mulu airport.
4. Niah National Park
Niah National Park Info
Niah National Park, located in the Malaysian state of Sarawak on the island of Borneo, is a treasure trove of natural wonders and historical significance. Covering an area of approximately 31 square miles, the park is renowned for its lush rainforests, limestone caves, and archaeological discoveries.
The Great Cave, the park's most famous attraction, has yielded evidence of human habitation dating back 40,000 years, making it one of the most important prehistoric sites in Southeast Asia.
Wildlife Encounters – Niah National Park
Visitors to Niah National Park can expect to spot long-tailed macaques, flying lemurs, and various species of birds, such as kingfishers and hornbills. Additionally, the park's intricate cave system provides a unique opportunity to glimpse swiftlets and bats in their natural habitat.
Though wildlife sightings are not the primary attraction at Niah National Park, the lush surrounding jungle is home to various species, including macaques, hornbills, and monitor lizards.
The Great Cave is the main draw card for this park and getting there is half the fun. From the park headquarters you need to cross the River in a motorboat and then walk for about an hour to reach the entrance of The Great Cave.
Visitor Information – Niah National Park
To reach Niah National Park, travellers can fly into Miri, the nearest city, and then embark on an approximately two-hour drive to the park's headquarters. From there, a picturesque plank walk leads visitors through the rainforest and across rivers to the entrance of the Great Cave. It is advisable to wear comfortable clothing and sturdy shoes, as the terrain can be a little slippery.
Hiring a local guide is recommended for those who wish to gain a deeper understanding of the park's history and ecology. Remember to bring a flashlight for exploring the caves. The entrance fee for foreigners is 20 MYR.
The park is open from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm daily.
Day Tours From Miri to Niah National Park
Due to the 90 minute drive from Miri, you might decide to do a day tour from Miri instead. Check with your hotels for recommendations or check out this full day tour for around $145 AUD
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5. Lambir Hills National Park
Lambir Hills National Park Information
Lambir Hills National Park, located in the north-eastern part of Borneo, is a hidden gem known for its stunning waterfalls, diverse flora and fauna, and pristine rainforest environment. Covering an area of 6,952 hectares, this park is home to over 230 species of birds and more than 1,000 species of trees, making it one of the most biodiverse areas on Earth.
The national park is known for its waterfalls and cascades. The hikes to Nibong, Pantu and Latak waterfalls are all less than 5km, so you could easily manage multiple hikes in a day. These 3 hikes have no real elevation to speak of so they are a quick hour in and out with Latak being only 2.3km.
If you want a tougher hike consider Lambir Hill. It's around 13km and just over 800m of elevation. It is a tough hike with some cables and scrambles along the way.
All Trails has some good hikes so be sure to check those out for something that suits your fitness level and time frame.
Wildlife Encounters – Lambir Hills National Park
Visitors to Lambir Hills can expect to see a wide variety of wildlife, including gibbons, barking deer, and flying squirrels, as well as colourful bird species like the Bornean Bristlehead and the Blue-headed Pitta.
Visitor Information – Lambir Hills National Park
To visit Lambir Hills National Park, travellers can fly into Miri, the nearest city, which is well-connected by flights from major cities in Malaysia and the region. From Miri, it's just a short 30-minute drive to the park's entrance.
Public transportation options are limited, so it's recommended to hire a taxi for the day, which your accommodation in Miri should be able to help you with.
Once at the park, visitors can explore the well-maintained trails leading to different waterfalls, viewpoints, and other scenic spots. Keep in mind that some trails can be challenging, so wearing comfortable clothing, sturdy shoes, and carrying plenty of water is essential.
The park does have chalets and campsites if you decide to stay the night but be sure to book first. I feel that a day trip from Miri would be sufficient for this particular park.
Day Tours From Miri to Lambir Hills National Park
There are a few options to spend the day in Lambir Hills National Park with local operators. Viator has a few options, like this half day trip from Miri, or this 4 hour excursion, or this full day one which also visits a longhouse as well.
6. Kubah National Park
Kubah National Park Information
Kubah National Park, located just 40 minutes from Kuching, offers a range of activities for visitors, including waterfall trails and jungle scenery. The park is home to 93 palm species and numerous orchids. Spanning over an area of approximately 2,230 hectares, this park is a treasure trove of biodiversity and stunning natural landscapes. The park is named after the prominent Mount Serapi, which dominates the skyline with its majestic presence.
One of the main attractions of Kubah National Park is its extensive network of hiking trails, allowing visitors to explore the park's rich flora and fauna. Trekking through the park, you'll encounter a plethora of unique plant species, including various types of palms, ferns, and orchids. The park is particularly renowned for its diverse orchid population, boasting more than 60 species.
Another highlight of Kubah National Park is its collection of beautiful waterfalls. The most famous among them is the Mt Serapi Waterfall, a picturesque cascade that tumbles down several tiers amidst the dense foliage. The surrounding pools offer a refreshing spot for a swim or a picnic, and the lush greenery provides a serene backdrop for relaxation.
It is one of the best bridal veil falls I’ve seen. It compares with Bridal Veil falls in Chimanimani which is pretty spectacular. Also check out Bronang Waterfall which is even bigger and more impressive. It is a little more challenging to swim at Bronang Falls but it is possible. I would wear shoes as it is very rocky underfoot and hard to get into and out of without shoes.
Whether you're exploring the hiking trails, admiring the vibrant orchids, or simply immersing yourself in the tranquillity of the park, Kubah National Park offers an unforgettable experience that showcases the remarkable beauty of Malaysia's natural landscapes.
Wildlife Encounters – Kubah National Park
Visitors can also spot a range of wildlife, such as the rare Bornean gibbons, bearded pigs, and numerous bird species, making it a paradise for nature enthusiasts and birdwatchers. The picturesque landscapes make it an excellent alternative to Bako National Park. While they aren’t a common occurrence, sightings of Proboscis monkeys are also possible in Kubah NP.
Visitor Information – Kubah National Park
Explore Kubah National Park on a day trip from Kuching. The park has many trails, allowing visitors to enjoy the jungle scenery and cool off beneath waterfalls.
There are day tours available from Kuching and at only 30 km from Kuching, taxis or Grab cars can also be chartered for the 40-minute trip to the park.
If you do choose to visit the park on your own, there is overnight accommodation available. Book online and choose between 5 large chalets rest houses and hostel beds.
Park Opening Hours:
Weekdays 8.00am to 5.00pm
Weekends and Public Holidays 7.30am to 4.30pm
Day Trips to Kubah National Park
There are a few options for visiting Kubah National Park. Being so close to Kuching, day tours are readily available as are some night tours that are focused on the park's night time animal population.
7. Gunung Gading National Park
Gunung Gading National Park Information
Gunung Gading National Park, located in the Sarawak region of Borneo, Malaysia, is a popular destination for nature lovers in particular. The park is renowned for being home to the world's largest flower, the Rafflesia, whose bloom can reach up to one meter in diameter. This parasitic plant, with its enormous size and pungent odour, blooms unpredictably and attracts pollinating flies.
There are boardwalks and viewing areas you can use to view the blooms, however be sure to contact the park and check when the flowers bloom if that is your primary reason for visiting the park.
The other park in Malaysia that is known for the Rafflesia flower is Crocker Range National Park which is closer to Kota Kinabalu.
Wildlife Encounters – Gunung Gading National Park
Not known for its wildlife and more for the Rafflesia flower, you can encounter a variety of wildlife while exploring the trails, including some very cool looking lizards. Park rangers can mark blooming locations on your map however most are around the main boardwalk area.
Gunung Gading National Park offers trekking opportunities to several waterfalls, with the main waterfall trail being aptly named “Waterfall 7 hike”. It's just over 3km out and back so about 1.5km out and you can visit waterfalls 1, 3 & 7. Waterfall 7 is a great place for a swim.
If you are after a decent hike, keep going after waterfall 7 which is the trail to the top of Mount Gading, where artifacts from a 1960s British army observation post remain. Beware – this is a tough hike and you shouldn’t undertake it lightly. The trail is slippery and damp and it is almost 900 m in elevation by the time you get to the top. You should be wearing dedicated hiking shoes or boots and have heaps of water before you start this trail. It was tough!
Visitor Information – Gunung Gading National Park
To reach Gunung Gading National Park, you can fly into Kuching, the capital city of Sarawak. From Kuching, it's a scenic two-hour drive to the park, making it easily accessible for day trips or overnight stays. Alternatively, public buses and taxis are available from Kuching to Lundu, the nearest town to the park.
The bus station is on the outskirts of Kuching and the easiest way to get there is to get a Grab (like Uber in Asia). Lundu, the nearest town to the park is very small (but a lovely quaint little town) so while you may find some Grab cars operating, if you don’t you can take the bus that goes to Pandan Beach and just ask the driver to drop you at the intersection of the park. Or, you can just walk. It's only 2.5km to the park entrance from the center of town.
For accommodation near Gunung Gading National Park, visitors have several options. The nearest town, Lundu, offers a range of budget-friendly accommodations, including guesthouses and homestays. There are basic accommodations within the park itself, such as chalets and campsites. However the chalets are not always open so if you do intend on staying in the park, you will need to be prepared to camp. Be prepared for the mosquitos as they are horrific, or at least they were when I was there.
Entrance Fees for Gunung Gading National Park
- Adults are RM20 for international visitors and RM10 for local Malaysians
- Seniors are the same price for international visitors but only RM5 for locals.
- Children are RM 7 for international visitors and only RM3 for locals Children below 6 are free.
Tours to Gunung Gading National Park
Gunung Gading tours from Kuching are easy to book on Viator. Consider doing a tour if you would prefer someone else to do the hard work and you just want to sit back, enjoy the drive and view the world famous Rafflesia flower.
8. Tawau Hills National Park
Tawau Hills National Park Information
Tawau Hills Park in Sabah is a refuge for many species displaced by surrounding palm oil plantations. The park is home to gibbons, hornbills, and red leaf monkeys, making it a popular day trip destination for local families. It is also
Wildlife Encounters – Tawau Hills National Park
The park's volcanic interior features hot springs and waterfalls, as well as numerous wildlife sightings, however this isn’t what the park is known for. Most visitors to the park come to climb Gunung Magdalena, however the park does have some great hot springs that you can submerge yourself in.
If you wish to climb Mount Magdalena you will need a guide. You should be able to find one in the village, or get in touch with the park to organize one through them. There is an extra climbing fee if you wish to climb any of the 3 peaks in the park.
Visitor Information – Tawau Hills National Park
Tawau Hills Park is only a 40-minute drive north of Tawau Airport, but most tourists combine a visit to the park with diving the world-class spots at Mabul and Sipadan.
Getting to Tawau is pretty easy. Flights from Sandakan with MASwings (Malaysian Air subsidiary) operate daily and while they aren’t cheap they are affordable.
There are buses that run to Tawau from Sandakan departing early in the morning from the Labuk bus station in Sandakan. It is right outside the Gentingmas Mall on Jln Ranau. Be sure to check you are getting on the express bus which still takes about 6-7 hours. The bus station is about 15 km out of Tawau so you will have to get a taxi or grab into town.
You could also consider getting a driver. Make sure your quote includes the fare for both to Tawau and return, and to make it cheaper, offer to pay for the driver's accommodation for the night if you are only going overnight. If you are going one way it will be almost the same price as return because the driver has to get back to Sandakan. If you offer to pay for the driver's overnight stay, it won’t be much more than the return price.
Tawau has lots of accommodation options and in itself isn’t a small town.
Tawau National Park Opening Hours
The park opens at 8am and closes at 5pm. It is open from 7:30-3:30 Sat, Sun & Public Holidays
The Best National Parks to Visit in Malaysian Borneo
Overall, Malaysian Borneo is home to some of the most beautiful and diverse national parks in the world. Whether you're interested in hiking, wildlife, or exploring caves, there is something for everyone to enjoy.
Check out my Borneo Destination Page for all the info, posts & places to visit in Malaysian Borneo