Post-pandemic ecotourism destinations to discover in M’sia

After almost a year and half of self-isolation, going for a well-deserved holiday or vacation may be the first things we do post-pandemic

by S BIRRUNTHA / Pic by TMR FILE PIX

THE Covid-19 pandemic has changed the way we live, whereby people are compelled to prioritise health and safety over the joy of travel and discovery.

After almost a year and half of self-isolation, lockdowns, and working from home, the world is slowly and cautiously starting to consider travel plans with news of the global vaccine rollout.

When it comes to vacation or going for a holiday, the first thing that pops into most Malaysians’ mind is food-hunting, followed by the “insta-worthy” spots.

However, for the more adventurous travellers, professional photographers and wanderlust seekers, ecotourism would be the perfect choice.

Ecotourism is defined as a “responsible travel to natural areas that conserve the environment, sustains the wellbeing of the local people and involves interpretation and education”, according to The International Ecotourism Society.

It allows people to take a break from the hustle and bustle of life while still keeping the balance between biodiversity conservation and community needs, enabling sustainable utilisation of the community resource base, and empowering local communities by improving their sense of ownership over the use of natural resources.

Ecotourism is ecologically sustainable tourism that fosters environmental and cultural understanding, appreciation and conservation.

The purpose of ecotourism is to educate the traveller, to provide funds for ecological conservation, to directly benefit the economic development and political empowerment of local communities or to foster respect for different cultures and for human rights.

Living in Malaysia, there is an abundance of ecotourism spots that people can visit. Here are some of the best destinations that Malaysians can consider for their eco-friendly travel after the pandemic.

The Mulu Caves National Park, Sarawak

The Mulu Caves, located in Gunung Mulu National Park on the island of Borneo, Sarawak, are home to the world’s largest cave chamber (Sarawak Chamber) by surface area.

It is also known as one of the largest cave passages on Earth (Deer Cave).

This cave is one of the iconic Unesco World Heritage Sites and caves are the signature of Mulu.

Tea-time at Cameron Highlands, Pahang

Situated at the north-western tip of Pahang, this famous hill is noted for its cold weather and has been the oldest tourist spot in Malaysia.

Cameron Highlands is well-known for its agricultural produce due to the low humidity and cool climate.

Apart from its tea estates and strawberry orchard, Cameron Highlands also preserves the beautiful creation of Mother Nature that looks like “The Land of The Hobbits” that is the mysterious Mossy Forest of Coral Hill.

Swim With Sea Turtles at Perhentian Islands, Terengganu

For those who like sunbathing on the beach and swimming with Sea Turtles, Perhentian Islands should be the ultimate choice.

The Perhentian Islands is located in the Besut district in Terengganu with two main islands namely Perhentian Besar and Perhentian Kecil while there are five more islands in the archipelago.

All the five islands are uninhabited and viewed as a paradise for many snorkeling and scuba diving enthusiasts.

There are also sandy beaches such as those on Rawa, Serengeh and Tokong Burung islands.

Sunway Theme Parks — Sunway Lagoon and Sunway Lost World of Tambun

These two award winning theme parks are one of the ecotourism spots that actively ensure that the Sustainable Development Goals are achieved by the year 2030.

Family Time at Sunway Lagoon, Selangor

A crowd-puller since its opening in 1992, Sunway Lagoon is one of the largest and most celebrated theme parks in the country with the greatest number of attractions catered to all ages.

Sprawling over 35.61ha, it is the first theme park entertainment built 150ft below ground level on a tin mining wasteland.

To ensure sustainability of the ex-mining pond at Sunway Lagoon, an extensive study was conducted in 2010 and a “Clean-Flo” system was introduced to reverse the degradation or the pond turning into a eutrophic state.

Sunway Lagoon constructed a home for its gibbons on a man-made island named “Upcycled Floating Island”.

The island was built using recycled waste material such as styrofoam, plastic bottles and chlorine drums.

Its unique floating feature requires the park’s zookeepers to travel by boat to tend to the gibbons.

In 2019, Sunway Lagoon established its “No Single-Use Plastic Policy” and has since moved away from single-use plastic towards protecting the ocean and the life within.

This theme park had also made some effort to reduce waste to landfill by separating the recyclable items from general waste.

Existing waste bins around the park were refurbished and converted to pairs of green bins for aluminium cans and plastic bottles and yellow bins for general waste.

Natural Hot Springs at Lost World of Tambun, Perak

Unlike any other theme park, Lost World of Tambun offers the opportunity for visitors to rejuvenate in the natural underground hot springs water at any given time from day until night.

Surplus hot springs water is harvested and allowed to cool down in the tanks before redirecting it to the water park.

Aside from that, preserved caves within the expansive park contain wonderland that is cocooned by lush tropical jungles and breathtaking limestone features of 260 million years of age and diversify attraction making it the ultimate getaway for a unique eco-adventure excursion for visitors.

The spot also allows people to have a staycation with the family at Lost World Glamping.

Similar to ecotourism, staycation is a holiday spent in one’s home country rather than abroad, or one spent at home and involving day trips to local attractions.

This concept of vacation can potentially cause less environmental harm as less fuel is spent and it can generate economic welfare on a local and national level by positively and significantly affecting different components of expenditure in the budget of a household.

This will help in community development by providing an alternate source of livelihood to the local community which is more sustainable.