Stifled by the city? Yearning for some fresh air without heading too far out? Look south! As the second biggest state in Peninsula Malaysia, Johor is blessed with a thriving plethora of nature attractions that is home to so many species of flora and fauna. There are five main national parks in Johor that have been providing a safe haven for the local ecosystem. All cared for by the ‘Perbadanan Taman Negara of Johor’ (Johor’s National Parks Association), with their own unique attributes, these parks will most certainly restore the Zen back in your life.

Starting with the largest and oldest park in Johor, we have Endau Rompin (PETA) which is located on the north-east side of Johor. Straddling Pahang and Johor the park measures 90,000ha and stands as Malaysia’s second largest national park. Johor owns the lion’s share with 48,905ha.

If you have the luxury of time and intend to really take in nature as a focal feature of your holiday then this is the place for you. It goes without saying the park is a natural jewel that boasts a myriad of spectacular species of both plants and animals alike.

Morning view from Endau Rompin National Park.

Other than being home to many endangered wild animals like the Sumatran rhino, Asian elephant, tiger and even our beloved Tapir, this old tropical rainforest also hosts a unique flora species, a giant fan palm called Livistona Endauensis. Another notable feature of the park is the perfect landscape of sculptured rocks called Upeh Guling, nature’s very own art piece which dates back to rock formations over 248 million years. If you are an experienced trekker, Buaya Sangkut waterfall is a real treat, especially in the months ahead.

Buaya Sangkut Waterfall.

The second entrance to Endau Rompin is named Selai and is located near Segamat, Johor. This area of the park totals 29,343ha and is famous for its many magnificent waterfalls. There are few pleasures in life that rival an outdoors, relaxing soak in fresh water after a long hike. Endau Rompin Selai has an estimated astounding, 20 waterfalls, all of which have been described as unmissable and remarkable.

Seeing and experiencing all of them are difficult, especially if time is a luxury, so aim for Takar Tinggi which boasts an elevation of seven tiers. Other waterfalls that you can also check out are Takar Pandan and Takar Berigin. The tranquillity of Endau Rompin Selai is said to be exceptional with its constant soundtrack of ambient running waters streaming down rocks accompanied by cicadas’ calls.

Takar Tinggi boasts an elevation of seven tiers.

Endau Rompin Selai also houses an Orang Asli village (indigenous community), which is worth a visit. Here you can marvel at their craftwork which you can also purchase and witness their way of life for yourself. Johor National Park Association is also planning to engage the Orang Asli with various projects, such as potentially taking their intricate craftwork to Yayasan Warisan Johor to be sold with full profits going back to their community.

Gunung Ledang is yet another popular Johor National Park, especially so amongst the hiking community. Officially this mountain is known as Mount Ophir but among Johoreans, we fondly refer to it as Gunung Ledang and there are probably very few Johoreans who have yet to conquer this legendary peak. Associated with myths and folklore (google the Legend of Puteri Gunung Ledang), it boasts the tallest peak in Johor at 1,276m. As it is not as challenging as Mount Kinabalu, it is very popular among amateur hikers.

Nevertheless, this hike is no mere walk in a park. The National Park Association have trained local tour guides who will be able to guide you along the way for a small fee. Visitors are encouraged against bringing plastic items and in terms of accommodation options they can choose between roughing it out at a campsite and staying at the more luxurious Gunung Ledang Resort.

Needless to say, there is a waterfall here too, but the real treasure would be the priceless view at the peak of the mountain – should you triumph the hike.

Gunung Ledang (Mount Ophir) boasts the tallest peak in Johor at 1,276m.
Explore the waterfalls at Gunung Ledang.

The last two parks worthy of mention are more family-friendly and can be tackled as a day-trips. Tanjung Piai National Park is popularly known as the southernmost tip of mainland Asia with a marker placed at the park to cement the landmark’s most notable fact.

Take a stroll down the 300m boardwalk and soak in being at Asia’s tail-end. Encompassing a mangrove swamp with 400ha of mudflats together with the park’s 526ha – you can also visit a nearby resort that serves fresh seafood. Make a vacation out of the trip if you have the luxury of time and stay the night, then you can truly appreciate and learn all about the mangrove swamp.

Mangrove swamp at Tanjung Piai National Park.

The last national park on our list is also largely made up of mudflats and offers a fuss-free, nature getaway. I remember coming to Pulau Kukup National Park as a child, decades ago, when this second largest uninhabited mangrove island in the world had fireflies and we’d take a boat out in the night after a tummy full of a seafood feast to relish in their beauty.

Alas, the fireflies are no longer part of the ecosystem now but, fortunately the park is still very much thriving in its ecosystem. It even received international recognition, bestowed by the Geneva-based Ramsar Convention Bureau, as a ‘Wetland of International Importance’. Accessing this 647ha island can only be done by boat.

Savour the sea breeze and see if you can catch a glimpse of the abundance of eco-life first hand here, such as monkeys, wild boars, blue crabs and beautiful migratory birds in all their glory. Once you get to the island, visitors are welcomed by wooden boardwalks which lead to a leisurely stroll around the scenic mangrove forest.

Kukup Monkey

That wraps up the five best stunning natural landscapes that Johor’s eco-tourism has to offer. We guarantee you an unforgettable bonding experience with the beautiful environment that so many have painstakingly worked to maintain so that we may soak in its many wonders.