Malaysia is at the heart of South-East Asia, by the equator. It has two parts separated by the South China Sea. West Malaysia is a peninsula that borders Thailand to the north and Singapore in the south. East Malaysia is on the island of Borneo and consists of the member states of Sabah and Sarawak. This tour takes us through the multi-faceted West Malaysia Peninsula.
Malaysia has a rich colonial past in which the British Empire played a large part. In 1511 the Portuguese, who wanted to capitalise on the lucrative spice trade, took the city of Melaka, situated on the important trade route along the east coast. They were followed by the Dutch and British. In time British influence developed into control. Malaysian independence was only declared in 1963, with Singapore as a member state at that time. The peninsula consists of nine different sultanates, while Sabah and Sarawak are controlled by a governor. Malaysia was originally covered in tropical rainforest until the British began deforestation and large sections of rainforest were logged for timber and other development. After the Second World War, exploitation of the rainforests was stepped up as a result of global demand for tropical hardwood. Fortunately, much rainforest remains and is protected in National Parks. The peninsula’s inland regions are mountainous and covered in jungle, especially in the north. The western peninsula has many fertile plains while the east is fringed by stunning sandy beaches. West Malaysia has a coastline which stretches over 3,000 miles, which also includes the coastlines of over 300 Malaysian islands. The peninsula has a wide range of plant life, thanks mainly to the warm, humid climate and plentiful rain throughout the year. The flora consists of marsh and mangrove forests, a wealth of plant and tree species and more than 8,000 species of flowering plant. The largest flower is the rafflesia, which can reach a diameter of around 3-4 feet. However, the plant lives for most of its life as an underground parasite and it blooms for very brief periods.
Malaysia’s fauna is as diverse as its flora. Bird-lovers will be completely at home here, as more than 700 species of bird are native to the country. Furthermore, the country is populated by exotic butterflies, insects, reptiles, apes, bears, tapirs, tigers, elephants, over 100 species of bat and countless other animals. The azure-blue waters on the east coast of the peninsula is home to turtles, rays, flying fish, barracudas and a kaleidoscope of brightly coloured fish and coral.