The lush greenery, bustling townships, and vibrant culture found across Malaysia stand us in good stead as a travel destination, not only for foreign visitors, but for local folks too. In pre-pandemic days, tourism was the third largest GDP contributor at 15.2% and employed 3.5 million people in 2018. Local travel industry took a heavy hit during the course of the lockdown, with up to 30% of tourism operators going out of business.
As Malaysians learn to co-exist with COVID-19, more people are venturing out and resuming outings, staycations and weekend getaways. Travel bans are lifted as Klang Valley enters Phase Four of NRP. So if you are planning to venture out, consider exploring these experiences that are fun and give back positively to local communities and mother nature.
#1: Gombak Indigenous Affairs
Imagine immersing yourself in a jungle experience only 30 minutes away from Kuala Lumpur. The native host will teach you basic survival techniques of how Orang Asli’s thrive in the forest. Find out what it means to forage for food, start your own fire to cook a meal and learn basic weaving techniques practised by womenfolk.
This 5-6 hours day trip will awaken the survivor in you. With the forest acting as your backdrop, guests can expect to prepare their own traditional meals using handed-down Semai methods and natural resources from the surrounding forest, and challenge themselves with traditional Asli arts, crafts and games.
The Orang Asli’s in Malaysia are incredibly unique and resilient. Get to know them more by stepping into their shoes as a visitor and spending a day with them. Ready to go? Make a booking with Native.
#2: Temuan Village Trails
This 3-4 hours trail will lend you a window into another of Peninsular Malaysia’s indigenous tribes. The Orang Asli Temuan Community settlement is based in the Semenyih rainforest, a 50-minutes drive away from the city centre.
Orang Asli forms a commensalism relationship with their environment. Along the trail, local guides will be teaching you indigenous knowledge such as identifying local flora and fauna and how they fit into their culture. The trek through the dense jungle is rewarded with a cool dip in the waterfall. The highlight of the trail is an invitation to the local guide’s home where you enjoy home-cooked Temuan dishes. The hike is suitable for teenagers and adults only. Moderate level of fitness required. Get to know the Orang Asli communities and enjoy a slice of nature. Make your booking here.
#3: Unseen Tours KL
Kuala Lumpur is way more than the Petronas Twin Towers. Behind every building lies an untold history; behind every face lies an untold story. The city has gone through several waves of transformation and stories are waiting to be told. What better way to know the city than by having a local guide who used to live on the same streets and call it home?
Yellow House KL recruits and trains former homeless city dwellers on tourist guidance to provide them with a new means of livelihood. The walking tours designed are not the same as those offered by any other travel agents. Participants get to trace the footsteps and observe Kuala Lumpur from the unbeaten track.
The 2.5 hours tour will offer insights from the people who have seen it all. Your bookings help your guides get back on their feet. 60% of the revenue goes back to your guide while 40% is retained by Yellow House KL to sustain. Book your tour here.
#4: Jungle School Gombak
Kampung Orang Asli Batu 12 might seem like an unruly settlement in the middle of nowhere, it is in fact the heartland of the largest ancestral home of Peninsular Malaysia’s Orang Asli. 10 of the 18 Orang Asli tribes can be found in this village, which includes Senoi, Temuan, Temiar, Jakun, Semelai, Jahai, and Bateq. As part of an effort to preserve and revive the Orang Asli culture, Rahman and Mejar Kalam established the Jungle School of Gombak to educate the public about the ways of local Orang Asli.
To reach the school, visitors have to trek through the ancestral forest where you get to learn about local plants with medicinal value to indigenous people. You will be greeted with local single mothers where you get to learn how to weave various handicrafts with local flora like Nipah leaves. After collecting “bertam” leaves from the forest, visitors will be taught to build a day-shelter and start a fire using wood. There are also other games like blowpipe blowing competition and puzzle game ‘Jah re Noi. The tour ends with a hearty traditional lunch and a special performance of the nose flute by Raman himself.
Your support not only contributes to the heritage preservation of Orang Asli but also creates jobs for Orang Asli youth, 34% of whom lived in poverty back in 2014. Lock in the dates and make your booking here.
#5: Free Tree Society Nursery
Free Tree Society’s nurseries are nestled into the last green lung of cosmopolitan Kuala Lumpur, the remnants of an old rubber estate from a bygone era. FTS hopes to educate the wider population about knowledge and skills to create a nation of trained Environmental Stewards. They conduct regular sessions where participants get to experience hands-on environmental conservation.
A typical session starts with an introduction to the nursery, following an environmental solutions talk about various emerging issues like water scarcity, composting and waste reduction, rainwater harvesting, and rewilding biodiversity. Then, things get more interesting where participants have a chance to plant trees starting with soil mixing, propagation, and transplanting. The instructor will then explain nursery management and plant care while participants are finishing their own pot of plants.
Free Tree Society makes a point of ensuring their activities are as sustainable as possible, hence participants are encouraged to uphold sustainable practices like travel green and bring their own bottle. Visit their site to find out more about session time and location.
#6: Farm In The City
Situated in Seri Kembangan, Farm In The City (FITC) is a unique new concept that combines elements of wildlife and nature set in a designed environment of a conservation park. FITC is designed to resemble a typical Malaysia village or “kampung” setting, with the aim to provide educational and entertaining insight into the lifestyle and setting of a Malaysian village, farm and fruit orchard with its natural plants and wildlife.
The 33.5 acres of land features a myriad of the natural landscapes. Visitors get to witness more than 100 local bird species in free-flight in Bird Aviary; Feed and interact with giant tortoises in Reptiles Cavern, browse through exotic plants in Orchard and Vegetable Farm.
FITC actively promotes wildlife and environmental education through its programmes that are designed for local and overseas student groups. Students get to learn about animal habitats, behaviour, and geographical distribution in a comfortable setting, in line with FITC’s effort to contribute to global conservation. This is a great place for families with young children. Check them out here.
#7: Pulau Ketam
A fishing village right off the coast of Port Klang, Pulau Ketam is a hidden gem in the bustling logistic hub. The island is not your typical island where most houses are built on elevated platforms on mud land instead of solid land. Some of those platforms remain wooden while most have been converted to concrete. The village is decorated with bright colours, resulting in a picturesque layout.
Visitors have to commute from the jetty to the island motorised boats. Right outside of the jetty are stations manned by locals where electric bikes can be rented. A stroll through the platforms will lead you to seafood restaurants operated by local fishermen who get their daily supply fresh off the boat. It is no surprise that crabs are a big seller on the island that bears its namesake. Most tourist businesses in Pulau Ketam are operated by locals. That means buying a souvenir keychain or a kilogram of grouper fish would contribute directly to their livelihood and they can keep the skill and art of fishing alive!