1. Diving at Mabul and Sipadan Island, Sabah
If you’re into diving and are travelling in Eastern Sabah, head to either Mabul or Sipadan Island off the coast of Semporna. Both islands have primary jungle and an abundance of wildlife and marine life. You’ll see hundreds of giant Barracudas, mantas, turtles and the occasional shark along with 1000s of other species.
The only difficulty is getting here. You need to reach Semporna, which involves a flight from Kota Kinabalu to Tawau. And then drive 80 kilometres to Semporna Jetty before 45 minutes on a boat to Mabul Island. Sipadan Island is a further 20-minutes away. But it’s worth the effort. Anyone who takes diving seriously may be aware that both often rate as some of the best spots in the world and are on par with the Galapagos Islands.
2. Diving in West Malaysia: Redang Island, off the coast of Terengganu.
West Malaysia has a few world-class diving spots including Redang Island to the east of the Malaysian Peninsular. Divers of all abilities are welcome and can rent equipment. It may not feel as isolated as Mabul and Sipadan, but it’s still a fantastic spot in Malaysia. If you’re a beginner or want to learn, the PADI courses at Redang Island are very affordable.
Getting to the island is relatively easy. You need to get to Kuala Terengganu, the capital of Terengganu State, by either driving or flying from Kuala Lumpur. Regular ferries depart between the jetty and the island taking one and a half hours. Just be aware that the Redang closes to the public during the monsoon season between October and March.
3. Hiking/trekking: Mount Kinabalu, Sabah
Mount Kinabalu is Malaysia’s tallest mountain reaching a height of 4095 metres (13435 feet). Located in Kinabalu National Park Ranau, the mountain is a major attraction and icon of Sabah. In the days of Paganism, Mountain Kinabalu was subject to folklore and legends making it an essential part of life and indigenous culture. The entrance is a two-hour drive from Sabah’s capital, Kota Kinabalu.
Only 135 climbers can be on the mountain at any one time due to safety reasons after a recent earthquake. You need to book in advance. In fact, because of the popularity, you should book at least six months before the date you want to climb. And even then, it may or may not be fully booked.
Unfortunately, as with most of Malaysia, different fees apply depending on nationality. Local Sabahan, Malaysians and foreigners all pay different prices with foreigners having to pay at least three times more.
The climb starts at Timpohon and you’ll begin the ascent to Laban Rata, which takes an average of six hours before staying overnight in the hostel. Malaysians and foreigners have to stay in separate accommodation with foreigners being required to pay RM10 ($2.50) as a tourist tax for the night.
The next morning, expect to begin your climb to the summit at 2:00 am. It takes between two to four hours from Laban Rata. As you reach the peak, the sun will start to rise above the horizon creating a magical experience. Don’t expect to spend long at the top. Weather conditions may force you to leave after just a few minutes. If you’re in Sabah, this is by far the most important Malaysia top things to do.
4. Hiking/trekking: Gunung Tahan (Mount Tahan), Pahang
If you’re in West Malaysia and want to enjoy one of the best trekking adventures, head to Mount Tahan in Pahang State. Gunung Tahan has the title of the highest in West Malaysia at 2187 metres (7175 feet) in the Taman Negara Forest. You’ll trek through forests, mountains and along rivers to reach the summit. But it’s not as easy as it sounds. Reaching the top is one of the longest and most gruelling trekking adventures in Malaysia often taking several days to complete. The only way you can climb the mountain is by joining a tour that lasts either four days to seven days depending on fitness.
5. Zipline: Coral Flyer Zipline, Sabah
Most countries have ziplining, and you’ve probably had the chance to try it before. But have you ever ziplined between two islands across 250 metres (820 feet) of sea? In Sabah, Coral Flyer Zipline passes between Gaya and Sapi Island giving you the best views of the five islands inside Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park. The zipline has the title of being the longest in the Borneo and once holds the world record for the furthest distance between two islands.
6. Tandem Paragliding: Selangor
Paragliding is one of the most popular extreme sports. But not everyone is confident the first time. If this describes you, don’t despair. Tandem paragliding, where an instructor accompanies you, is available in Selangor near Kuala Lumpur. All instructors are highly qualified, and you’ll feel completely safe.
There are different packages depending on weather conditions and the day you join. Expect to pay a minimum of RM220 ($54) per person. Some companies ask for a minimum of four people and only operates on weekends.
7. Tandem Paragliding: Ranau, Sabah
Tourists in Sabah can also try tandem paragliding in Ranau, a town 108 kilometres (67 miles) to the east of Kota Kinabalu. Packages cost anywhere between RM80 and RM200 ($20 and $50) for a short flight from Lohan, Ranau’s highest point. The paragliding goes over mountains, rice paddies and small villages giving any tourist an exceptional experience.
Consider spending a few days in Ranau too. There are lots of other activities in Malaysia tourists will love in this part of Sabah including visiting the hot springs, seeing the former Mamut Copper Mine and spending the night in Ranau Town.
8. Rock Climbing: Fairy Caves, Sarawak
Sarawak has some of the Malaysia top things to do for visitors who like rock climbing. Bau, 46 kilometres (29 miles) from Sarawak’s capital Kuching, houses the Fairy Caves in a nearby village. Fairy Caves are the best place for rock climbing in Malaysia. Thousands of locals and tourists come each year to climb the rocks and experience the inside of the caves. A vast array of stalactites keep the walls in the shade and out of the rain. So, regardless of the weather, you can enjoy an afternoon of climbing. The caves also have an important part in the local traditions and culture with the Catholic Bidayuhs being the custodians of the cave.
9. Paintball-Xtion Paintball Park, Malaysia
If you're with a group of friends, paintballing is another one of the thrilling activities in Malaysia you can enjoy. There are lots of places for paintballing around the country in most major cities. Group prices are usually very reasonable, and if you book online in advance, you may be able to find a discount or special promotion. Expect to pay more if you come on the weekend.
10. White water rafting, Perak
Whitewater rafting is the ultimate thrill-seeking adventure. And Malaysia has a thick jungle with hundreds of rivers and rapids where people can get in a raft. Perak is the best place in West Malaysia for whitewater raftering. The Kampar River has a total of 14 rapids (Level 1 to 3) where anyone with a reasonable level of fitness and experience can enjoy the adventure. One of the things that makes this a must-do in Malaysia is the environment. Rafters pass through jungle and untouched natural beauty. Keep your eyes open, and you may see a monkey or two.
11. White water Rafting, Sabah
Sabah is also a favourite spot for white water rafting with several tours taking you along Tamparuli’s Kiulu River. The conditions are more comfortable than the Western Malaysian rapids making it more suitable for beginners. Expect the river to be relatively calm with a few rapids (Level 1 to 2). The tour covers a total distance of 15 kilometres (9.3 miles) with about 7 kilometres (4.3 miles) on medium water levels, which makes it the longest in Borneo. If you want to visit, expect it to take approximately one hour from Kota Kinabalu.
More experienced and advanced rafters can head to Beaufort’s Sungai Padas (Padas River), a few hours from Kota Kinabalu. The rapids are larger, faster and guaranteed to give you the thrills you’re seeking.
12. Flyboarding, Putrajaya
Flyboarding, you may or not know, is when you strap a water jetpack onto your back that propels you and the flyboard into the air. This takes place in Maritime Putrajaya, less than an hour from Kuala Lumpur. However, flyboarding is only available on weekends and public holidays with a limited number of spots. Book online to secure a place. Be aware that this activity isn’t budget friendly. A 20 minutes session costs RM370 ($91) while 40 minutes is RM689 ($170).
13. Bungee Jumping, Selangor
Malaysia has bungee jumping in Sunway Lagoon, an extreme section of a larger theme park. Compared to bungees around the world, Malaysia’s is relatively small at just 22 metres (72 feet). Visitors need to pay admission into Sunway Lagoon and then a further RM120 ($30) to do the bungee jump. Most people will spend at least a day inside.
14. Skydiving, Langkawi
Skydiving is on people’s bucket list around the world. But few follow through or lose confidence at the last moment. In Langkawi, tandem skydiving allows people without experience to jump while attached to an expert. Dives pass over Langkawi’s natural beauty and lands on the beach. In fact, it’s the only beach landing in Asia. If you’re interested, you need to contact them through their website for information on prices and requirements.
15. ATV Ride, Kuala Lumpur
An ATV is an all-terrain vehicle that drives on the road, in the mud and along trails.
If you’re into adventure and want the ultimate off-road experience, check out the tour packages from Kuala Lumpur. Rides last between one and a half to two hours and will pass through jungle, waterfalls and give views of the city and landscape. You can find various packages online. Check their website and read recent reviews before you book.
Tourists can have several thrilling adventures in Malaysia to make an already great trip incredible. Activities range from climbing mountains to convincing yourself to fly and take the plunge in tandem paragliding and skydiving. If you want to get your adrenaline pumping, you’ll find something in Malaysia.