Tigers, rhinos, and elephants, oh my! Malaysia is a nature-lover’s dream. The “megadiverse” country is home to an estimated 20 percent of the world’s animal species and offers a variety of ecosystems to sustain them. Wildlife expeditions, bird watching tours, jungle trekking, and other adventures allow visitors to get up close and personal with nature in a way that is possible in very few other locales.

Malaysia has about 210 mammal species, including its spectacular “big cats,” the Indochinese Tiger, the Clouded Leopard, and the endemic Malayan Tiger. There are many other endemic species in Malaysia’s jungles and forests as well: Kinabalu ferret badgers, Kinabalu black shrews, Brooke’s tree squirrels, and Hose’s palm civets can only be found in the Borneo Mountains. In addition, there are 620 species of birds, 250 species of reptiles, and, perhaps not as delightful to visitors, thousands of insect species. Be wary of fire ants, giant honeybees, and scorpions! The many butterfly species, though, remind us that insects are incredible, too.

Life under the surface of Malaysia’s waters is as rich and dazzling with thousands of fish, sea snake, and coral species. Whale sharks, hammerhead sharks, and reef sharks patrol the water, and fishermen angle for Blue marlin and tuna. The Sula Sea alone features 1200 fish species, 600 coral species, 20 sea snake species, and five sea turtle species. Visitors can see many of these if they take the plunge into the cerulean water. Locales like Sipadan Island offer astonishing biodiversity and your choice of dive operations so you can gear up and explore.

There is no shortage of thrilling ways to experience Malaysia’s stunning wildlife. From kayaking down mangrove-lined rivers and trekking through Langkawi Lowland to taking in a butterfly tour and seeing the view from above as you stroll along the canopy walkway in the Sedim Rainforest. Thirty meters up, 925 meters long, this is the longest canopy walkway in the world, and it is your chance to see many species that are available to most of us in books and pictures only.

Malaysia is a treasure to be protected; its biodiversity is threatened by issues like over-logging and deforestation. Visitors can help protect these important ecosystems by taking nothing but pictures and leaving nothing but footprints, as well as treading carefully whenever possible. It’s the least we can do in exchange for the magnificent show that awaits Malaysia’s visitors.

Enid Glasgow