Mountains have always exerted a powerful influence on the human imagination - their lofty heights inspire dreamers and storytellers, and have challenged adventurers through the ages.
Malaysia's mountains are no exception. Peninsular Malaysia's mountains like Gunung Jerai and Gunung Ledang bear a rich folklore and Sabah's highest peak, Gunung Kinabalu, is revered by the local Kadazandusun populace as the resting place of their ancestors.
Beyond the mystique of our mountains, there is equally fascinating reality. With increasing altitude climate gradients are created, which Mother Nature has taken advantage of to create some of Malaysia's most unique flora and fauna. In the hear of the Tropics, our mountains have become cool islands of incredibly rich biodiversity.
Every year, tourists from all over the world come to conquer the slopes of Malaysia's peaks. Our task is not just to preserve the challenge they present to climbers, but the equally important challenge of keeping their beauty and diversity unspoilt. For nature lovers, bird watchers, climbers, botanists and modern-day dreamers and storytellers - they are truly our highest national treasure.
Gunung Kinabalu is among South East Asia's tallest mountains, towering 4,095 metres above Kinabalu National Park in the heart of Sabah. The mountain's sheer height means its supports ecosystems ranging from tropical forest to sub-alpine conditions. The majority of Borneo's rarest plants, mammals, birds, amphibians and invertebrates live on the slopes of Gunung Kinabalu.
Despite its imposing presence, the main peak is actually fairly straightforward to climb, although Kinabalu's lesser peaks will challenge even experienced mountaineers. The most popular trek is the two-day Summit Trail, which winds through cloud-covered forest where orchids, pitcher plants and rhododendrons bloom and then beyond to a surreal world of granite peaks and steep cliffs. In the year 2000, the mountain and its surrounding area was gazetted as Malaysia's first World Heritage Site - a fitting tribute to Gunung Kinabalu's uniqueness and importance.
A recent film has put the name of this mountain on everyone's lips; yet it has always been renown among the local population of Johor, who have passed tales of its resident princess, "Puteri Gunung Ledang" from generation to generation. Although the princess was well known for her riddles, the enduring charm of Gunung Ledang is no mystery at all.It is a popular spot for jungle trekking and picnicking. As one near the summit, there are areas of undisturbed mossy forest with orchids and pitcher plants. From the peak, on a clear day, one enjoys an unrivalled view of the Straits of Malacca, framing the islands of Sumatra in the distance.
Also known as mount Ophir, Gunung Ledang is the highest mountain in Johor at 1,276 metres and appears to be one of Malaysia's most visited mountains. Another attraction to be found in Gunung Ledang is a 50-metre waterfall, which cool water cascades onto large boulders, splitting into rushing rapids and culminating in a large sandy pool. The "Puteri Waterfalls" is a major tourist attraction in Johor.
Much like Gunung Ledang to the South, Kedah's Gunung Jerai is home to many fascinating local legend. It was once reputed to be the abode of "Raja Bersiong" (the King of Fangs) whose private bathing pool has been said to be located in the vicinity. Whether one embraces these legends or not, the real historical significance of Gunung Jerai is indisputable. Even before the Malacca Sultanate became famous, Indian and Arab merchants had established footholds in the Malay Peninsula at the Merbok estuary in Jerai's foothills.
For the modern day traveller, Gunung Jerai is still enticing. Just a short drive away from Alor Setar, the mountain rewards visitors with numerous picnic spots and natural attractions. The Sungei Teroi Forest Recreation Park is a calming retreat festooned with rhododendrons, orchids, pitcher plants and many varieties of ferns and herbs. On a clear day atop the peak, visitors can glimpse the magnificient view of the gently rolling padi fields of Kedah, stretching up to Perlis and the islands of Penang in the south and Langkawi in the north-west.
Gunung Mulu is the second highest peak in Sarawak, standing at 2,376 metres. With its sister peaks , Gunung Api (1,750 metres) and Gunung Benarat (1,585 metres), it dominates Gunung Mulu National Park; yet what lies within and beneath these mountains is just as impressive as what lies above. The highlights of this natural wonder are record-breakers in their own right: the world's largest cave passage (Deer Cave), the world's largest natural chamber (Sarawak Chamber) and the longest cave in South East Asia (Clearwater Cave). Over 200 kilometres of Mulu's cave passages have been surveyed, but this is thought to represent just 30 to 40% of the actual total.
With its deeply incised canyons, wild rivers, rain-forest covered mountains, spectacular limestone pinnacles, cave passages and decorations, Mulu has outstanding scenic values. A must-see attraction is the "Pinnacles" - dramatic limstone spikes reaching up to 45 metres, that adorn the slopes of Gunung Api.