Several parks in Johor are perfect spots for a weekend trip to commune with Mother Nature.
1. Kukup Island National Park
From the fishing village of Kukup, take a boat to the offshore island of Kukup Island. On the seaward journey there, you can also visit fish and crab farms. The island’s jetty displays posters with plenty of information about the park.
When the tide recedes, stroll along the boardwalks to view the mudflats teeming with creepy crawlies and crustaceans, or read the identifying tags on the trees to learn about their species. Crossing a high suspension bridge and climbing atop an observation tower are highlights of your boardwalk trek.
You can also take a boat to Snake River for a nominal fee. After a day trip to the island, why not stay at a stilted chalet at Kukup fishing village for the night? Don’t expect five-star hotel luxury as the accommodation are run by fisherfolk, but do expect decent comfort at economical prices – and unsurprisingly the expertly-caught local seafood is fabulous!
2. Hutan Bandar
Hutan Bandar means “City Forest”, and it’s the only forest reserve in Johor Bahru. This 32-hectare park offers camping grounds, jogging tracks, several scenic lakes, a children’s playground and a kiddies’ swimming pool outfitted with water-squirting concrete dolphins.
Come savour the amazingly priced RM5 chicken chop and other Johor specialties, or camp overnight to relieve frayed nerves. Kids (if you have any) love feeding the fish in the lakes, but be sure to slather lots of mosquito repellent on your arms and legs when you are here.
3. Taman Merdeka (Independence Park)
Take your children for a frolic in the kiddies’ wading pool in this park in Johor Bahru on Jalan Kolam Ayer. Or better still, come at night to see beautiful fountains bathed in a kaleidoscope of lights spurting vertical jets 60 feet high! And if you so fancy, dance to the music!
This 12-hectare park features nine themed gardens which depict the history of the country from the pre-colonial era to contemporary times. For example, the Malay Garden features buildings of Malay architectural style, and in the War Against Communism Garden, there are water cannons and water guns for kids to play with.
Scenic bridges, gazebos and wall relief murals provide ample opportunities for photography. Go to a mini museum to take an educational tour of Johor’s history or nibble on scones and sandwiches and sip tea in an English-style café. You can also climb to the top of an observation tower for panoramic views. Opens daily from 9 am to 10.30 pm
4. Tanjung Piai National Park
Travel from Johor Bahru to Kukup and onward to Kampung Berkat to reach this 920-hectare park which consists mainly of mangrove jungles and mud galore. At the entrance to the park, there’s a concrete monument 20 metres high and 10 metres wide, the perfect background for a selfie! The inscription on the obelisk reads “The Southernmost Tip of Mainland Asia.”
In the visitors’ centre, there are exhibits of seashells, maps showing trails around the park and posters identifying the park’s different types of flora and fauna.
At the jetty, as the sea breeze blows on your face, take in the panoramic view of ships sailing the Straits of Melaka and the Singapore skyline across the Johor Straits. As you stroll along boardwalks, keep a lookout for mudskippers, hermit crabs, monitor lizards, otters, dusky leaf monkeys and long-tailed macaques. You can also climb towers for bird-watching. If you’re lucky, you may spot the egret, woodpecker, bulbul, heron and many more.
5. Firefly Valley Leisure Park
Fireflies (aka lightning bugs) are a species of beetle that produce flashes of light in their abdomen. They usually live on trees by the river bank or in swamps. At night, swarms of fireflies will flash their lights in synchrony, creating a spectacular sight.
At Firefly Valley Leisure Park — perched on the bank of the Johor River near Kota Tinggi — you can take a night boat ride or stroll along boardwalks to view these luminous insects. Side attractions in the park include a kiddies’ zoo, scenic ponds containing koi and tortoises, and a restaurant.
6. Endau-Rompin National Park
Purportedly living in this park is Malaysia’s own Bigfoot! Locals call it Orang Mawas. Though the ten-foot creature has never been photographed, its giant footprints have been seen on numerous occasions.
Spanning 870 sq. km. of virgin forest, this park has mountain ridges of volcanic rocks that are 240 million years old. The towns of Bekok and Kampung Beta in Johor are the best jump-off points to enter the park and activities include mountain climbing, white-water rafting, bird-watching and mammal-spotting, but fishing is not permitted.
You can venture to this sanctuary by yourself, it is advisable to book a package from Johor Parks Corporation which manages the park.