Nature Escapes

What Is A Tropical Rainforest?

"A World Of Ancient Life In The Present"


Trying to answer "What is a tropical rainforest?" is like trying to describe the universe.

It is that intricate and enormous. Our idea of the tropical jungle comes mainly from Tarzan or Predator movies. But think back to dinosaurs instead.

Three things remain from when large reptilian creatures roamed the earth: tropical rainforests, crocodiles and cockroaches. (The last one is a guess.)

Malaysian forests are old and diverse. In perpetual evolution since prehistoric times, a jungle trek is a walk through 70 million years of lush growth, decay and regrowth.

An ancient ecosystem, tropical rainforests serve as the planet's gene pool to produce new plants, birds, mammals, and insects that evolve when conditions change and creativity springs to life. A terrestrial, not heavenly, Garden of Eden.

Ringing the globe near the equator, tropical rainforests are evergreen patches of habitat thick with jungle vines, towering trees, constant rainfall and warm temperatures. Malaysia lies in the second largest belt of rainforests on earth, the Indo-Malayan Pacific forests.

Where Are The Tropical Rainforests?

Tropical Rainforest

"Among The Scenes Which Are Deeply Impressed On My Mind,
None Exceed In Sublimity The Primeval Forests
Undefaced By The Hand Of Man."

Charles Darwin ~ The Voyage of the Beagle (1839)

What Is A Tropical Rainforest?

Lowland Dipterocarp Forests

rainforest river

Found below 300 m (less than 1000 ft) like green carpets between hills, these forests are rich in species and variety and dominated by dipterocarp trees that form the dense rainforest canopy height at 25-45 m, with trunks nearly 5 m round and buttresses for support.

Taller trees reaching to over 60 m are called emergents. Rapidly disappearing for development and agriculture, lowland forests are sanctuaries for biodiversity, especially for saving endangered animals and wild plants.

For a taste of lowland jungle, try out Kanching Recreational Forest or Laila Sari.

Hill Dipterocarp Forests

Tropical Rainforest

Found between 300-800 m (less than 2600 ft), these forests are much like the lowlands with some differences in tree and plant species and fewer large mammals.

A target for logging, hill forests absorb water for reservoirs, maintain slope stability, filter out dust and pollution and provide the scenic backdrop to the country's wilderness.

Explore the hill forest wilderness by boat at Temenggor or trek to find Rafflesia flowers at Ulu Geroh.

Montane Forests

montane forest

Found above 1200 m (more than 4000 ft), the forest changes into an uneven canopy with trees only reaching 20-30 m and more slendor trunks and twisted branches. Dipterocarps no longer dominant as species of oaks and laurels take over.

Also called the mossy forest, the atmosphere is cooler and trees are covered in ferns, mosses and liverworts.

Try out Cameron Highlands or Maxwell Hill to discover these amazing cloud forests.

Mangrove Forests


Stilt-rooted trees form a buffer from sea waves to protect fragile coastal habitats fringing sections of the peninsula. Dominated by only a few tree species, these forests exhibit special adaptations to live in salt water and provide sanctuary for breeding fish, prawns, crabs and mudskippers.

Important as stopover sites for migratory birds, pole production and medicinal extracts.

Spend the day to see the water birds, raptors, fiddler crabs and more at Kuala Selangor Nature Park and in the evening head over to the river at Kampung Kuantan to watch nature sparkle with a firefly light show.

>>> Go To Mangroves

Freshwater Swamp Forests

freshwater swamp

A rare forest type for Malaysia, these river-flooded habitats are rich in nutrients and difficult to navigate during the wet season. Each swamp has its own distinctive qualities and species.

To experience swamp life and learn the traditional ways of the Orang Asli visit either Tasik Bera or Tasik Chini, two good examples of this unique ecosystem.

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