Malaysia: Touring - Driving holiday

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Malaysia Touring - Driving holiday

Malaysia's rugged undulating terrain, dense rain forests crossed by rapid rivers make it an irresistible destination for four wheel drive or 4WD expeditions. The heat, mud, rolling hills and rainstorms add to the challenge in the gruelling yet exhilarating off-road driving. With over half the country still under jungle cover, Malaysia's natural landscape brings out the best of man and machine in a test of skill and endurance. Yet there are sweet rewards, with stunning vistas to behold or a quiet stop to view the wildlife and the waterfalls to cool off after an exhausting run.

International 4X4 or off-road events held in Malaysia annually are usually around October and November. Among them are the Trans-Borneo International Rally, the National Challenge and the Rainforest International Challenge of Malaysia.

The novice or casual visitor may not be cut out for the rigours of world class events like the year-end Camel Trophy or the Rainforest Challenge, two of the world of 4WD's most competitive events. However, there is nothing to stop an interested amateur from trying out off-road driving and having an exciting time exploring places off the beaten track, especially in a conducive environment like Malaysia's. Peninsular Malaysia's East Coast offers some of the best terrain for off-road enthusiasts. The forests around Gua Musang in Kelantan; Tasik Kenyir, Sungai Loh and Sungai Kelamin in Terengganu; Endau Rompin in Johor; Tasik Chini and Cameron Highlands in Pahang are established routes for this adventure sport.

Closer to Kuala Lumpur, the most notable is Pertak in Kuala Kubu Bharu, Selangor which is just two hours drive from the city. The route is scenic with plantations and fresh fruit stalls lining the approach road. South of Kuala Lumpur, the forests around Kuala Klawang in Negeri Sembilan offer waterfall attractions such as Lata Kijang and visits to Aboriginal settlements. Pahang and Terengganu are the acclaimed 4WD destinations. The Sungai Lembing mines in Pahang are a tested though challenging site and anglers may like to pack their rods for some fishing as well. Endau Rompin, a National Park area in Johor is a more trying route. A well prepared group expedition is strongly recommended since a lone vehicle may encounter difficulties. Further afield in East Malaysia, the areas around the Kinabalu National Park in Sabah and Bintulu in Sarawak are sites for off-road driving.

Off-road driving is a year round activity, but depending on the level of expertise of participants, some months are better than others. The relatively drier season from March to October make for firmer terrain and less mud as trails may become severe if it rains. StorlJ1s, landslides and floods may also change the tracks and make them impassable or inaccessible. For the East Coast, take note of the December - February monsoon rains.

There are local adventure operators offering four wheel drive expeditions, designed to suit visitors' experience and time constraints. Drivers, food, and camping equipment can be included in the package. Campsites are usually situated near a waterfall or river, a superb environment for bathing and swimming. Although visitors can rent 4WD vehicles on their own, it is not advisable to venture into the wilderness without a guide and partners as the terrain is difficult to negotiate without the benefit of experience. Some operators also offer 4WD road training courses with a certificate upon completion. In short, Malaysia has no shortage of unforgettable areas of natural beauty that make for a truly wondrous driving holiday.