Johor, the southern most state in Malaysia is one of the good choice of destinations you might not have considered. Originated from the Arabic word “Jauhar”, meaning “precious stone”, Johor is aptly dubbed ‘The Jewel In The South,’ as it is endowed with an abundance of natural attractions and endless excitement.
Johor with its state capital, Johor Bahru, has a little of everything that will hold you enchanted in more ways than one, from white, sandy islands to fascinating folklore.
Nature lovers will find real life adventure in the million-year-old tropical rainforests of the Endau-Rompin National Park where flora and fauna abound.
Since its inception in 1993, the park offers fascinating opportunities to naturalists and visitors keen in the treasures of the wild.
It boasts more than 230 species of birds, 43 fishes, 26 frogs, 14 snakes, 9 lizards, 3 turtles and 179 butterflies some of which are not found anywhere else in the world.
See these endangered species in their natural habitat and discover the natural beauty hidden deep in the jungle.
Located 56 kms from Johor Bahru, Kota Tinggi Waterfall is a very popular retreat for both the locals and tourists. The waterfalls cascade 36m into a pool ideal for a refreshing dip.
Walking around the falls gives you a glimpse of the oldest tropical rainforest in the world.
A short driving distance from Johor Bahru, is Desaru, a village of casuarinas with 25 km of unspoilt beaches and lush tropical forest, it’s the only place that offers a “real” surf beach in an idyllic, untouched setting in the southern half of Peninsular Malaysia.
Try your hand at a variety of popular watersports like windsurfing, jetskiing or snorkelling at Desaru’s resorts. Divers and snorkellers will revel in the clear waters while nature lovers will be enchanted by the wide variety of flora and fauna.
Desaru is a perfect base to explore Johor’s southeastern corner. Roads venture into even the most remote spots. A few kilometres north is Tanjung Balau, with its fishing museum and an attractive bay where children can safely swim in the shallows, and families clamber over the rocks to collect oysters at low tide.
Enthusiastic golfers may also try their best handicap at the many challenging designer golf courses around the city, by the beach and in some major towns.
There were 30 golf courses ranging from 9-hole courses to the unrivalled 54-hole courses that pose a true challenge even for top professional golfers.
Among them are Tanjong Puteri Golf Resort, Palm Resort Golf & Country Club and Ponderosa Golf & Country Club.
For sun seekers, there is a choice of romantic islands and beautiful beaches. Among them are Pulau Besar, Pulau Sibu, Pulau Aur and Pulau Rawa which are the perfect getaways from the madding city crowd.
At Pulau Besar, for instance, there’s an array of activities, from jungle trekking, snorkelling, canoeing and wind-surfing to scuba-diving and fishing. Underwater photographers will surely be amazed as the waters unveil the colourful kingdom of fish and coral reefs.
Pulau Sibu is a haven untouched by the outside world with its colourful spectrum of coral reefs. Its crystal clear emerald waters are enchanting and a perfect haven for snorkellers and scuba divers.
And, for those who don’t want to spend their time on the beach, the unexplored coast offers a wealth of diversions – from some of the best seafood in the region to ancient forts and picturesque golf courses.
Many seafood restaurants not only lure seafood aficionados with a blend of Thai and Malay flavours but also offer a tantalising selection of marine delicacies.
At leisure in Johor Bahru, enjoy the vibrant city on your own. For culture, art and craft enthusiasts, take time to browse in the art gallery, museum and handicraft centres.
Places like Kompleks Budaya & Kraf Johor, Sultan Abu Bakar Monument, Sultan Abu Bakar Mosque, Royal Abu Bakar Museum and Johor Art Gallery, to name a few, will surely enthrall you.
Or join any of the optional tours available and explore Johor Bahru and its surrounding countryside with its rustic beauty and refreshing tranquility.
A tour to Kukup will take you to a typical fishing village situated 80 kms from Johor Bahru. The journey takes you through a diversified agricultural area of rubber estate, oil palm, coffee and cocoa plantations.
In Kukup, tuck into a sumptuous seafood lunch and observe the lifestyle of the people in this self-contained village built on stilts.
Souvenir hunters and lovers of ceramic art can browse and shop at Ayer Hitam, a haven for pottery, earthenware, porcelain and stoneware.
Johor’s ceramics and handicrafts are some of the most artistic and creative.
Malaysia is known as a food paradise. Johor offers its state speciality, “Johor Laksa and Otak-Otak” besides mouthwatering seafood in exotic styles served in restaurants on stilts by the sea in an ambience that is sure to whet your appetite.
Can’t stay away from the shopping? Don’t fret. Shoppaholics can stroll and explore the many shopping malls, and the main shopping street, Wong Ah Fook, offers the latest in fashion including a choice of designer brands.
At night, check out the “Pasar Malam” or Night Market. From assorted vegetables, pots and pans and clothes to freshly cooked local dishes, it offers the opportunity to pick up bargains and knick knacks not found anywhere else.
And, if the night is still young, drop in at the popular entertainment spots.
In fact, Johor has everything where everyone’s interest can be satisfied