Pulau Kukup National Park in southern Malaysia has recently been refurbished. The island park now features new boardwalks through mangrove forest as well as multi-level observation towers, and is well worth a half day visit. The park is located about an hour’s drive from the Tuas border with Singapore, and is close to Tanjung Piai National Park (the most southern point in mainland Asia). A boat to the island costs 15 MYR return and is available from near the ferry terminal. Note that the ferry terminal itself is for those travelling to Indonesia – the Pulau Kukup ferry goes from an area to the right of the terminal entrance. Lots of free parking is available nearby. On the return journey the boat captain offered us the chance to visit one of the floating fish farms in the strait between the island and the mainland. Having seen these before and not found them particularly interesting, we declined.
Location: Johor Bahru
Distance: under 2 km
Time: 3-5 hours (inc travel)
Difficulty: 1/5 (flat)
Guidebook: The Rough Guide to Malaysia, Singapore & Brunei (Rough Guides)(2018)
Accommodation: Accommodation in Johor Bahru or Singapore
The Pulau Kukup National Park entrance fee is 21 MYR for non-Malaysians, and less for Malaysians. A lot of effort seems to have been expended on improving the facilities recently, with the boardwalks all rebuilt and sturdy. Signage is decent and claims the island is home to wildlife including mangrove pit vipers and dusky leaf monkeys. Unfortunately we didn’t spot any of these, but long tailed macaques were common (thankfully not too habituated to humans – but still be careful).
Walking through a mangrove forest it is easy to think nothing lives there. However (as with jungle) the trick is really to stand still and watch and the life around you becomes obvious. From the seemingly empty mud floor emerged mud skippers, fiddler crabs, tree climbing crabs, and more.
The main walking trail loops in an anti-clockwise direction for about a kilometre. Turning left then returns to the park entrance while right heads to the observation tower. Several side trails branch off the main track, which follows a stream towards the centre of the island. We spotted multiple king fishers and heron here, quietly waiting in the waterside foliage.
The view from the top of the four floor observation tower was really a highlight of the trip. Looking out across the mangroves – whose branches and leaves have a very distinct look compared to regular jungle – we were impressed by the size of the island. It’s good to see that it is largely unspoilt and that even the hiking trails touch only a small part of it. You can see from the GPS trail below just how much of the island we covered.
The stream that runs through the middle of the island looks prime for kayaking (and we didn’t see any crocodiles….). Despite a stash of old kayaks at the observation tower near the entrance, we were told kayaking wasn’t available because they were ‘broken’. I think we might have to return with our own kayaks one day….
As with many places in Malaysia, the hardest part of visiting Pulau Kukup National Park is finding out information. Johor National Parks have a limited amount of information on their website. Hopefully this will improve with time.