With a land area of 328,500 sq. km (126,835 sq. miles), Malaysia is only slightly larger than the state of New Mexico. The country is divided into 13 states and one federal territory. Two states, Sabah and Sarawak, are located on the island of Borneo, while the rest of the states are located on peninsular Malaysia.
Tropical evergreen forests, estimated to be some of the oldest in the world, once covered more than 70% of Malaysia; however, logging and plantation establishment have taken their toll. There are diverse terrains, including mountainous forests, sparsely wooded tangles at higher elevations; lowland forests and dense tropical forests; mangroves along the waters' edge; and peat swamp forests along the waterways. On the peninsula, three national forests -- Taman Negara (or "National Forest") and Kenong Rimba Park, both inland, and Endau Rompin National Park, located toward the southeastern end of the peninsula -- are the most convenient to visit, especially Taman Negara, a half-day trip from KL. Sabah and Sarawak step up the adventure quotient with countless rainforests, spectacular caves, peculiar wildlife, and fascinating indigenous cultures.
Malaysia is surrounded by the South China Sea on the east coast and the Straits of Malacca on the west, and the waters off the peninsula vary in terms of sea life (and beach life). The waters off the east coast house a living coral reef, good waters, and great tropical beaches, while more southerly parts host beach resort areas. By way of contrast, the waters in southern portions of the Straits of Malacca are choppy and cloudy from shipping traffic, but once you get as far north as Langkawi, the waters become beautiful again. Meanwhile, the sea coast of Sabah and Sarawak includes some resort areas that are ideal for beach vacationing.
Funky Flowers -- Borneo is home to the world's largest flower, the rafflesia, which can grow to over 90cm (3 ft.) in diameter. The parasitic plant is a rare find, and the smell it gives off is similar to rotting flesh. Another interesting species of Borneo flora is the pitcher plant, which survives in poor soil conditions by drawing nutrients from insects and even small mammals it captures in its pitcher. Both plants are protected species.
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