Malaysia is divided into
two distinct parts: Peninsular Malaysia and the East Malaysian
provinces of Sabah and Sarawak in North Borneo. The two regions are
650km apart, separated by the South China Sea. Peninsular Malaysia
shares borders with Thailand and Singapore. Sabah and Sarawak border
Kalimantan (the Indonesian part of Borneo), and Sarawak surrounds the
tiny enclave of Brunei. The Andaman Sea is on the west coast of the
peninsula. The east coast of the peninsula, Sabah and Sarawak all
adjoin the South China Sea.
Peninsular Malaysia accounts for 40% of the country's land mass.
Several mountain ranges run north-south along the spine of the
peninsula. There is a wide, fertile plain on the west coast, and a
narrow coastal plain on the east. Sabah and Sarawak are covered by
dense jungles and have large river systems. Mt Kinabalu (4101m) in
Sabah is one of the highest peaks in South-East Asia. More than 60% of
the country is still rainforest, but a government plan to build a huge
hydroelectric dam in Sarawak is expected to decimate 69,000 acres of
forest, which does not augur well for the future. There are 8000
species of flowering plants in Peninsular Malaysia alone, including
2000 tree species, 800 different orchids and 200 types of palm.
Malaysia fauna includes elephants, rhinos, tigers, leopards, tapirs,
sun bears, orang-utans and gibbons. East Malaysia has one of the most
abundant and varied bird populations in the world.
Malaysia is hot and humid
all year. Temperatures are usually between 20-30 degrees Celsius;
humidity is usually 90%. The region has a monsoon climate, but only
the east coast of Peninsular Malaysia has a real rainy season. The
wettest season on the west coast of the peninsula is between September
and December; on the east coast and in Sabah and Sarawak it's between
October and February. Rain, when it comes, generally interrupts the
sunshine only briefly; most of it falls in short, strong bursts.