For finding wildlife in Malaysia you never have to travel far. Not many people relate a holiday to Pangkor island in Perak with a possibility to see wild animals. For most people Pangkor is synonymous with beaches, beach fun, ikan bilis (anchovies), dried fish and fish restaurants.
Exploring the animal kingdom is usually not on the program of the average visitors. If you want to see wild life, you visit Taman Negara or other nature parks; that is the common statement. However, like other Malaysian islands, Pangkor has its own wild life and it is not difficult to explore some of it.
Like almost everywhere in Malaysia, Pangkor has its own population of Macaque monkeys and they are not shy. You will find them almost everywhere, at the beach, sitting near your window of your hotel room, close to the restaurant you have your dinner waiting for the left over. They are searching for food and if you are not aware, they steal your bags too. So be careful.
A much seen animal is the monitor lizard. They are common in Malaysia. What is interesting about the monitor lizard here is that they regularly swim from Pangkor to the mainland. I have seen them crossing the small straits in between Pangkor and the mainland. The monitor lizard can be up to 3 meters long.
The lizards you see are usually the younger ones as the older and stronger animals have their territory usually in the estates and jungle. Do not be surprised to see a lizard on the beach too. Monitor lizards in Malaysia are usually shy, contrary to their cousins on the Indonesian islands Rincon and Komodo.
Malaysia has a wide selection of snakes. I’ve seen a few cobras around Lumut and Sitiawan but it was always in very quiet areas and late afternoons. Snakes are usually shy and you hardly see them unless the villagers have caught one.
Tortoises are still to be found although the locals have caught most of them. You find many at the Fu Lin Kong Temple at SPK. There are also some on the mainland. For the divers and snorkelers, you may lucky to see turtles.
North of Pangkor is a Turtle Breeding Station at a beach where turtles lay eggs. Those eggs are dug up and hatched before setting them back. The station, 35 km north of Pangkor island, is worth a visit.
The station has several full grown species which makes the visit even more spectacular. These turtles came to the station either wounded or caught by locals and are not set back in the wild.
To reach the Turtle Breeding Station take the road from Lumut to Taiping. Pass Segari, after 3 km, take the junction left (sign board “Lumut power plant”). Follow this road to the first junction left (first asphalt road), go to the end. On your right side, you find the Turtle Breeding Station (no public transport).
Families of wild boar still live in the jungle of Pangkor. Many are hunted so hard that there are few left. If you want to see them, your best bet is the Vikry Beach Resort at Pasir Bogak. The owners feed the wild boars in the evenings.
The symbol of Pangkor is the Lesser Hornbill. There are 3 distinctive different families living at Pangkor. One is living around Nipah Bay, the second near Pasir Bogak and the third lives south of Pasir Bogak. (to get an idea where we find them, see the map of Pangkor island on the Pangkor website, below).
There is also a Great Hornbill family living in the hills near Tiger Rock. You will need to stay at Tiger Rock resort to be lucky enough to see them (evenings is most likely). The Great Hornbill is imported from further in the Malaysian peninsula.
While the Lesser Hornbills come at Pasir Bogak primarily in the morning, at Nipah Bay (and also in Pangkor Town) they are more active in the late afternoons. In the morning, you will see plenty of Lesser Hornbills at the Sea View hotel where the owner feeds them fruits.
You will see (and hear) many in the trees and on the beach.
The whole day you will see eagle. They are more active on the east coast of the island hunting for the fish leftovers of the Pangkor fishing industry. Pangkor and especially just on the mainland near Teluk Rubiah, you can spot dozens of eagles in the early morning. One day, we spotted over 40 eagles in one place when we were on the way to Teluk Rubiah.
Water animals and fish
A much rarer sight at Pangkor are sea otters. There is a family living in between Teluk Batik and Teluk Rubiah in an area which is slightly harder to visit. This family every once in a while visits Pangkor too as they are excellent swimmers. Interestingly I saw them once in a school holiday at Pasir Bogak.
The sea otters are almost always in the water but I have seen them relaxing at the beach too. These magnificent swimmers will surely make your day if you are lucky enough to see them.
You can see turtles when you go diving near Sembilan islands, a group of small islands 45 minutes out of the coastline from Lumut.
White Tip- and Black Tip sharks can be found on the north part of Pangkor Laut. These magnificent hunters feed on fish and you can feed them by hand. The sharks are not dangerous for humans. Outside, again in the area of Pulau Sembilan, you can find an array of fish including pufferfish, barracudas, seahorses, angelfish and others.
Mudskippers are common, especially at the east part of Pangkor. It’s a strange creature, equipped with airbags to be able to breathe outside the water.
At the beaches on the west part of the island you have to be careful when you’re in the water. You may accidentally (mostly at Pasir Bogak, step on a Pinna Incurva, a triangle shaped shellfish that can give you a serious cut in your foot. The shellfish usually only sticks a centimeter above the sand in the water. The shells can be as big as your hand or even bigger.
There are basically 2 treks possible at Pangkor. The trek on the northern part can start north of SPK. Take a taxi and ask to be dropped at the jungletrek starting point. The path goes steep up. Bring good walking shoes, especially when it has been raining because there are leeches.
There is not much views but there are plenty of orchids, insects, butterflies and other plants to see. The trek takes 1.5 to 2 hours depending on your physical condition.
The second path is probably more interesting. It leads from Tiger Rock resort to Pasir Bogak. The path follows the hills. Plenty of orchid, other plantlife and butterflies are to be found here. The path is probably more interesting because the jungle “breaths” more, it is more open. This trek takes 1 to 1.5 hours.
Pangkor might not have the name as a wild life paradise but there’s enough to keep you busy. Without much effort you can find yourself surrounded with plenty of wild life. Considering the small size of Pangkor and the amount of jungle to explore, I would certainly not dismiss Pangkor.