The Pulau Kukup National Park was established in 1997 to conserve and protect one of the largest mangrove islands in the world. Located in the district of Pontian, Johor, the 647-ha national park possesses unique ecological characteristics and was recognised as a Wetland of International Importance (RAMSAR Site) by the Ramsar Convention in 2003.
The island is deemed as a vital refuge for mangrove-associated flora and fauna including some rare and threatened species. You can take a boat ride to tour around the mangrove forest, which boasts some 27 mangrove species, including the tallest in the country – Sonneratia alba.
It is also home to unique wildlife, such as the flat-headed cat, which is listed in the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List, and the bearded pig. Others include flying foxes, smooth-coated otters, Asian palm civets, mangrove skinks, saltwater crocodiles, and dog-faced water snakes.
The park is also a bird sanctuary as various rare and globally threatened bird species have been spotted here, including the milky stork, Chinese egret and the lesser adjutant. The park provides boat services for visitors to take a glimpse of these migratory birds. You can also wander around Pulau Kukup, which consists of six rivers, in a boat to get a closer experience of the mangrove ecosystem.
The best way to capture the diversity of the wetland is via a 5-storey high suspension bridge that offers a panoramic view of the surrounding area. You can also opt for a land exploration of the mangrove forest by walking inside the Arboretum – a 600-m long bridge.
Also, don’t forget to snap a photo with the largest mangrove in Peninsular Malaysia – rhizophora mangle. The diameter of its trunk is approximately 60 cm and it has been around for about 100 years. Before you leave, you can also join in the mangrove conservation effort by planting a mangrove tree in the park.
From Johor Bahru, drive towards Pontian via the Jalan Skudai Highway and proceed to Kukup. The national park is an hour’s drive away. If you’re coming from Kuala Lumpur, use the North-South Expressway and at the Simpang Renggam Exit, proceed to Pontian, and then to Kukup. You can also take a taxi from Pontian bus station to Kukup. Upon arrival at Kukup town, take a short boat ride from the jetty to the national park.