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Marine tourism is a growing industry in Malaysia, with most tourism infrastructure and development focused on famous islands and sandy beaches. Less well-known areas on the south-west coast of the Peninsular such as Sungai Pulai that feature coastal mangroves and seagrass meadows are unfortunately not given emphasis. This paper outlines the potential of the mangrove and seagrass habitats of Sungai Pulai for marine tourism as well as its possible impacts (positive and negative) on its local communities. It is essential that local communities within the tourism realm are actively involved and have a say in tourism development and that they stand to benefit economically. This paper uses the example of Mukim Tg Kupang, Johor as an area that has marine tourism potential, even though it does not fall into the ‘typical' expectation of sandy beaches and beautiful dive sites. Strategies to ensure local community participation and benefits include environmental awareness through education and enhancing communication skills of the locals in their efforts to preserve their marine habitat. A holistic approach to marine tourism via the understanding of their physical and biological environment as well as intellectual and aesthetic development creates the capacity to enhance marine conservation.
Keywords: Local communities, environmental education, conservation, marine, tourism management