Deluxe River Cruise in Klias-Garama Rivers

Near to Beaufort town and 1.5 hours drive from Kota Kinabalu city, Klias Wetland is the biggest peat swamp forest of Sabah. As Klias is the habitat of wildlife such as proboscis (long-nosed) monkey, silver-leaf monkey and firefly, it attracts thousands of tourists every year. I have tried river cruise in Klias wetland a few times. Basically what the tour operators do is – they put the tourists sitting on a small speed boat, cruise along Klias or Garama River, to spot for monkey on the trees of the river bank. At night, they will bring tourists to see fireflies.

However, OIB Tours (Only in Borneo) now offers a totally different new experience. Personally I call it an excellent example of Blue Ocean Strategy (which create new niche and make ordinary competition irrelevant). They turn a 80-feet wooden fishing boat into a tourist house-boat named “Kunang-Kunang” (means Firefly), the first deluxe river cruise tour in Sabah.

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Though I was invited, I had no idea what they meant by deluxe river cruise. At first, we need to travel 2 hours by land to their riverside base camp in Garama. FYI, Klias and Garama are adjacent to each other and both are the rivers in Klias Wetland (Peninsular).

We get out of our bus and walk about 10 minutes on a boardwalk to reach Garama Base Camp. The starting doesn’t look luxury. I am perfectly ok with the walk, but I dislike oil palm.

We took a short tea break at the base camp of OIB.

Then we got onboard on small speed boats and started our river cruise at 4:30pm.

Above: our guide, DJ, looked for monkey.

Above: a group of tourists saw the proboscis monkey. Compare to Kilas River, the Garama River is smaller and have many narrow maze-like network, but you can get closer to the monkey.

Above: we spot a few herds of proboscis monkey at the riverside.

For me, this is quite an ordinary river cruise like most other travel agents offer. You may watch the video of “ordinary” river cruise below. Later you can compare this with the deluxe river cruise:

After 30-minute of river cruise in Garama River, we are transferred to the 80-feet house boat “Kunang-Kunang” in Klias River at 5pm:

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Above: everyone is so excited and check out the boat. The dining and resting area looks big.

Kunang-Kunang is a double-deck boat. It can accommodate 30 to 50 people, really great for private party and company annual dinner. You may have a wedding party onboard too. Sound much more fun than those formal and boring functions in hotel.

Above: introduce to you the captain of Kunang-Kunang. He is blind actually. Haha, just kidding..

The view from upper deck is so nice! See the lush mangrove forest behind them?

Another photo taken on upper deck. You can have a very open and 360 degree view of Klias River.

The boat moves slowly and very stable, none of us got seasick. Everyone was as happy as a kid on this big boat.

You may watch the 5-minute video below to have a 360-degree look of both lower and upper decks:

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Kunang-Kunang was once a fishing boat, of course you can try fishing on it.

If you are lucky, you may catch “Udang Galah”, an odd-looking big prawn from the river. It is edible and sold for RM20+ per Kilograms in market.

For me, I prefer to do nothing and just enjoy my beer, hehe..

There were many small tourists boats passed by. We can see from the faces of these tourists that they are so envy and want to be on our big boat too, lol.

Due to cloudy weather, the sunset that day was not so spectacular but we still had good time anyway.

After sunset, we saw non-stop traffic of flocks of “birds” on the sky. See the small dots in photo above? They kept on coming. When the day turned darker, they fly lower. I notice that the way they fly is very strange. These are not birds.

They are flying fox (fruit bat) and hundreds of them flying over our boat. I didn’t know Klias has flying fox. You can see it at the end of my last video.

>> Click Here to see more photos of Deluxe River Cruise

We also enjoyed our dinner onboard. It has been a fun trip and I can see that everyone is really happy. So… you know what to propose to your company for annual dinner? 😉

After dinner, our boat started to return to Base Camp. Suddenly the boat turned off all the light. In total darkness, we saw many “Christmas trees”, which in fact are synchronized flashes from hundreds, even thousands, of twinkling fireflies congregated on the trees. There are nearly 50 of such “Summer Christmas Trees” along the Klias River. Though it’s the highlight, too bad I can’t show you any photo coz it’s impossible to take photos. A few fireflies even fly to our boat!

For pricing info and reservation, you may contact OIB Tours.

Photos taken in Beaufort, Sabah, Malaysia Borneo

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