Tag Archives: Mangrove

Sunset, Fireflies, Sambah River Cruise

Beautiful sunset at Tenghilan

River cruise in mangrove forest is one of the most popular tours in Sabah. Normally tourists pay about MYR200 to see long-nosed monkey, sunset and fireflies in wetlands of Klias, Weston or Kota Belud.

Sambah River Cruise

FYI you can see these in Tenghilan (in Tuaran district) for about half of the price (MYR80), but without wildlife such as proboscis monkey. Anyway, its advantages are: (1) the destination is less than an hour drive from Kota Kinabalu City (KK), (2) You will have a chance to sample a delicious snack called Udang Salai (Smoked Shrimps).

smoking fresh shrimps

Udang Salai (Smoked Shrimps) is a special product of Sambah Village

This tour is named Sambah River Cruise because it is based in Kampung Sambah (Kampung means Village in Malay language). Before the river cruise, my group was invited to the house of David (our host) in Kampung Bunga, where welcoming drink and light refreshment were served, and an introduction about the trip was given.

Briefing at Kampung Bunga, Tenghilan

Briefing at Kampung Bunga, Tenghilan

Then we moved to the jetty in Kampung Nouga (GPS: 6.233895, 116.307495) around 5pm to start our first river cruise in mangrove forest.

Jetty in Kampung Nouga, Tenghilan

Jetty in Kampung Nouga, Tenghilan

Mangrove Forest

As part of the Sulaman Lake, this wetland has been a fishing zone. If you are an avid angler, you can request them to include fishing as part of the activities.

river cruise in mangrove

Mangrove is the breeding place for seafood.

Technically this swamp is a lagoon as it is directly connected to the sea via a channel. During high tide, fishes such as grouper follow the sea current to enter this mangrove to forage and breed, so it’s not uncommon that you can catch very big fish here.

River cruise at Kg Sambah

The river cruises are between 5pm to 8:00pm

Tuaran has one of the best mangrove forest near KK. The area we visited was mostly intact and large. The brackish water may look dirty, but crabs and prawns grow faster and fatter in such environment. The mudflat of mangrove is also the best place to harvest clams.

Navigate in maze of mangrove forest

Navigate in maze of mangrove forest

Located between sea and river, mangrove swamp is one of the most peculiar forest in the world. The trees can grow in the water and tolerant to saline water, and they breathe with roots. Living among the trees are some weird animals such as the walking and jumping fish, mud-skipper and colorful fiddler crabs with huge pincer.

Approaching Kampung Sambah, a fishing village

Approaching Kampung Sambah, a fishing village

Our boat navigated in a maze of mangrove forest network. The panoramic view of lush mangrove forest is impressive. Some trees grow over 10 Meters. I think Sabah Wildlife Department can bring in some proboscis monkey families. I’m sure they can live happily here.

Group photo at jetty of Kampung Sambah village

Group photo at jetty of Kampung Sambah village

59% of the mangrove forest of Malaysia is located in Sabah. Do you know Sabah has both the smallest (KK Wetland) and largest (Kinabatangan) Ramsar sites of Malaysia? Ramsar Site is a wetland site designated of international importance in terms of conservation, ecology and biodiversity.

Kampung Sambah next to Sulaman Lake of Tuaran

Kampung Sambah is a small fishing village next to Sulaman Lake of Tuaran

Udang Salai (Smoked Shrimps)

Around 5:30pm, we arrived Kampung Sambah, a water village next to the lake.

Taking a stroll in Kampung Sambah Village

The tour includes a stroll in Kampung Sambah Village

stilt houses in Kampung Sambah village

The houses in Kampung Sambah are on stilt to avoid flood and high tide

We took a walk in the village, which has a population of 200 of mainly Bajau people. Most of them live in wooden houses on stilt on the mudflat of mangrove, a typical view of fishermen village in Sabah.

Smoke House for making Smoked Shrimps (Udang Salai)

Smoke House for making Smoked Shrimps (Udang Salai)

Only two villages, Kampung Sambah and Kampung Penimbawan, produce Smoked Shrimps (Udang Salai)

Only two villages, Kampung Sambah and Kampung Penimbawan, produce Smoked Shrimps (Udang Salai)

However, this ordinary village has an extraordinary snack called Udang Salai (Smoked Shrimps). Believe me. The taste of Udang Salai is unforgettable. Once you try it, you would crave for it occasionally.

The burning wood for Smoked Shrimps

The burning wood gives Smoked Shrimps (Udang Salai) very nice aroma

Shrimps are abundant in this area. Only fresh shrimps (no frozen shrimp) are used in making Udang Salai.

Udang Salai (Smoked Shrimps) is one of the tastiest Sabah snack

Udang Salai (Smoked Shrimps) is one of the tastiest Sabah snack I’ve ever tried

They have a simple small hut with wood burning stove to smoke the shrimps. The small shrimps are placed on mesh wire above the burning wood and being smoked until they are totally dry and cooked. The taste is yummy and crunchy with nice barbecue flavor. Even the shell is edible. You can’t stop once you start eating it.

Udang Salai (Smoked Shrimps) in a plate

A small pack of Udang Salai can cost about MYR30

Sambah Village is one of the largest producers of Udang Salai, apart from its neighbors Kampung Penimbawan in Tuaran. Smoked shrimps are sold at tamu (morning open market) of Tenghilan on Thursday and Tuaran on Sunday. It’s always sold out before 8am.

Making Smoked Shrimps (Udang Salai)

You can buy Smoked Shrimps (Udang Salai) in weekly open market (tamu) of Tenghilan (Thu) and Tuaran (Sun)

Sunset & Firefly

Though I wanted to stay back to eat more Udang Salai, we had to start our second river cruise at 6:10pm.

Departing for sunset and firefly cruise

Departing for sunset and firefly cruise

Waiting for the magic hour of sunset

Waiting for the magic hour of sunset

Soon our boat approached the estuary, where we could see the sun started sinking into the ocean. The blazing sun ray gradually turned into warm and golden beam, marking the start of twilight.

Love shape cloud

See the love shape cloud?

nice sunset at estuary


The sunset view was hypnotizing. Even though it rained earlier, the extra moisture in the air is the recipe for making of a beautiful sunset. The colors of the sky and cloud went wild and intense, and we were lucky to see the famous flaming sunset of Sabah.

Beautiful sunset at Tenghilan

Spectacular sunset at Tenghilan

After the sunset, our boat cruised slowly in the total darkness in mangrove. We saw some congregating fireflies flashing on the mangrove tree like summer Xmas tree. The density and scale of fireflies here are small, but good enough for people who never see firefly.

Dinner at the end of tour, rice with fried chicken, crabs, mixed vegetables and some fruits

Dinner at the end of tour, rice with fried chicken, crabs, mixed vegetables and some fruits

Fresh crabs from the mangrove

Fresh crabs from the mangrove

The river cruise ended around 7:30pm and we enjoyed our dinner at David’s house.

How to get there

This destination is less than 50 Kilometers from KK. The tour operator can pick you up at your hotel. The fee is about MYR80 (about USD$20) per person for this half-day tour (3:30pm-8:30pm).

Below is contact information and more details for you to find out more:
Tel: +60 14-6751256
E-mail: sambahrivertour@gmail.com
Facebook: sambahrivercruise
Instagram: @sambah_river_cruise
Website: sambah.weebly.com

Photos taken in Tenghilan, Sabah, Malaysia Borneo

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Tree and Coral Planting in Sabah

tree planting

Even children know trees provide oxygen and mitigate global warming. Saving the World is a noble goal but it sounds so ambitious to us. Don’t worry. I’m not going to ask you to be the Captain Planet. You only plant tree for yourself and your family. For example, having two mature trees next to your house can provide enough oxygen for a family of four. Plant one more tree and the shade of three trees, if strategically positioned, can reduce the need of air-conditioning by up to 50%. Good deal huh?

Misty rainforest of Borneo

Misty rainforest of Borneo. “Forests are the lungs of our land, purifying the air and giving fresh strength to our people.” – Franklin D. Roosevelt

Parents always set aside of their personal desires and give the best to their kids. They accumulate wealth for their offspring so they will enjoy a better living. But how many parents will invest in better environment for future generations, so they can enjoy fresh air and clean water in future? Even fishes need clean water and watergrass in their aquarium to live happily. Ton of money in bank account won’t guarantee our children to have a quality life in an environment without clean air and water.

Imagine if trees gave off Wifi signals, we would be planting so many trees and we'd probably save the planet too. Too bad they only produce the oxygen we breathe.

Malaysians have been taking clean air and water for granted. But these things can go away and it’s happening. The crystal clear stream, where I used to fish during childhood, turns into a smelly drain. I see less and less tree shades around my neighborhood, and people complain about the heat almost every day.

Tree planting by local community

Tree planting by local community. “If every individual should plant a tree in their life time, the world will be full of trees.” ― Lailah Gifty Akita

Mother Nature lets us choose between hell or heaven, depending on how we treat her. Tree always appears in the drawing of your kids about dream home. Let’s materialize it.

Logging truck

“Each generation takes the earth as trustees. We ought to bequeath to posterity as many forests and orchards as we have exhausted and consumed.” -Julius Sterling Morton

59% of Sabah is covered by forest, so Sabahans overseas always miss the greenery here, especially those staying in big cities such as Kuala Lumpur, where the car population is far more than trees. World Health Organization (WHO) has declared that bad air is a leading environmental cause of cancer, and 1/8 of total global deaths is directly linked to air pollution.

Need money for my family in the rainforest

The following are the tree planting programs that individual, company, and organization can participate in Sabah, to increase the quality of our environment. Not all trees are the same, every tree type has its roles for upkeep of a healthy nature.

1. Rainforest

Plant rainforest tree for fresh air, clean water and starry night. Rainforest is also a Disney Land for birds and wildlife. Every tree you plant will produce approximately 260 pounds of oxygen annually and absorb about one ton of Carbon Dioxide in its lifetime.

Tree planting in homestay

“The Best Time to plant a tree is 20 years ago. The Second Best Time is NOW.”

By shading our houses and streets, tree can lower the temperature of city and shield us from excessive exposure to harmful UV. This makes our places safer for outdoor activities. That’s why forested park such as Tun Fuad Stephens Park is a favorite place for joggers.

Jungle lodge in the forest

Jungle lodge in the forest

Tree also absorbs pollutant gases (e.g. sulfur dioxide, ozone) and filter particulates out of the air by trapping them on their leaves and bark. Your home will be filled with cleaner air and less dust. The more trees you have, the more stars you can see at night.

Forest on riparian of Kinabatangan River

Forest on riparian of Kinabatangan River. “A people without children would face a hopeless future; a country without trees is almost as helpless.” – Theodore Roosevelt

During rain storm, trees act like big umbrella, slowing down the runoff and prevent flash flood. Large area of trees can form a wall to block hazardous strong wind. Sabah is experiencing more flood and stronger wind nowadays, as a consequence of deforestation.

Orangutan feeding on the tree

Orangutan feeding on the tree. “Plans to protect air and water, wilderness and wildlife, are in fact plans to protect man.” ― Stewart L. Udall

A forested riparian is a good “braking carpet” to reduce large quantity of soil and pollutants being washed into the river by rain, thereby maintaining a clean supply of water to reservoir.

Rhinocerous hornbill flys over a fig tree

Rhinocerous hornbill flies over a fig tree

Wildlife will be benefited too. Besides providing shelter to animals such as orangutan and hornbill, fruit trees are important food source for them.

Where to join?

Most homestay in Sabah, especially those located near Kinabatangan River, have tree planting program. Just to list a few, Kampung Bilit, Kampung Abai, Bukit Garam, Tambunan.

Tree nursery in Abai Village of Kinabatangan River

Tree nursery in Abai Village of Kinabatangan River. “The true meaning of life is to plant trees, under whose shade you do not expect to sit.” – Nelson Henderson

Don’t hesitate to ask your travel agent for info on tree planting, most of them are very supportive of this initiative.

2. Mangrove

Plant mangrove for seafood and protection against natural disasters. Mangrove was thought to be useless until a super Tsunami took thousands of lives in 2005. There was no death reported in the areas which had mangrove forest! Mangrove is a buffer between the land and the sea, so it can be a cushion that minimize the impact of tidal waves.

Mangrove forest

Mangrove forest of Sabah

Green belt of mangrove forest is excellent in countering water-related disasters. For example, coastal area with mangrove forest is less vulnerable to typhoon. The mangrove tree also helps to stabilize the coastline by preventing erosion by sea waves.

Crabs as food

Crabs and shrimps grow fast and fat in brackish water of mangrove

During heavy rain, mangrove forest can act like a sponge to retain the water, a feature that mitigates flood. When filthy rivers flow through mangrove, the forest will filter the sediment and harmful heavy metals in the water, before discharging it into the sea.

Fish landing at a port

50% of the seafood landing in Malaysia is associated with mangrove.

Sabah is famous for abundance of seafood but very few people know the secret. Mangrove forest is breeding and nursery grounds for variety of seafood such as fish, crab, shrimp, and clams. 59% of mangrove of Malaysia is located in Sabah. Needless to say, mangrove is also an excellent spot for fishing and aquaculture.

Proboscis monkey on the tree

Most proboscis monkey lives in mangrove forest

The mangroves in Klias and Weston, the habitat of proboscis monkey and firefly, are well-protected. Now throng of tourists go there every day for firefly tour. Nature always repays us generously if we take care of her.

Where to join?

You can join mangrove replanting at Kota Kinabalu Wetlands. The local schools have been sending thousands of student to plant mangrove trees there.

Nursery for mangrove tree seedlings

Nursery for mangrove tree seedlings

If you want to get dirty and do something more than just a symbolic gesture, you can join their mangrove replanting project at Sulaiman.

Mangrove tree planting

Mangrove tree planting. “He who plants a tree, plants a hope.” ― Lucy Larcom

3. Coral

Plant coral for tourism. If you have visited Sipadan Island, you will never forget the diving experience with schools of barracuda and dozens of turtles and sharks, which are drawn by the thriving corals there.

Coral reefs in Sabah

Coral reefs in Sabah

Coral is the home of fishes, and fishes mean food to big marine creatures. If our older generations had protected the corals well, we don’t even need to travel far and spend a lot of money to see these. Hope you see the point of leaving a great nature is better than leaving a lot of cash to our future generations. They will have to pay high price to enjoy what was used to be common. Seafood is also getting more expensive now.

Corals are home to reef fishes, a.k.a. seafood

Corals are home to reef fishes, a.k.a. seafood

As coral reefs are under threat globally, very few high quality coral gardens will remain intact. On the positive side, this is a magnet to tourists. In fact, tourism is the most important industry of Sabah after oil palm. A blooming tourism will create more jobs and income.

Fresh seafood

Fresh seafood

Same as mangrove, conservation of corals is vital in maintaining a sustainable supply of seafood.

Where to join?

You can take part in coral planting at Gaya Island Eco Resort off Kota Kinabalu City. Technically, coral is animal and not a plant, so you will be “planting animal” lol.

Coral planting

Coral planting

Usually coral fragments are used for the planting program. It has slimy secretion coming out of the pores.

Coral plates placed in stabilization tank

Coral plates placed in stabilization tank

All you need to do is just fix that fragment on a cement plate and place it in a stabilization tank. It’ll be released into the sea by the divers.

Besides planting tree and coral, you also can donate fund to environmental organizations like WWF for restoration of forest. Let’s think of the donation as an investment. The $100 cash deposited in our bank today would depreciate to $90 next year due to inflation. But for every $1 we invest in conservation, the return can be tremendous, because trees can grow and multiply.

Photos taken in Sabah, Malaysia Borneo

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