Tag Archives: Mangrove

Firefly Eco Camp – Good Morning to Borneo monkey

Firefly Eco Camp in Klias

Proboscis Monkey is the superstar of Klias Wetland. Every evening Klias River is like a busy canal, when hundreds of tourists come to visit this peculiar monkey. One guest even said, “there were more tourists than monkey.”

Therefore, the Best Time to see Proboscis Monkey is in the morning, when there are very few tourists around. The monkey is less stressful and you can get really close to them. That’s why I spent a night Firefly Eco Camp.

Firefly Eco Camp
Pic: Firefly Eco Camp

Firefly Eco Camp is located next to Klias River. Staying there will allow you to see what other ordinary tourists miss – the starry night and misty morning over Klias River.

night safari in Klias

I checked in to the camp around 6pm. After the dinner, we started our night river cruise at 8pm to look for firefly Xmas trees and crocodile, when other tourists had left. Though we didn’t find any crocodile, we saw many “summer Xmas trees”, where hundreds of fireflies congregated and flashing in synchronized manner like heart-beating.

dining hall of Firefly Eco Camp
Hour later we returned to the activity hall next to the jetty, to enjoy a serene evening next to Klias River.

Night Fishing in Klias

Klias River is inside Peat Swamp Forest with brackish water, which looks murky all the time. The river seems lifeless, but you will know that you are wrong when you fish.

night fishing
Klias River is connected to the sea. During high tide, fishes will follow the current entering the river for feeding. If you fish during that time, you will catch something in minutes.

fishing bait
Pic: our fishing bait is hot dog LOL. But it works well!

fishing in Klias
Most of us are first-time anglers. We were so excited when it was almost effortless to catch big fish in a few minutes.

fun of fishing
Pic: one caught to make one family happy

May be you want to watch our fishing video below:

All the fishes we caught that evening was catfish (暗钉 in Chinese, means “Hidden Nail”). It is a very common fish, though edible, locals consider it a lower-grade (dirty) fish, due to the impression that it eats human dung fallen from riverside toilet. It has venomous thorns on its pelvic and dorsal fins, which can cause severe pain when poke into your skin. Be careful when you remove the fishing hook.

giant freshwater prawn (udang galah)
Actually we targeted for Giant Freshwater Prawn (Udang Galah) that night, so we released all the catfishes. It was fun anyway.

riverside camp of Firefly Eco Camp
Pic: the hut where I slept

We had a couple of beer while fishing at river side. We talked until late night. I couldn’t wait to enter my small hut as it was so cool.

room of Firefly Eco Camp
The hut may look small from outside, but it can fit two people comfortably. Though there are only bed, light and fan inside, to me it’s a “luxurious camp”. I slept really well throughout the night.

Morning River Cruise in Klias

The next day I waked up early, sat at the small balcony to enjoy the nice river view. It was quiet in the morning and I saw some movement in the canopy. The monkey had waked up earlier than I did.

balcony of Firefly Eco Camp

river cruise in the morning
After having some light breakfast, we were ready for a morning river cruise on Klias River.

misty morning of Klias River
Pic: the misty swamp forest in the morning

Klias River of Sabah
Pic: the calm river of Klias with beautiful reflection on water

female proboscis monkey
Very soon we spotted the first proboscis monkey. It’s a female with pointy nose.

Borneo proboscis monkey
Then we saw the male proboscis monkey with big nose. From their eyes, we could see that they were not quite concern about our presence, a big contrast to evening time when there were too many tourists and boats around. We were the only tourist boat on the river that morning.

yawning proboscis monkey
So we could get really close to them for a good look. One of them was so relax and even yawned. This one was just on top of our heads. I was so worry that it would poo. Our boat found about 5 to 6 herds of proboscis monkey.

silver leaf monkey
Pic: silver-leaf monkey. There were some macaques too.

mangrove of Klias River
Pic: the mangrove trees of Klias River.

river cruise in Klias River
Pic: Peat Swamp Forest is an important habitat for rare Borneo wildlife

Nibung palm in Klias
Pic: Nibung Palm, a tree that grows between swamp and dryland. Its straight and strong trunk can be used for building houses and bridges.

mangrove fruits
Pic: fruits are abundant in the swamp but no monkey eating them, probably they are poisonous.

mangrove trees in river
Pic: mangrove trees that can survive in the water during high tide.

birds in Klias
I saw some birds such as Brahminy Kite, Oriental Darter (Snake Bird), Stork-Billed Kingfisher, Hill Myna and Greater Coucal. Sometimes you can see hornbill and woodpecker around this area too.

Below is a short video of our Morning River Cruise:

How to get there

Firefly Eco Camp is about 80 Kilometers away from Kota Kinabalu (capital city). It is very accessible, just next to the road (left side) to Kuala Penyu (see location map).

entrance of Firefly Eco Camp
Pic: the signage and entrance of the camp at roadside. You won’t miss it.

activity hall of Firefly Eco Camp

riverside lodge
Pic: the dining and activity hall of Firefly Eco Camp

Below is a short video of the camp and its dining hall:

view of Firefly Eco Camp from the river
Pic: view of Firefly Eco Camp from the river

long house of Firefly Eco Camp
If you have a big group such as 20 students, you can book the long house dormitory.

long house dormitory
The room rate starts from RM68 (≈USD20, as of Aug 2013) per head per night. You also can consider a 2-day-1-night full-board tour package for RM298 (≈USD90, as of Aug 2013) per head, which includes transportation, meals, accommodation, 3 river cruises, etc. They also offer optional tour to Sands Spit Island and other places.

For booking or latest info about Firefly Eco Camp, you may contact Borneo Starcruise (星程生态旅游公司) at:
E-mail: info@borneostarcruise.com / borneostarcruise@gmail.com
Website: www.borneostarcruise.com
Facebook: Click Here
Address: Ground Floor, Lot 7, Jalan Pasar Baru, Kampung Air, 88000 Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia.
Tel: +60 88-212009 / +60 17-8137911 (hotline)

Photos taken in Beaufort, Sabah, Malaysia Borneo

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The Magic of Light at Weston River

Sunset over Weston

Sabah has many beautiful places which are only reserved for people actively seeking for them. I noticed Weston when I saw many stunning sunset photos of Weston being shared everywhere on Facebook and Twitter. That’s why I traveled 125 Kilometers from Kota Kinabalu to Weston town last month, to see the magical moment with my eyes. However, I find more interesting things than a nice sunset.

Weston the Historical Town

Named after a railway engineer, Arthur J. West in 1889, Weston town was an important meeting point for trains and ships, due to its strategic location back in the old days of British colony era. Today it becomes just another “remote” Sabah town between Beaufort and Sipitang. Few knows that Weston is the town which North Borneo Railway first constructed.

old shoplot of Weston
Pic: the old wooden shoplot built during British time over 50 years ago.

wooden shops of Weston
Pic: such shophouses are getting less and replaced by cement building.

SJK (C) Che Hwa primary school of Weston
Pic: SJK (C) Che Hwa (委士珍 启华小学 in Chinese), a primary school in Weston

Probably one of the oldest wooden school of Borneo, Che Hwa school is a two-storey building constructed in 1932, and funded by donations from timber tycoons, charcoal merchants and shopkeepers of Chinese community*. In 1930s, many Chinese lived in Weston, the period when Weston was a key hub. Now this school has only 5 teachers and 7 students.

water village of Weston
Pic: water village of Weston

Weston River was used to be called “Jump-Jump” River because of the mudskippers here. In late afternoon, you would see many villagers gather around the boardwalk, fishing and playing RC speedboats there.

old jetty of Weston
Pic: this old timber jetty exists since 1896, another legacy of British.

British government abandoned Weston port when they learnt that the shallow water of Weston is unfit as a deep sea wharf. Now this jetty is a favorite spot for local anglers.

new jetty of Weston
Pic: the new jetty built next to the old timber jetty

After a short tour in Weston town, I got on a boat arranged by W.P.M.S. Tours & Travel and headed to their Weston Jaafar River Lodge nearby (see Location Map).

Weston Jaafar River Lodge

The lodge is a 2-storey wooden building built on riverside and surrounded by dense Nypa palm (or Nipah). Nipah swamp forest, which has existed over 70 million years, is one of the oldest forest type in the world.

Weston Jaafar River Lodge in Weston
Pic: Weston Jaafar River Lodge

Weston Jaafar River Lodge
Pic: Eric, the lodge owner is looking at us from top floor

lodge at riverside
With me is another group of tourists in the Weston tour. We first dropped by the lodge for a hi-tea before our sunset river cruise. It is a great experience to enjoy afternoon tea next to a river.

top floor of Weston Jaafar River Lodge
Pic: top floor of the lodge. There are sofa if you want to laze around.

local dessert
coconut dessert
We had some fried noodle with tea/coffee. I really love the traditional desserts made by the locals.

Weston Jaafar River Lodge

paradise tree snake
Pic: a Paradise Tree Snake in the display tank. It is a common snake in mangrove.

aquarium tank
Pic: kids checking out the local fishes in aquarium tank. If I’m right, the fishes at the bottom right are Marbled Goby, a highly-priced freshwater fish and delicacy.

River Safari & Wildlife

It was around 5pm after we were done with tea break, everyone couldn’t wait to start the river cruise. The cool thing about wildlife sighting here is – we don’t even need to move our legs to look for animals.

river cruise at Weston

Weston River is part of the largest wetland (Klias Peninsula) in Sabah. Wetland is a generic term that covers different aqua-ecologies such as coastal areas, river, lakes, mangrove, peat swamp, nypa swamp, etc., and it is the important habitat for some endangered Borneo wildlife such as Proboscis Monkey.

crocodile of Weston
Very soon our guide spotted a saltwater crocodile taking a nap on the muddy river bank. It is about 3 Meters in length.

Couple of months ago, a 1-Meter crocodile was found in city drain and made news headline. Haha, compared to this beast, that city croc looks more like a gecko. FYI, crocodile never ceases growing throughout its life, it can reach massive size if it lives long enough.

crocodile in river
Please don’t go, Mr. Crocodile…

nypa swamp of Weston
The Nipah forest along Weston River is in great shape. Nipah trees grow very well in estuary, where sea and river meet, sometimes they are even dense enough to form a mini island in the river. Locals use the leaves of Nipah Palm to make roof and its sap to create sugar.

afternoon river cruise at Weston River
The water of Weston River is a mixture of saline and freshwater, so it is a bit murky. However, crabs and prawns grow faster and bigger in brackish water like this, a reason why Weston is famous for its seafood. During high tide, groupers and snappers will swim to estuary, something that the local anglers are really happy about.

male and female proboscis monkey
During our river cruise, we saw the superstar of Borneo, the peculiar Proboscis Monkey on the trees along the river. There were about 20 of them in a few herds far apart from one another. Some of them looked at us with catch-me-if-you-can expression on their faces. The long nose of male proboscis monkey is a symbol of sexiness to turn on female. They have big belly with very long intestines inside to digest the tough cellulose of tree leaves.

long-nosed monkey
Proboscis Monkey is only found in Borneo and only 7,000 of them left in Sabah (and another 5,000 in other parts of Borneo), an endangered species. Another unfortunate thing is – they have low survival rate if held in zoo.

Lesser Adjutant
If you are a bird-watcher, you will be pleased to know that there is a small population of Lesser Adjutant resides in Weston wetland. It is an ugly big bird with bald head.

Magical Sunset

The sunset that I have been waiting for was coming, the sun was sinking slowly to the horizon. My guide, Simon was a bit worried because the dense cloud of earlier rain would spoil the moment. In Sabah, normally you get either the worst or best sunset after rain, it’s a 50-50 bet. Clear sky in sunny days usually doesn’t end with beautiful sunset, as sunset needs cloud and humid air as canvas, to paint its colorful light.

sunset at Weston River
Pic: the start of sunset, the colors are dull and not so promising…

sunset of Weston

sunset view at Weston River

When our hope was low, the colors on the dense cloud gradually turned intense. The “Magic Moment” of sunset only lasts a few minutes, so everyone keeps their eyes wide open, to enjoy every second of the view.

sunset of Weston wetland
Even the sky at the east was colored by sunset.

sunset of Weston
Click here to see Bigger Photo

A splendid sunset over a horizon of mangrove trees, a view that I’ll miss forever! I believe the reason why Weston has nicer sunset than other places of Sabah is because it is nearer to the Equator.

tourists in sunset cruise of Weston

Everyone onboard is happy. The sunset is really one of the highlight of our trip.

night view of Weston Jaafar River Lodge

dinner buffet at Weston Jaafar River Lodge

Again, it is meal time after sunset. We went back to Weston Jaafar River Lodge for dinner buffet.


Right behind the lodge are a few trees lit up by fireflies like Christmas trees. Eric planted some mangrove trees around the lodge to attract Proboscis Monkey, what he didn’t expect was these trees also became a magnet for fireflies.

fireflies on the tree

fireflies of Weston
I noticed a girl next to me taking photo of fireflies that circling around her, so I got an interesting photo (see above).

evening cruise at Weston
We started our night river cruise after dinner.

fireflies on the trees
Many mangrove trees on the riverbank were full of fireflies! Hundreds of them synchronized their twinkling like the pace of heartbeat. Most city people never saw a firefly before, so they were really excited, especially kids.

fireflies in the boat
The fireflies even flied into our boat (noted the dotted light trail).

Apple Mangrove
At the end, Eric showed us a pretty mangrove flower that only blooms at night, as it relies on bats to pollinate. It is an Apple Mangrove (Species: Sonneratia caseolaris), locally known as Perepat. Its young fruit is edible and can be used as a traditional medicine to cure coughing.

Though artificial and colorful city light is cool, it is lifeless and empty, only the light of nature can shine through our heart.

How to Join the Tour

If you want to join this half-day Weston trip, you may contact W.P.M.S. Tours & Travel for information and booking. Below is their contact:
Address: Lot 4, 2nd Floor, Block 9, Damai Point Commercial Centre, Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia.
Tel: +60 12-8463321 (Simon Choo)
E-mail: westonpms@gmail.com
Facebook: WestonWetland

*Reference: “Colonial Townships In Sabah: West Coast”, written by Richard Nelson Sokial (PAM Sabah Chapter) in year 2012, (ISBN: 978-983-40734-4-2).

Photos taken in Weston, Sabah, Malaysia Borneo

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