Tag Archives: Peat swamp

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:

catfish
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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Klias Peat Swamp Field Center

Klias Peatswamp Center

Before I introduce this place, I want to show you two photos below. 1st one (below) is the photo of afternoon sun blocked by haze. You can tell the haze is really dense.

sun in haze

Next one is the photo of our city attacked by haze. The haze from Kalimantan every year is really a nuisance. Such pollution not only affecting our economy, it also damages our health. Don’t you hate it?

Kota Kinabalu in haze

The place that I’ll talk about has very close relationship with haze. The title has said it. It’s Klias Peat Swamp Field Center (KPSFC), 10 KM south-west of Beaufort. When you drive pass Beaufort toward the direction of Sipitang town, a few minutes later, turn right to the junction with the sign “Kg Luagan”, follow the main road, then you need to turn to two junctions again, to Jalan Luagan and Jalan Sanginan (see Location Map).

Sabah map

Soon you will see the sign “Hutan Paya Gambut Klias” (means Klias peat swamp forest), drive another 3.5 KM on a gravel road and you will reach Klias Peat Swamp Field Center.

gravel road to Klias Peat Swamp Field Center
>> Click Here to see more photos of Klias Peat Swamp Field Center (KPSFC)

What is Peat Swamp Forest?

Peat swamp forest is wetland with a layer of decomposing organic matters, such as dead leaves and plant material, up to 20 Meters thick. Waterlogged soils prevent dead leaves and wood from fully decomposing, which over time forming acidic peat (pH 2.9 – 4), giving a typically dark brown to black colour to the water – hence the name ‘blackwater swamps’. An estimated 1.54 million hectares of peat swamp forest still remain in Malaysia (but going fast!). More than 70% are in Sarawak, less than 20% in Peninsular Malaysia and the rest (over 2/3 are in Klias) in Sabah.

Peat Swamp forest

Importance of Peat Swamp

Peat swamp forest is highly diverse with as many as 927 species of flowering plants and ferns recorded in Borneo. It provides sanctuary for migratory birds and home to more than 60 endangered animal species such as Orangutan, Proboscis Monkey, Sumatran Rhinoceros, Asian Elephant, Tiger, Civet Otter, Storm’s Stork and Wrinkled Hornbill. Arowana, a very expensive aquarium fish, also lives in peat swamp. Peat swamp forest is also very important for our nature tourism, as many tourists want to see proboscis monkey and fireflies, which live in our peat swamp forest such as Klias, Weston and Garama

gate of Klias Peat Swamp Field Center

That’s why Sabah Forestry Department gazetted 3,630 ha of peat swamp in Klias as Class I protected forest reserve. They also open KPSFC in 2006 for conservation and research of peat swamp forest. FYI, the peat swamp of Klias is over 5,400 years old and the peat can be as deep as 13 Meters!

reception of Klias Peat Swamp Field Center
Above: the reception building of KPSFC.

Opening Hours & Contact

GPS Location: 5.325683, 115.673054 (see Location Map)
Mon – Thu: 9am-1pm, 2pm-4:30pm
Friday: 9-11am, 2pm-4:30pm
Closed on weekends
Tel: +60 87-208101, +60 87-208102 (Note: If the phone numbers don’t work, you may call the mobile phone of Center Manager, Mr. Christopher Matunjau at +60 17-8101070)
Facebook: kliaspeatswamp.fieldcentre

hostel of Klias Peat Swamp Field Center
Above: the hostel in KPSFC can accommodate 16 to 30 people. Of course tourists can visit this place, but it’ll be better if they can bring a very knowledgeable tour guide, someone who can give them very good interpretation talk. Sadly, most tour guides in Sabah have 0 or poor knowledge on wetlands ecology.

room in hostel
Above: our bedroom in the hostel. The room is quite comfortable and equipped with air-conditioning. There is a big male and female washrooms in the building. Overall, the place is clean but the toilet is poorly constructed. Not only that it is very small, a few doors also can’t be closed properly, making you wondering why those people didn’t monitor the quality of the construction.

You can watch the 1-minute video below if you want to get a feel of the surrounding of Field Center:

Briefing in reception
Then we were shown a short video briefing in the reception building. The vegetation of Klias is a mix of peat forests, mangroves, nipah swamps, freshwater swamp forests, open marshes, heath forest and dryland forests, one of the most diversified and outstanding examples of peat swamp forest in Borneo. Klias is the largest peat swamp forest of Sabah, located on the delta of the Padas and Bukau rivers. At first glance, it does not look like an impressive attraction. Unlike a lively and flowing river, what you will see is a stalled brackish river with unpleasant smell.

Layout of Klias Peat Swamp Field Center
You may click the picture above to see the layout of the Field Center. All necessary facilities are in place, except a restaurant.

Klias Peat Swamp Field Center
Above: the peat swamp forest behind the Field Center.
>> Click Here to see more photos of Klias Peat Swamp Field Center (KPSFC)

Luckily visitors do not need to step into the mud and swamp to explore the peat swamp forest. You can walk on 2.7 KM of wooden boardwalk to get close to peat swamp. The walk takes about 2 hours and the starting point is just behind the reception building.

boardwalk map of Klias Peat Swamp Field Center

boardwalk
circular hut
>> Click Here to see more photos of Klias Peat Swamp Field Center (KPSFC)

In early morning and late afternoon, the boardwalk is a nice place for bird-watching. You would see hornbills and woodpeckers. A rare Hook-billed Bulbul bird can be found here. Sometimes the bird watching guides bring tourists to look for birds here. I only saw glossy starling, dollar bird, kingfisher, imperial green pigeon and Hill Myna. Do bring a binocular if you plan to see birds.

glossy starling birds
imperial green pigeon
Hill Myna
bird watching tower
They also have a bird watching tower.
>> Click Here to see more photos of Klias Peat Swamp Field Center (KPSFC)

You may spot interesting plant or insect next to the boardwalk. Some look weird. 4 species of pitcher plant live in peat swamp.
fruit
yellow bug
plant
>> Click Here to see more photos of Klias Peat Swamp Field Center (KPSFC)

To my surprise, there are many tall trees in this area. Like the Kapur Paya (Dryobalanops rappa) in photo below. It is endemic to Borneo and can grow up to 55 Meters tall. It is a threatened species due to its value as a commercial hardwood “Kapur”. Kapur Paya was not the favorite timber in the past coz its log sinks in the water. But when timber price goes up today, it becomes the feasible target of logging.
Kapur Paya

interpretation sign
Above: there are many interpretation signs (in English) along the boardwalk for tourists to self-educate themselves.

Haze from Peat

Ok, let’s come back to the haze and peat swamp things. How are both related? Heavily packed with centuries of decaying organic material (i.e. dead wood & trees), peat swamp stores a huge quantity of carbon. A 10-Meter deep peat swamp can store about 5,800 tonnes of carbon per hectare, compared to 300-500 tonnes per hectare for other types of tropical forest. When peatlands are drained, dried, and burned for opening up new land for plantation such as oil palm every year, they emit over 3 billion tons of CO2, more than 10 percent of annual CO2 emissions, contributing to global warming!

boardwalk

What is shocking – dry peat swamp forests are very vulnerable to fire and produce the most carcinogenic haze. Fires in peat swamps are extremely difficult to extinguish because the fire can smolder deeply underground for YEARS, even after surface fires are put off by rains, creating haze that regularly haunts Southeast Asia. By now you should know why Indonesia has problem to stop haze.

After the planters drain and dry the peat swamp, they will burn it to clear the land for oil palm plantation. Imagine tons of carbon, which was locked under the ground for thousand of years, suddenly free and escape into the atmosphere as Carbon Dioxide… DISASTER!!!

dense trees along boardwalk

There is only a self-catering kitchen in the Field Center, but that’s not a problem for our wonderful ladies who can cook. We had a great BBQ dinner! But I need to warn you that there are many mosquitoes in the evening and they can bite through my thin socks! Remember to bring insect repellent.

dinner in field center
dinner in field center
dinner in field center
>> Click Here to see more photos of Klias Peat Swamp Field Center (KPSFC)

After heavy meal, a few of us decided to do a night walk. FYI, you may request the ranger to turn on the light along the boardwalk (but we didn’t). With the aid of torchlight, we walked quietly and saw termites, bats, frog and big millipede. The starry night is also a great feature here.

night walk

You would see wild animals such as wild boar, civet and badger at night, but you have to be very lucky. Guess that was not our night, though we could sense that this forest was very lively in the dark.. No wonder there are some old stories that warn children not to play till dark because the “tembuakar” which roams swamps and rivers on Sabah’s southwest coast will subdue them. Indigenous communities claim the creature takes on 44 life forms, appears after a heavy storm, is capable of uprooting bridges and can overnight “eat” grasses that clog rivers.

However, this monster has more reason to be afraid of human because new studies by Netherlands-based Wetlands International conclude that 20 percent of all Malaysian palm oil is produced on drained peatlands. They even say peat swamp will disappear from Sarawak state by the end of the decade if the destruction does not cease.

Conclusion

In Sabah, I see blue sky almost every day. I thought the beautiful sky would be there for me forever, until the haze from open burning turns our sky into grey color. Only then I realize that we should not take our environment for granted, or we will lose it forever.

Photos taken in Beaufort, Sabah, Malaysia Borneo

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