Tag Archives: Peat swamp

Deluxe River Cruise in Klias-Garama Rivers

Garama river cruise

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.

Map to Klias Peninsular

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.

Entrance to Garama Base Camp
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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).

Boardwalk to Garama Base Camp

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.

Tea break at Garama Base Camp
We took a short tea break at the base camp of OIB.

River cruise in Klias-Garama rivers
Then we got onboard on small speed boats and started our river cruise at 4:30pm.

Look for monkey
Above: our guide, DJ, looked for monkey.

River cruise in Klias-Garama rivers
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.

Proboscis 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:
Kunang-Kunang House Boat

Deluxe river cruise in Klias-Garama rivers
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Dining area of Kunang-Kunang
Above: everyone is so excited and check out the boat. The dining and resting area looks big.

Double deck boat
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.

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

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

Upper deck
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:

View in Klias-Garama rivers
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Fishing in Klias-Garama rivers
Kunang-Kunang was once a fishing boat, of course you can try fishing on it.

Prawn from Klias-Garama rivers
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.

Drinking beer
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.

Sunset in Klias-Garama rivers
Due to cloudy weather, the sunset that day was not so spectacular but we still had good time anyway.

Flock of flying fox in Klias-Garama rivers
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.

Flying fox
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.

Dinner onboard
Dinner onboard
Dinner onboard
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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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Proboscis Monkeys, Klias Wetlands

Proboscis monkey

Map of Sabah The long-nosed Proboscis Monkey (nickname: Dutch Man) is one of the superstars of Sabah wildlife. This funny-looking creature only can be found in the mangrove and lowland forest of Borneo. The two most famous sites to spot them are at Klias and Sukau.

Since I live in west coast, Klias, located 110 KM south of Kota Kinabalu city, is more accessible for me. To get there by car, it will take about 2 hours and the road condition is good. I overnight in Borneo Proboscis River Lodge, located next to the Klias River and 17 KM before Kuala Penyu town.

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All the houses in Borneo Proboscis River Lodge is made of wood and bamboo, like a native village. Basic facilities such as toilet, bathroom, cafeteria, water supply and electricity are available. I stayed there twice and each time got power blackout which lasted from 0.5 to 3 hours, so you better bring a torch light. Insect repellant is a must, as hundreds of hungry mosquitoes will attack you 24×7. One night when I was laying on the bed, a 6-inch centipede crawled on my arm, quite freak out.

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If you take their day trip package, you can join their sunset river cruise (about 5 PM) and watch fire flies at night (about 7:30 PM). It was a bad luck to have noisy kids on the same boat. Proboscis Monkey is very sensitive and shy. If the overexcited children see them, they will SHOUT, “WAAAAAH!!!! MOM! LOOK!!! MONKEY!!! MONKEY THERE!!!!!!” By the time I take out my camera, all the monkeys ran away already. I love kids. But when came to that moment I always felt the urge to kick them all into the river.

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That is a 100% chance that you will see more than one Proboscis Monkey on the trees along the river, during sunset river cruise. But in most cases, they would be 100 feet away from you or hiding behind the leaves. The human and engine noise will scare them, so they will leave shortly. A binocular is highly recommended, so you can see their long noses clearer. Usually they move in group, with one male leader sit on the tallest spot, while his wives and children busy nearby. If you want to use a 3x optical zoom camera to take their photos, you will be greatly disappointed, coz they are too far away. The best time to spot them is around 6 PM (their bedtime) and 7AM. Long-tailed Macaque Monkey is more common, and they are not quite afraid of us.

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Besides Proboscis Monkey, depending on your luck, you would see monitor lizard, kingfisher, eagle, snake, hornbill, etc. You would see crocodile by slim chance. If you look at the trees grow next the river, many of them got high prop breathing root so they can survive the flood. Unlike normal river, Klias River is a peat swamp river. There are tons of death leaves and organic substances under the river, so the water is dark coffee color and a bit smelly. Some even describe Peat Swamp as a carbon sink. And it flows slowly. I saw some catfish in the river. You can have fun fishing at the jetty if you want to.

Klias The most unforgettable experience is to watch the “fire flies Christmas Tree” at night. FYI, the best time to see this is after the rain, and the night without moonlight. They will show you one or two trees where hundreds of fire flies gather, light up the tree like Christmas Tree. Coz it was too dark, my camera couldn’t take the picture. Anyway, I create the picture at the left for you to get an idea how it looks like.

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