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