In the past, Weston is the first town to have a railway station in Borneo, but it is under-developed and remain a seaside village today. Now tourists find a reason to visit Weston, as it is one of the three places offers wetland eco-tourism in Klias Peninsular to see long-nosed monkey, besides Klias and Garama.
Weston town is about 3 hours drive (125 KM) from Kota Kinabalu city and accessible by paved road. You will pass by Papar, Bongawan and Beaufort towns on the way.
Last month I joined a river cruise tour in Weston. I arrived Weston around 10am and our guide, Richard, and his boat, were already waiting at the jetty. It had been raining every day that time, so I was so glad that we had sunny day. For a start, we had a river cruise tour on the Weston River. The wetland here is mostly intact and well-preserved. Unlike the brackish and lifeless water in peat swamp of Klias and Garama, Weston wetland is a wide river with flowing murky (like color of milk tea) water.
Compared to Klias and Garama, Weston wetland is located at downstream and closer to the sea. In fact, its estuary is where Padas, the largest river of Sabah, ends as the meeting place of sea and river. As tide level changes daily, so is the depth of the water. We can see some lands exposed during low tide, with mangrove trees growing on it. During high tide, about lower half of these trees will be submerged into the water. A funny view but these vegetation have the ability to live in such intertidal environment.
Within 10 minutes, our boat spotted the first proboscis monkey. It’s a female monkey foraging at the river bank. Crocodiles also live in Weston River, but most are concentrated in further upstream, so this monkey is safe.
Then we saw about 4 herds of proboscis monkey (about 4 to 8 monkey per group) on the trees next to the river. Each group is dominated by a male proboscis monkey with big nose and belly. Proboscis monkey is one of the biggest monkey species but they are very elusive. They fled into the forest before our boat could get closer, so a binocular would help a lot.
Surprisingly, as an old town, the river of Weston is not really dense-populated. We found wooden houses of fishermen scattered along the river. Richard says the contour of the river always changes, so I assume any area near the river is not suitable for permanent settlement. Due to land clearing upstream, more silt is carried into Padas river, and this would affect the course and flow of the river.
Klias and Garama wetlands have beautiful peat swamp forest, but I think Weston has the densest and most beautiful view of Nipah forest. Someone told me that nipah tree is an invasive species and very easy to plant. You can see nipah tree in swampy area and wetland in Sabah.
Does nipah tree sound so unfamiliar to you? In fact, most of you (Malaysians) have eaten its fruit. Its popular name is “atap fruit”. Chinese calls it “海底椰” (sea coconut). The sweet Nipah fruit is a common item served in dessert called Ais Kacang or “ABC” (acronym for Air Batu Campur, literally means “Mixed Ice”).
Another popular seafood of Weston is the freshwater prawn “Udang Galah” ( “大头虾” in Chinese). You can fish this prawn with specialized fishing hook. Normally the fishermen throw some rice in the river, after a while catch it using the fishing net. You can buy directly for cheaper price from local fishermen in Weston. In fish market, Udang Galah is sold for RM20 (about USD$6) per Kilogram. Unfortunately, due to overfishing, the crabs and shrimps in Weston are getting less.
At the end of our morning river cruise, we stopped at the jetty of Weston Wetland Resort, which has its dining area and reception building built next to the river. We were welcome by a fat and friendly cat, aww… so cute.
Below is a 5-minute video of our river cruise tour and Weston Wetland Resort. Sadly, I notice my video has very low click rate. Now I’m not sure if I should waste my time making video next time.. 🙁 At first I thought it was a great idea..
After taking some coffee and pineapples as light refreshment, Richard wanted to take us for a “pitcher plant” walk in a forest nearby. I thought I was the smartest one in the group. Assuming that it might be a “mud” walk, I was wearing short sleeve shirt and short pant, without knowing that I was totally unprepared what was coming next..
The 5-minute walk on the boardwalk allows us to take closer look at the nipah trees, without getting ourselves wet and dirty in the flooded swamp. However, the boardwalk is not well-maintained, so I had to watch my steps for missing plank.
Then we came to a bush area with dense shrubs. Wow, there are pitcher plant (Nepenthes) everywhere. Some are hanging on the shrubs and there are carpets of pitcher plant on the ground too. We have to be very careful of our steps. Pitcher plant is also called “Monkey Cup”, but it has nothing to do with monkey though, except that it looks like a miniature cup used by monkey.
For those of you who plan to visit the Weston Wetland, you need to prepare for horse fly, an annoying blood sucker. I saw no horse fly in Klias and Garama but there are plenty of them near the Weston River. Horse fly is so persistent that they keep following you until you kill them or they are done sucking your blood.
There were more than 10 horse flies following me. According to Richard, my clothing in dark nature color attracts horse fly. Horse fly would not come near to people in bright color dress. In one case, one of his visitors killed 40 horse flies. When I didn’t pay attention, the horse fly cut a small wound on my exposed skin and fed on the blood. I ended up having 4 or 5 bites. They said the bites would become really itchy on next day and they were right. The worst thing is it will get worse if you scratch.
Normal insect repellent can’t drive horse fly away. One of my friends introduced me the repellent spray above. It is really effective against horse fly but this spray is not available in Malaysia shop. What you can do is to dress in bright color and cover your skin as much as possible with long sleeve and pant. Horse fly may carry parasite or disease, so don’t take it lightly.
We had our seafood lunch in Weston Wetland Resort. I remember my Sabahan friends and I once ordered shrimp in a restaurant in Peninsular Malaysia. We laughed when we saw the dish, coz the shrimps were so tiny that they are only qualified for making dried shrimps in Sabah. Sabah is blessed with abundant and “big” seafood, is because of our well-preserved wetlands (e.g. mangrove, coral reefs), which is a nursery and breeding ground for our seafood. Remember, our mangrove forest and swamp are not wasteland, they are important supply of our seafood.
Before we said bye-bye to Weston, we had another river cruise near the exit of estuary (river mouth of Padas), where we can see Brunei in front. Do you see the light area in the sea, in photo above? The water there is only a few feet deep. We had too many people onboard so we didn’t move further or we would risk our boat stranded in shallow water. Yes, you are correct that the last photo is the land of Brunei.
Photos taken in Weston, Sabah, Malaysia Borneo