Malaysia: River Cruise

Asia's Rising Star

For nature lovers who wish to experience wildlife adventure as an alternative to trekking, river cruising is the perfect choice. In Malaysia, there are many rivers and mangrove areas where wildlife viewing is possible from the water. Riverine and mangrove habitats are home to large amounts of indigenous flora and fauna; and by nature many animals are drawn to water sources for drinking and cooling.

Whether for serious exploring or just a leisurely outing, a river cruise is an escape to another world. Glide beneath large overhanging trees with the rustle of animals, the call of birds and look out for creatures below the surface. Be rewarded with scenic hill views or spectacular limestone formations on the way, and end the cruise at a waterside stop for a meal amidst the splendour of nature. There are navigable rivers in all parts of Malaysia as well as swampy mangroves along much of the coasts. The most suitable for wildlife exploration are those with calmer waters where the observer can look out patiently with binoculars and cameras ready. Cruises can be early in the day, mid-evening or night depending on the type of fauna targeted for viewing. Sungai' is the Malaysian word for river, and among the more established sites for cruising are Sungai Kilim on Langkawi Island where tree crabs, iguanas and macaques are seen among the trees and mangroves. A thrilling highlight is experiencing the eagles that swoop down on the feed thrown into the water. Sungai Selangor, just two hours from Kuala Lumpur is famous for its firefly colonies that flicker together like festival lights. A similar fireflies cruise is found in the Santubong area in Sarawak and Kampung Ibok in Terengganu. In Sarawak, there are also riverine or coastal cruises outside Kuching to watch the crocodiles along the riverbanks or a little further out of the estuaries to see dolphins. Borneo, with its dense jungles and sparser population, is home to an amazing variety of wildlife. River cruising on the Kinabatangan in Sabah, one of the longest rivers in Borneo offers some of the best opportunities to observe Bornean fauna. Of specific interest is the rich primate family; this is one of only two areas in Asia with 10 primate species. These include those endemic to Borneo such as the proboscis monkey, rn langur and the Bornean gibbon.

The Sukau river village area is located on the boundary of an important protected area in Sabah, the Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctualy. As a protected wetland site in Sabah, Kinabatangan is a conservation area for species such as the orang utan, the Borneo elephant and other wetlands animals including Storm's stork and the flat-headed wild cat. Cruises at estuaries or coasts depend on the tides. For example, crocodiles are easier to see at low tides when the mud banks are exposed. Check with the operator for exact departure times for your preferred cruise.