Ask anyone what’s so special about Kuala Selangor and chances are you will be met with a blank look. Some people don’t even know where exactly Kuala Selangor is; let alone what it has to offer.
Situated approximately 90km from Kuala Lumpur, Kuala Selangor is a sleepy fishing town at the mouth of the Selangor River. Kuala Selangor may not be the first name that springs to mind when talking about popular points of interest, but it is precisely this lack of mass appeal that makes it so special; this town is definitely not your typical tourist destination.
In spite of its diminutive size, there are actually plenty of things to see and do in Kuala Selangor, as we are about to discover in the Kuala Selangor Nature & Firefly Tour.
Our first stop takes us to Bukit Melawati – a fortress built 200 years ago during the reign of the second Sultan of Selangor as a means to monitor the activities around the river mouth down below. The beautifully-landscaped hill offers panoramic views of the Selangor River and its surroundings. Today, some old cannons can still be seen around the hill, as well as part of the fort’s original foundation, the palace grounds, the Altingsburg Lighthouse, the royal mausoleum and the infamous execution block made of a flat stone called ‘Batu Hampar’, where many enemies’ heads were detached.
We are taken up and around the hill in a colourful red-and-yellow ‘locomotive’. On our journey to the top, we catch sight of a troupe of long-tailed macaques and silverleaf monkeys – the hill is practically infested with them. Our ride drops us off by the roadside right before the Altingsburg Lighthouse, overlooking the river and valley below, where we get a chance to interact with our furry friends on a more personal level - feeding and stroking the long-tailed macaques’ dark, shiny fur.
Having run out of long beans to feed the macaques with, we take a trip up the slope to take a closer look at the legendary ‘Batu Hampar’, rumoured to be the most haunted spot on the hill. The cheerful locomotive comes around to pick us up for a last joyride, taking us down the hill and towards the end of our Bukit Melawati trip.
Kuala Selangor Nature Park
Our next stop is the Kuala Selangor Nature Park. A wildlife sanctuary consisting of secondary forests, wetlands, inter-tidal mudflats and mangrove swamps, it also has hostels and chalets for nature-loving visitors who would like to take more time to appreciate the surroundings. In the middle of the park stands a large aviary housing endangered milky storks, as well as a man-made wading lake which provides an ideal roosting and feeding site for resident and migratory birds from as far away as Siberia. The park features over 200 bird species, including some rare and exotic examples such as the Crested Serpent Eagle.
It is already getting dark by the time we reach here, so we miss the chance to explore the park. We had been told that a journey through here is like a journey through an enchanted forest and during the park’s opening hours - from 9:00 to 17:00 – nature guides are available to take you around to better appreciate the many wonders, explaining each of the park’s flora and fauna along the way.
We stop by at a remote yet charming fishing village on the way to our last destination on the itinerary, for some (literally) fishy souvenirs to take home. Finally, we arrive at the highlight of our tour, the Firefly Park.
Fireflies, locally-known as ‘kelip kelip’, are perhaps Kuala Selangor’s biggest attraction. Emitting bright light from its abdomen, this bug tends to favour mangrove swamp areas. During the night, they can be seen illuminating the mangrove trees lining the riverbanks, while they feed on the leaves' nectar.
We begin by refuelling ourselves at the park’s seafood restaurant – a most welcome interlude as we are all getting hungry after a whole afternoon’s tour. The prawns, squids, fish and crabs served are fresh and succulent. By the time we finish our dinner, it is already 20:00, so we make our way to the jetty for our tour’s finale. As we are waiting for our turn on the boat, we see some fireflies twinkling amongst the branches of the trees outside, but nothing prepares us for what we are about to see next.
We feel a flutter of excitement when our number is called. We duly put on our life-saving jackets and board a 12-man boat. As we head off we are all quiet with anticipation; nothing but pitch-black darkness and the sound of cicadas surround us.
The silence breaks into gasps at the sight that greets us not long after. The trees along the riverbanks – which we can only see the silhouettes of in the dark - on both sides are filled with thousands upon thousands of twinkling fireflies like stars in the night. When they say that these fireflies make the trees look like Christmas trees, they aren’t kidding; why, at this moment it feels as if Christmas has come early! We continue to admire the beautiful display of nature in awed silence, with the swishing sound of the water gently lapping against the sides of the boat breaking the silence every now and then. The experience is surreal to say the least - it simply has to be seen to be believed.
On our way home, we stop by at another popular firefly-sighting spot in Kuala Selangor – Kampung Kuantan. Here, instead of motorised boats, passengers are taken on traditional sampans to view the fireflies, which lend the experience a more authentic feel.
Full from the seafood dinner and drunk from our exhilarating firefly experience, we make our way home at the end of the night. We came not expecting to see anything much and came away having seen more than we could ever imagine – and wanting to see more. One thing’s for sure, this relatively little-known tour is definitely one to remember.
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