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 targetted for viewing.
‘Sungai’ is the Malaysian word for river, and one of the more established sites for cruising is Taman Negara in Pahang. The approximately 2-hour upriver cruise from the Tembeling Jetty to Kuala Tahan offers nature lovers the opportunity to observe wildlife such as monkeys, monitor lizards, kingfishers as well as buffaloes along the banks. The park is home to more than 14,000 species of flora.
Sungai Kilim on Langkawi Island is where tree crabs, iguanas and macaques are seen among the trees and mangroves. A thrilling highlight is watching the eagles 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 where one can watch crocodiles along the riverbanks or venture a little further out of the estuaries to see dolphins.
Borneo, with its dense jungles and sparse 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, maroon langur and the Bornean gibbon.
Klias Wetlands is home to the unique Proboscis Monkeys, Long-tailed Macaques, Silver Languor Monkeys as well as a host of birds and riverine creatures. Sign up for a cruise in this mangrove forest reserve and watch out for feeding primates. As night falls, you might catch a glimpse of beautiful lights displays as fireflies converge at riverbank trees near the jetty.
The Sukau river village area is located on the boundary of an important protected area in Sabah, the Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary.
As a protected wetland site in Sabah, Kinabatangan is a conservation area for species such as the orang utan, Borneo elephant and other wetlands animals including Storm’s stork and the Flat-headed wild cat.
Some river cruise boats have canopies while some don’t in order to afford unobstructed views, especially local boats. Bring along sun cream or a wide-brimmed hat for sun protection. Binoculars are most handy and zoom cameras will afford sharp photos. Insect repellant is useful for evening and night tours.
Cruises at estuaries or coasts depend on the tides. For example, crocodiles are easier to spot at low tides when the mud banks are exposed. Check with the operator for exact departure times for your preferred cruise.
Observing wildlife needs patience, a keen eye, common sense, good timing and luck. Monkeys, crocodiles, dolphins, fireflies and so on are wild creatures, therefore sightings are unpredictable. Hiring a knowledgeable guide will increase your chances of seeing what the lesser trained eye might miss, since tropical animals are masters at camouflage.
Lastly, river cruises are rarely done midday, as it gets too hot for both human and other wildlife.
There is so much to do and so many places to see in Malaysia. To make sure that you don’t miss anything, use this handy map to navigate your way across the country and find great places to visit.
Perlis is the northern gateway to Malaysia. Despite its small size, Perlis has an abundance of attractions that make it a great destination.
Kedah is Malaysia’s largest paddy producing state. Delve into history in Lembah Bujang, the site of an ancient civilisation or relax in Langkawi, a world-famous resort island.
The site of a UNESCO World Heritage City, Penang is a holiday paradise with fabulous beach resorts and eclectic cultures. It is also the undisputable haven for foodies.
A tin-rich state in its heyday, Perak beckons with a range of sights and experiences. The state’s top attractions include Pangkor, an island getaway and Pangkor Laut, an internationally-acclaimed private island.
Hailed as the Cradle of Malay culture, Kelantan is a destination teeming with age-old arts, crafts and pastimes.
Beautiful islands, culture and nature give Terengganu its magical appeal. Dive, snorkel, sunbathe at the islands or journey to its hinterland to experience the best of nature.
The largest state in the peninsula beckons nature-enthusiasts with exciting eco-adventures. From Taman Negara, the oldest national park in the country, to the idyllic Tioman Island, Pahang is simply mesmerising.
Malaysia’s dynamic capital city is bustling with attractions and activities. Explore the city by day and night.
Selangor is home to the country’s main airport KLIA, and the main gateway by sea, Port Klang. It is also the country’s most developed state with a long list of shopping malls and themed attractions.
Putrajaya, the administrative capital of Malaysia, is a well-planned township with impressive buildings, verdant parks, scenic lakes and beautiful bridges.
Find the best attractions in this vast eco-paradise.
Sarawak, the largest state in Malaysia, has a vast wilderness that contains numerous national parks including the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Mulu National Park.
Located off the northwestern coast of Borneo, this island thrills visitors with its wreck diving sites, historical relics and duty-free shopping.
The birth place of the nation, Melaka is a treasure trove of history and heritage. Explore the UNESCO World Heritage City for vestiges of the past.
Known for its fascinating Minangkabau culture and a unique social system, Negeri Sembilan is the place to learn age-old customs and traditions.
Visit Malaysia’s southern gateway, for a family vacation at the theme parks or escape to its islands for an unforgettable holiday.
Enjoy birdwatching at 55 Important Bird Areas (IBA) throughout the country, tucked away at various habitats such as islands, coasts or lush lowland and montane rainforests.
Love the cool highlands? Find refreshing destinations to unwind in Malaysia. From French-themed settings, energetic amusement parks to forest-clad hills, there is something for everyone.
Find the coolest, trendy spaces to hang out while you tickle your tastebuds with the best delights.
Find the fun and thrill that you are looking for in Malaysia. Meet your favourite characters, plunge down the world’s longest water slide or enjoy the rides and games!
Get your rod ready to reel in the best catch in Malaysian waters.
For those who appreciate the finer things in life, Malaysia is the place to indulge in sheer comfort and sophistication. Luxe Malaysia takes you beyond your expectations.
Enjoy exploring the South China Sea, Andaman Sea, Celebes and Sulu seas for incredible sights from pelagic species, sea turtles to reefs, wrecks and more.
The best way to engage with the locals, a homestay programme gives a peek into the lifestyles, customs, cultures and pastimes of a local family.
What better way to explore Malaysia than through its food! Follow the aroma to track down lip-smacking delights found around the country, together with interesting snippets on its culture and origins.
Get your complete info on cruising, yachting, anchorage facilities and land excursions around the country.
Blessed with year-round sunshine and rain, Malaysia has a wealth of tropical flora and fauna. Visit its national and marine parks to enjoy the captivating sights both on land and underwater!
Get a glimpse into Malaysia’s rich mosaic of ethnic communities and indigenous people.