Oct
04

Today we feature a post from guest writer Sitihawadingin who recently went to visit the firefly colony in Kuala Selangor.  She writes:

Did you know that Malaysia is home to the largest colony of fireflies in the world? They gather every night in the thousands, creating the incredible effect of hundreds of trees lit up by tiny living Christmas lights, and this amazing spot is only an hour and a half from KL!

I’d always noticed the ads by the highway on the way back from the airport, and when I found out it was so close to KL I just had to go. I got to experience the fireflies in a small sampan that leaves from the Firefly Park Resort at Bukit Belimbing, Kuala Selangor. It’s only RM12 for a half hour boat ride along the river, and children get in for RM7. To get to the park you can either take the LDP or Plus highway towards the Sungai Buloh exit and then follow the signs to Kuala Selangor. If you’re not willing to risk driving there in the dark you can also take a bus from Pudu or Pasar Seni. If you don’t mind forking out a lot of cash there are also many tours departing from the hotels in KL that will take you to see the fireflies and include a trip to feed tame silverleaf monkeys and a fresh seafood dinner by the river. There is a map and further details on how to get there provided by the park itself here.

On the way to the firefly park we went to nearby Bukit Malawati, which features a large, white colonial era lighthouse. Apparently it is one of the locations where they sight the moon for Ramadan or Hari Raya. However, the biggest attraction is the colony of tame and friendly silverleaf monkeys that can be found at the top of the hill. (There are also long-tailed macaques about half-way up the hill, but they’re quite aggressive and it is not recommended to approach them). The silverleaf monkeys are not afraid of people at all and you can purchase long beans to feed them. Lots of tourists give them chips and other junk food but that’s probably not very good for their health. They are black in colour, and very scruffy looking with a funny tuft of hair on top of their heads. Babies are rusty red in colour. You can pet them and hand-feed them as much as you like. They were a lot of fun to play with, but I didn’t stay very long since I wanted to be at the river by dark to see the fireflies!

Cute monkeys in Kuala Selangor

Cute monkeys in Kuala Selangor

Kuala Selangor fireflies can be seen every single night of the year, but won’t appear if it is raining. However, they are supposed to come out in greater numbers right after it has rained. Sampans leave from sunset and go on through the night; official hours are 7-10.30pm. These fireflies, also known as kelip-kelip or kunang-kunang aren’t actually flies at all, but tiny beetles that emit a soft greenish-yellow glow from their rear ends. They are only found on berembang trees as they feed on its leaves. If you see a point of light moving, that’s a male – the females sit in one spot throughout the night and flash in response when they are interested. Only a small part of the firefly colony is open to the public so that they can go about their mating rituals undisturbed by people.

Welcome sign at the firefly park

Welcome sign at the firefly park

The entrance to the resort is quite clearly marked, and there are large, rather creepy looking statues of fireflies around the ticket booth. To get to the boats, you have to walk past the hotel area of the Firefly Park Resort. You can stay overnight in the chalets-on-stilts, which are placed right in the middle of a shallow lake that is fed by the river. You can fish in the lake directly from the comfort of your own chalet if you choose to stay there! If you are interested in birdwatching, fishing or hiking along nature trails, the park also has several routes open to the public. There is even supposed to be an observation tower that you can stay at to watch the nocturnal animals. That sounded really cool, but unfortunately I only found out about it after leaving, so maybe I will try that another time.

Ticket counter

Ticket counter

The jetty is very basic, with just a small waiting area, a pile of life jackets and a rickety wooden boardwalk down to the sampans. Weekends are a lot more crowded than weekdays, so you may have to wait for a group of people to return their life jackets before you get one. No flash photography is allowed while on the boat ride, and remember to switch off your phones as loud noises will disturb the flies. Be warned, there are a lot of mosquitoes, so you may also want to bring insect repellent or wear long sleeves and pants.

The boat ride itself was a magical experience. While at first I was disappointed by the fact that the sampans are powered by motors, since I thought it would be too noisy, they are actually very quiet (and odourless) electric motors. It is almost completely dark on the boat, with only a small, blue LED on the roof to alert other boats to its location, as lights confuse the fireflies. The fireflies’ cool glow is not really visible from far away, so as the boat leaves the jetty, you wonder where all of them are. Then, as you start to get nearer to the trees, you notice tiny bright flashes. Finally, when you are so close to the riverbank you can feel the branches brush by the side of the sampan, you see that the entire tree is swarming with bright, twinkling lights. Often, hundreds of them will all start to flash in unison, like someone is turning the lights on and off repeatedly.

This rhythmic, synchronized flashing usually only happens in South East Asia and nobody knows how so many of these insects can “decide” to flash at exactly the same time. It’s a mesmerizing sight. The river itself is completely quiet apart from the sound of the water, which makes it even more unreal. Sometimes, a firefly will wander down into the sampan and you realise just how tiny these beetles are. The only thing that spoiled the trip was when we passed another sampan full of people who were being obnoxiously noisy, talking and laughing loudly enough for the sound to carry across the entire river! The 30 minute ride was over far too soon, and we ended up back at the jetty to pass our life jackets on to the next group waiting.

Overall, I had an excellent experience viewing the fireflies at Kuala Selangor (and didn’t get a single mosquito bite either, Off! works really well) and highly recommend it. It’s a hidden treasure that we should take advantage of seeing before these fireflies disappear completely due to insecticide use, deforestation and development.

 


Leave a Reply

XFM. Kami Tak Hot, Kami Cool!