Fireflies and birdwatching in Kuala Selangor

Kuala Selangor is a secondary destination in a close vicinity of Kuala Lumpur, visited mostly by Malaysian tourists. Its main attraction is a nearby firefly resort, offering night boat rides and the perfect reflection of the sky on the elusive off-shore beach. It also has a fortress and a nature park with some bird-watching opportunities.

Large, long-tailed and bearded silverleaf monkeys sitting in a row on a roadside barrier at Malawati Hill in Kuala Selangor

My Malaysia-Singapore mini-itinerary included only cities. As later I was flying to Kolkata, I wanted to get away from the cities for a while and spend some time surrounded with nature. It wouldn’t be possible to reach and enjoy the jungles of the interior with just two spare days at hand, so I thought Kuala Selangor near Kuala Lumpur could be a handy substitute.

Getting to Kuala Selangor from Kuala Lumpur

A short walk from the Jamek mosque there is a bus stand of public buses running across Selangor district. I was shocked to see the condition of the buses: old, smelly and dilapidated. I waited for around 15-20 minutes until bus 100 to Kuala Selangor turned up.

The journey was more than 2 hours long. As soon as we left the city, the roads deteriorated: they were really bumpy making me realise the wealth in Malaysia wasn’t evenly distributed. After getting off, I walked the remaining 2km to the city along the highway with no pavement.

Kuala Selangor on a budget

Accommodation

Kuala Selangor turned out to be shockingly expensive in terms of accommodation. The cheapest I could find was a deserted and dodgy looking hostel. The room was disgusting, with a rotten floor and dirty bathroom but it was all for myself, with my own bathroom and key. It also had windows and was bright and spacious so I settled on that one after bargaining for booking.com price minus the tax.

Food

At least finding cheap food in Kuala Selangor wasn’t an issue. I had a Malay buffet dinner in an eatery right opposite of the hostel and I bought some samosa-like snacks and coconut pancakes at a street stall for breakfast.

Firefly trip

A man working at the reception tried to convince me to use his services to go to the Kampung Bukit Belimbing Firefly Park Resort. He also advised me to go there as late as possible to see the fireflies better in the complete darkness. This was opposite to the advice on the websites stating that fireflies are most active around 8pm.

The Grab taxi price plus the entrace would be just 5RM lower than his ‘tour’, The high cost of Grab messed up my plans, in fact, as the tour suddenly became quite costly. As I couldn’t find anybody at the hostel who’d like to share the Grab with me and I couldn’t possibly walk 8km one-way at night to get to the firefly park, I eventually consented to the tour offer.

The second firefly park: Kampung Kuantan Firefly Park could have actually been more interesting as the boats used are narrow, rowed sampans. Those are shared between 4 people (hence slightly cheaper). If I knew how popular those trips were, I could have probably gone to the park around 7pm and shared the boat with random people.

Firefly tour with unexpected attractions

My driver asked me if I’d like to see a Hindu temple first. It was some important holiday and he had to go there to pray. I was curious so I happily joined. There were a few devotees inside, following a short ritual meant for the well-being of their families. During the ride, I had a very interesting chat with my guide. His ancestors lived in Malaysia for generations and he was obviously feeling Malaysian and had never even been to India, but he spoke with his family and other members of the community only in tamil and was expected to marry a Tamil girl of his caste.

Just as I thought I was going to visit the park alone, my guide picked up two Chinese girls from a posh hotel. When we arrived at the resort, it turned out we would be the only visitors. That meant we had the whole, low-noise, electric engine boat and the entire river just for ourselves.

The boat ride wasn’t longer than 20-25 minutes which was long enough to enjoy it and not get bored. Sadly, no photo or video could properly capture the fireflies which turned some of the trees along the river into Christmas trees. That was exactly how they looked like: twinkling fairy lights. Some of them fell inside our boat and the boat driver placed one on my hand. It looked like a fly: if not for the light, we’d be probably shaking it off as a disgusting insect. The ride was altogether pleasant far from jaw-dropping.

Kuala Selangor Nature Park

Next morning, I walked a very short distance to the entrance of the Kuala Selangor Nature Park. I didn’t have high hopes – the park opened at 9am, far too late for any serious bird-watching. Unsurprisingly, I was the only visitor. I paid a 4RM entrance fee, got a map and ventured in.

View at the brackish lake and mangrove forest from the observation tower at the Kuala Selangor Nature Park

A path through a forest led me to a tall observation tower with a view at an artificial brackish lake. I passed by a few packs of macaques, each 20-30 monkeys strong. My heart beat faster as I knew they could be aggressive but those monkeys were smaller than let’s say in India or Thailand and were clearly not interested in me. I was happy to see also a pack of much larger silver leaf monkeys in the trees. They are a near-threatened species, but at that little park they were thriving.

Mother silverleaf monkey and its two children hanging from the branches of a tree at Kuala Selangor Nature Park

The park consisted of the forest where I saw most of the birds, including a woodpecker and of the mangroves, where I spotted a few kingfishers, plenty of large mudskippers and crabs. The walk through the forest and board walk, despite mosquitoes, was quite pleasant. The single most exciting moment was catching a glimpse of an otter crossing the path. Altoghether it was a nice, 1.5 hour walk but in itself definitely not worth a travel to Kuala Selangor.

A bright blue kingfisher sitting on a branch of a tree in the mangroves of Kuala Selangor Nature Park

Melawati Hill

The Melawati Hill rising above the town was quite disappointing. I could see from the top the nature park and the sea. There were also a few canons, the Altingsburg Lighthouse built by the Dutch and a few Selangor sultans’ tombs which one couldn’t enter. The most interesting were the same silver leaf monkeys which were hiding in the trees at the park. Here they behaved like macaques, asking for food and showing no fear of people.

A domed tomb of sultan of Selangor at the Malawati Hill decorated with screened, arched windows

Back to Kuala Lumpur

On the way back I met tourist who had seen the fireflies in the company of the entire busload of tourists from Kuala Lumpur. I was glad I did the tour avoiding the crowds.

The bus journey was just as bumpy as the previous time. Even more so as at one point something fell down on the street with a loud thump. The bus stopped and the driver picked up a slab of metal which fell presumably from underneath the bus. The driver got off, waved down another bus of the same company and urged us to board it. The traffic in the city was even worse than the day before.

Other things to see in Kuala Selangor

One more popular attraction in Kuala Selangor is so called Sky Mirror: it’s a beach emerging from the sea only twice a month, located quite a distance from the shore hence accessible only by boat. The shallow water covering the sand perfectly reflects the sky. The 2.5h trip to this ideal Instagram photo place costs 80-100 RM

PRACTICALITIES

How to get to Kuala Selangor?
The cheapest way is to take a bus number 100 from the Medan Pasar Bus Hub near Masjit Jamek LRT station, at Jalan Tun Tan Siew Sin Rd. Once at Kuala Selangor bus station (last stop), you can take a bus to  Dataran Kuala Selangor, Jalan Raja Lumu, where most of the hostels are located due to proximity to Kuala Selangor Park and Melawati Hill.

Prices [in Malaysian ringgit as of Septemeber 2018]
50 cost of a whole rowed boat (fits 4) at Kampung Kuantan Firefly Park
30 poor quality dorm in a hostel in Kuala Selangor
15 one way Grab taxi from Kuala Selangor to firefly park
15 ticket for a electric fiberglass boat at Kampung Bukit Belimbing Firefly Park
7.30 bus Kuala Lumpur to Kuala Selangor
4.5 meal at a buffet style Malay eatery at Kuala Selangor
4 entrance to Kuala Selangor nature park
1 bus fare within Kuala Selangor
1 sweet from a street stall

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