Sungai Melayu Eco Tourism (July 2016)

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“Who’d have thought we were in Johor Bahru?” exclaimed our travel companion, Hanis. We had come to Kampung Sungai Melayu to experience Eco Tourism, as promoted by the Iskandar Regional Development Authority. We had arranged for Sharifah to accompany us on this tour, which primarily involved a boat ride on the river looking at mangrove swamps, wildlife, and seafood farming activities. Sharifah runs this Eco Tourism business on behalf of the whole kampung (mostly fishermen), who all have a share in the cooperative. If you are interested to do this, then please phone 019 704 5904 to book a trip; you will be amazed at what’s so near to home. Afterall, to get there, just follow the signs to Marlborough International School (do not use Google Maps to find Kampung Sungai Melayu or you will end up on the wrong side of the river). Instead of turning left into the school at the T-junction, turn right and follow the signs for Kampung Sungai Melayu.

Even if you do not want to take the boat ride, the drive through the palm plantations is stunningly beautiful in the early morning.

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When you arrive in the kampung, you will see a Tourism Information Centre, and plenty of parking spaces. Looking rightwards from the pier you get an etherial view of the Danga Bay building site in the far distance.

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Our transportation was a small motor boat, but we were decked out with life jackets and the river was silky calm, so not much to worry about. Slightly larger motor boats should be available in the future as demand for this business increases.

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The river is a major part of life for the villagers, and we saw many fishermen out for the day to catch sea bream and crabs.

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For the purpose of the Eco Tourism business, some of the mangrove trees are labelled for identification. 

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The wildlife you will see will be variable and fleeting, so keep a sharp lookout for anything. In the photo below, there is a monitor lizard; can you see it? I also spotted a macaque monkey but have no photo as proof!

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My lookout (photo above) was the one to think there was something big lerking in the mangrove forrest, as something had clearly disturbed this large heron (photo below).

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When you know what to look for, then your can spot the mudskippers. First, you find their home in the mud, and then you watch the skip across the water so fast all I could catch in the photo was the splash of the water!

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At one time these rivers housed shrimp farms, but all that’s left now are the gates to the secluded parts of the river. Still, there are plenty of opportunities for skilled fishermen here.

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Back on the main part of the river, you’d be surprised by the variety of structures on and next to the river. Eco Tourism has brought valuable employment to the kampung and greatly improved business at the local seafood restaurant.

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This river is home to birdlife of all sizes. We saw swallows and bright blue-crested kingfishers, all flying far too fast for me to photograph. Below are some photos of larger birds such as herons, egrets and eagles.

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The villagers run a mussel farm comprised of a floating plastic platform with ropes of mussels dangling in the water. Here are Sharifah and our travel companion Hanis exploring the mussel farm, our fisherman/boatman, and some photos taken from this wobbly platform.

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Finally, we headed back to check our crab pot, which had been put in the river at the start of this trip, and then returned to the village for a delicious seafood lunch.

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The return drive through the palm oil tree plantation was similarly impressive as the calm wilderness of the river trip, but gave quite a different feeling. Step into the forrest, lose your concentration, and you will be lost! Step onto a boat and your landmark of Danga Bay immediatedly tells you which direction to head too. But don’t be fooled; you can see the banks of Singapore from the mussel farm and it is lush and green!

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