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Total travel time to Klias Wetland River Cruise: 2pm –10pm (8 hours).

Where is Klias Wetland and what to do there? Klias Wetland is located 2 hours drive away from Kota Kinabalu. It’s a pristine river filled with variety of wild lives, especially our distance cousin – the proboscis monkey. Also the insects that glows in the dark – Firefly.

If you are lucky, you might encounter monitors or crocodiles too.

Don’t worry, there’s not even a chance your life will be threatened in any way.

The main goal of this journey is to see the wildlife up-close and experience the day tour from tourist’s perspective. And in this particular trip, I am exploring the wildlife with best practices, which has minimal affect on the habitants and wildlife. I want to actually “feel” the wildlife instead of watching it on television.

Preparation for the trip

Before my journey starts, I was advised to bring insect repellent. Put long trousers to prevent more bug bites. I normally bring extra shirt and small towel, to freshen up when necessary. Flash light is not needed.

Buy some snacks to eat during your 2 hours drive too.

Pickup from your hotel

Tour operator starts the journey at 2pm, if you travel in minimal numbers, you are most likely to be joined by other small groups as well. They will pick you up around 1:30pm at your hotel. Normally, tour agent will call and let you know the exact time for pickup. The assigned operator will walk in and look for you. Possibly call out your name out loud in the lobby 😉

Our accompanied tour guide is called Oliver, a local tour guide that has been in this industry for few years.

Our transportation is Nissan Urvan 3.0, which is a common tour bus around Kota Kinabalu. The mini van can fit 12 people and it’s very comfortable. The air-con can be cold at times so remember to ask the driver to adjust the temperature.

On the route to Klias Wetland

From city, we headed to Beaufort direction, which is south from Kota Kinabalu city. On this route, you will see Borneo train station, which was re-opened not long ago. The train is operated by steam engine and it heads to inner suburb like Tenom. You can take a day trip to Tenom if time allows, you can find our Sabah special produce – Tenom Coffee.

Remember to enjoy the scenery along the way, the road trip will take 2 hours ride to destination.

Toilet break

Almost 90 minutes into our trip, we’ve stopped at a gas station for toilet break. There are a few fruit stalls setup outside the gas station and we got the chance to buy some local fruits.

If you never see this fruits, it’s called tarap. A extremely sweet fruit that you don’t see in many other places. I thin it’s only found in rural area and it can be eaten just like that. The locals love to use the fruit to make tarap fritters also – it taste REALLY good. Must try if you have the chance!

Arriving at Klias River

Refreshments and high tea is already prepared when we arrive at destination.

My favourites are banana fritters and sweet potato fritters. Not too sure if they are serving Sabah Tea and/or Tenom Coffee or not, both are our local specialties. The high-tea session lasts for 15 minutes.

I’ve spent 15 minutes taking photos around and 2 minutes enjoying the high tea. The view is so calming and breath-taking..

It just rained today so the weather is cold and soothing. Love the weather after the rain. The calm river also added a piece of serendipity and an pristine aura to it, birds chirping and sounds of wind and leaves. A great escape from city sound pollutions.

I feel like a caveman. Booga booga!

Round 1: Search for proboscis monkey!

Now the real adventure begins!

Our tour guide handed us safety jacket, “put this on” he says, and we disembark from jetty.

Here are some pointers and warnings from tour operator:

Proboscis monkey

– Only climb up tree during 3pm to sunset, they stay on ground during afternoon to avoid the heat
– Only visible when they climb on top of tree for meal
– The only monkey that doesn’t eat fruit, but leaves
– The leaves are poisonous and not consumable by men
– They have 2 stomach
– The only monkey that can swim
– One male monkey has 10+ female partners, and they stay in a group
– They fight for their women 😉
– We encountered one that pee’ed from the tree, so be careful.

Silver Leaf monkey (rare)

– Silver in colour
– Nickname “David Beckham” because of similar hairstyle
– Rare encounter. Consider yourself lucky if you sees it.
– We saw one but didn’t have clear photo.


– We saw one!
– It was on a branch… and it didn’t move at all.
– Can grow to 5 feet long.

What to expect

The boat is operated by a local, and his eyes were amazingly sharp. He often sees the animals from far away. Then he slowly approach the animal with minimal engine sound.

The boat operator also created many chances for us to take photo easily. Definitely has a talent in capturing the best angle for this animals.

Our operator, Oliver, explains to us what to do, what to notice and guided us along the way.

Here are some of his advice:

– Turn off flash when take photos of the firefly
– Do not make noises, it will scare away the monkey
– Put on your safety jacket
– There are crocodile in the river, active only at evening.
– Do not attract firefly with cigarette smoke.

The experience

Let me share with you my personal experience.

While on the boat, I keep thinking how amazing this river is, and it’s only short drive away from where I lived. We, as a local Sabahan, is truly blessed with such natural beauty.

Stop reading about these articles and listen what others say about Sabah beauty. You need to experience it on your own, feel it!

And this is that I do – closed my eyes, take a deep breathe.

The fresh air is amazing.

Every turn in the river, is a brand new view and experience. “Oh look at this, look at that! Wow wow wow”.

Camera non-stop taking photos, filling up the memory card with beautiful digital pictures. Every pixel of the photo is mind changing. The view is breathtakingly amazing during sunset.

Dinner time

We boarded to another platform to enjoy dinner. Oliver says, “enjoy your buffet!”

On the table, they served mostly vegetables dishes and some meat. All of them are local dishes, even river crabs are included! You can also purchase dessert separately (ice-cream potong), which is also favourites among tourists and locals.

We were lucky to be the first one to arrive here. It’s a non-peak season so the places is a bit empty. Only joined by tourists groups from other boats.

Round 2: Search for Fireflies

After dinner for 20 minutes or so, we departed on the same boat again. By this time, the sky has already darken and it’s almost pitch dark. The boat operator is still able to navigate along the river like it’s his home backyard.

He flashes his torch light to signal the incoming boats from time to time.

The boat operator flashes his torch on a tree. When he approached the tree, the tree is glowing.. slowly.. and you spend a few seconds looking at the tree, you will notice the whole tree is hosting hundreds of fireflies. Slowly glowing… like milky way.

Absolutely unreal.

Mother nature is amazing. What a beautiful sight.

Oliver shares with us the following

– The firefly often gives out greenish/yellowish light
– Firefly only have 7-14 days life span
– Smallest kind of firefly, sized of a rice.
– Best time to see if AFTER rain
– Not camera flashes is allowed
– Cigarette smokes attract firefly, but not encouraged.
– Well I guess firefly are smoker themselves, hehe.

Boat operators brings us to several different trees that accommodates fireflies. He switched off the engine and we view at the tree in silence.

We stopped at each tree for approximately 5 minutes… until when you will hear mosquitoes buzzing around your ears.. is time to move on.

I laid on the boat and watch the glowing tree silently, joined by tourists from other boats.

We are all amazed, mesmerised.

Only if I can capture this scenery with my camera… which is almost impossible without tripod and full-frame camera.

Depart back to Kota Kinabalu city

After we’re done looking at firefly, and mosquitoes starts chasing us every where we go. We were sent back to the same jetty and were disembarked on a platform.

Our mini-van is ready there. Oliver directs us to the bus. He told us to go toilet before the bus departs because it will be a non-stop 2 hours journey back to city.

We are all smiling and contented with the journey. Still amazed by the beauty of the nature.

We arrived Kota Kinabalu approximately at 9:45pm.

Thoughts after the trip

If you’re looking for experience similar like this trip, my team at is arranging itineraries. You can check out the rest of the custom tours here.

I personally think the price for this tour is reasonable and affordable, and worth the experience. If you’re interested in this tour, you send your enquiries directly at the booking form below and the travel agency will get in touch with you.

More reference: Sabah Tourism Board

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