Kuala Selangor: Wetland and Fireflies

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For those looking for a day away from KL, Kuala Selangor is an ideal destination. David Bowden takes us on a tour of this nature lover’s paradise. 

Getting close to nature isn’t so easy in urban jungles like Kuala Lumpur. Fortunately, there are parts of the city and surrounding areas where it’s possible to commune with nature.

A developing nature-based tourism industry is doing well in a small town and nearby village just 65km north of Kuala Lumpur. Here at the mouth of the Selangor River one of Malaysia’s most fascinating wildlife experiences starring fireflies and wetlands is located.

Like many similar wetlands throughout the world, those in Kuala Selangor were once considered wastelands until it was appreciated that these ecosystems are some of nature’s most productive areas.

Kuala Selangor is best known among Malaysians as a place to visit to enjoy the delicious seafood served in several restaurants adjacent to the river in Pasir Penambang, just across from the small town of Kuala Selangor.

Many still come for the seafood but the estuarine nature park named Taman Alam Kuala Selangor is attracting increasing numbers of nature lovers. Despite being one of Malaysia’s smallest nature parks, it is important for both wetland conservation and nature-based tourism.

The park covering 300ha is situated at the base of Bukit Melawati and Altingsburg Lighthouse and its park entrance is located one kilometre west of the town just off the main road. Visitors need to look for the Taman Alam Kuala Selangor sign and Jalan Klinik, which are located among the usual visual clutter of roadside signs.

The park is managed by the Malaysian Nature Society (MNS) and their members receive discounts on both the entry fees and accommodation.

Wetlands not Wastelands 
These wetlands have experienced considerable change over time and were saved from becoming yet another coastal golf course. Kuala Selangor wetlands originally supported mangroves but these were harvested and cleared for fish ponds. After this project failed, a nature park was established.

The park is now covered in stands of rejuvenating coastal swamp, secondary forest and coastal mangroves with the latter lining the Straits of Malacca. Approximately 95ha support mangroves and these are important in the ecosystem as they protect the coastline from the erosional forces of the waves. Many marine species like crustaceans feed amongst the mangroves so these forests have an important role to play in Malaysia’s fishing industry.


Birdwatchers will find the rich wetland habitat a haven for many wetland species as well as associated wildlife. In all, 156 bird species, both resident and migratory, have been recorded here. The main bird migration lasts from mid-September until April and involves some 57 different species. This migration is a fascinating feat of nature involving birds flying from northern Europe to Australia and back during the northern winter. Kuala Selangor is a vital resting place for these migrating birds on their long and arduous journey.

Rare species such as the Lesser Adjutant and Milky Stork may be seen during the migration period. Other birds to look out for include herons, bee-eaters, kingfishers, shrikes and various raptors.

Interesting animals like mud lobsters, crabs, monitor lizards, mudskippers, smooth otters, the occasional leopard cat and long-tailed macaques live here and can be seen by patient wildlife spotters.

The main trail is along an artificial earth wall or bund that has been put here to regulate the level of the brackish water in the wetland lagoon. Signs are okay but it is best to pay attention to main board at the beginning of the trail for directions. All up, the trail extends for about 3km including the deviation through the mangrove forest. The latter, along raised boardwalks through the mangroves is going to be reconstructed during the year as some of the rails have fallen into disrepair. An extension of this mangrove trail will also continue onto the shoreline lining the Straits of Malacca.

The artificial lake in the centre of the park is the best location for observing waterbirds such as the waders. Several elevated observation hides are situated beside the lake. If only for the shade and a seat, these hides are the best locations to fully appreciate the birds.

A general overview of the area can be obtained from Bukit Melawati near the town centre. Over time this has been used as both a Dutch and Malay fort but now it appears to be under the full control of several troops of docile Silver-leafed Langurs that frequent the trees here. The more mischievous Long-tailed Macaques are also around, pestering visitors for food.

Experienced staff at the park are also responsible for research and education activities such as school nature camps. They are available to conduct guided walks for a charge of RM150 and a week’s notice if possible. The park is open daily from 9am to 6pm but the gates are not locked so access is possible out of hours.

Sleep Over
To fully appreciate the park’s natural attractions, visitors can stay in the park with its modest accommodation. Chalets have water, electricity, fans and mosquito nets but guests need to bring towels and toiletries.

For those seeking comfort, the nearby De Palma Inn is a pleasant retreat at the end of a day’s exploration around the park. The small resort on the outskirts of town is surrounded by mature trees some with amazing aerial roots. The rooms are well appointed and there is a refreshing pool and tennis court. Simple international and local dishes are offered in the Rumbia Restaurant or a more unique offering is to arrange for a poolside barbecue.

Things that glow in the dark
Another attraction in the district is the firefly display at Kampung Kuantan. This used to be a small community-based tourist initiative but now has been turned into a more commercial enterprise.


Each evening, just after sunset, the trees along the Selangor River become illuminated with the twinkling lights of millions of flashing fireflies. Fireflies (kelipkelip) are beetles (Lampyrid pteroptyxtener) whose bodies illuminate and flash. The males flash in synchronicity every few seconds and the entire performance lasts for about four hours after sunset. The boat hire cost is just RM40/boat with each boat holding up to four people.

The first boat departs at 7.45pm and continue through to 10 30pm but in reality, the action ceases well before that. There are 30 boats on the river with the local community doing well from this simple ecotourism activity. The firefly display is best seen on clear nights. Each boat trip lasts about 30 minutes and you get quite close to the lights. Kampung Kuantan is located 15m south of Kuala Selangor on the Rawang Road (Route 33).

Riverside Seafood
Restaurant Seafood at River View in Pasir Penambang on the opposite of the river is one of several restaurants here overlooking the Selangor River. It’s a no-nonsense place but the food is good and the beer nicely chilled. Fish is sold in 100g portions and the last time I was there snapper was RM70/kg and seabass the same.

The fresh fish is prepared in various ways including steamed, fried, sweet and sour, curry and Nyonya style. Crab sells for RM52/kg and is prepared as butter crab, black pepper and steamed. Prawns, cockles, squid, bean curd, chicken, vegetables and soup are also served.

Suggested Itinerary 
Die-hard birdwatchers could spend at least two days here and see the changing birdlife from dawn to dusk. For those with a passing interest in all things natural, depart Kuala Lumpur in the mid-afternoon to arrive at the nature park at about 4pm. Spend two hours exploring the park in the cool of the day and at 6pm head across the bridge to Pasir Penambang for dinner on the eastern shore of the river. At 7.15pm, head off to Kampung Kuantan for the first boat departure to see the fireflies at 7.45pm. Depart the park at 8.30pm for the hour-long journey back to Kuala Lumpur.

Activities are best done at dusk or dawn when birds and animals are most active so ardent birdwatchers are advised to stay overnight in the park or in the basic hotel accommodation in Kuala Selangor. A pair of binoculars is highly recommended, as is suitable outdoor clothing that provides protection from the sun and mosquitoes.

Kuala Selangor Nature Park 

The Kuala Selangor Nature Park, Jalan Klinik, 45000 Kuala Selangor, Selangor,
T: 03.3289 2294, E: [email protected], W:
Entry fees are RM4 (adults), RM2 Malaysian Nature Society (MNS) members and RM1 (students). Check out Nature Escapes: for more information on the park and other natural escapes around Kuala Lumpur.

De Palma Inn offers very comfortable chalet accommodation from RM160++ for double accommodation, breakfasts and welcome drinks,
T: 03.889 7070,  W:

Source: The Expat April 2012 
This artilce was written by David Bowden 
This article has been edited for 
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