WOW... I'M NOW IN KUANTAN, YOU SAY...
What a beautiful day for a river cruise...
Now that you are safely in Kuantan town and sitting snugly in your room, what’s there to see or do?
Well, put on your blue suede shoes or just slide on your seasoned sandals... and I’ll take you on a fascinating cruise on the Kuantan River and an intriguing walk inside a typical Mangroves Swamp, right here in Kuantan.
Hey, Let's start the tour and ... enjoy!
It’s a favorite of tourists in Kuantan, Pahang.
What's so special about the river cruise?
Well, you will not only get to see a different view of Kuantan town from the river, but also get to experience a walk in a typical mangrove swamp.
So, let's buy the tickets and alight the cruise boat at the Shahbandar Jeti, situated right in the middle of town and located just beside the modern MPK (Kuantan Town Council ) building.
The river cruise boat (a pontoon type) seats about 20 passengers only, and during the non-peak times two boats operate the river-cruise simultaneously in the morning and afternoon, with a few minutes lapse between them.
The river cruise tickets cost RM10.00 for adults and RM5.00 for children. And there are two trips, one in the morning at 10.00 am and one in the afternoon at 2.30 pm (but on Fridays it starts at 3.00 pm).
(Do however, call that number in the photo above (09-512 1644), to confirm any changes in ticket prices and trip schedules.)
The whole trip takes about two hours.
Besides your camera, or binoculars, don’t forget to bring along a bottle or two of drinking water.. The weather could be hot during the day, and you might be thirsty after the walk at the mangroves swamp later.
Exactly at the scheduled time, the ropes attached to the cruise boat will be untied and the engine started – and our journey begins..
As the cruise boat tugs slowly -- first heading south to the Kuantan river-mouth -- on your left you can see the various fishermen boats docking at the banks. From their number plates, you will notice that they come not only from Pahang, but also from the neighboring states of Trengganu and Kelantan.
You can actually tell the boats’ state or country of origin from their number plates. Those number plates starting with the letter "P" is from Pahang, "T" is from Trengganu and "K" is from Kelantan.
There may be other fishermen's boats from the neighboring country of Thailand with different registration numbers.
END OF SIDE-NOTE
Besides the fishermen’s boats you‘ll find the speed-boats of the Malaysian Marine Police and the Royal Customs Department berthing at their base and a few of their Fast boats plying the river.
Sometimes you can see the marine boats plying further up the river-mouth out at sea – to deter and prevent crimes at sea.
After about 15 minutes downriver, you’ll reach the sea -- the South China Sea. Teluk Gelora is on your left and Tanjung Api on the right -- Tanjung Api is so named -- meaning "Cape of Light" -- because of the existence of a lighthouse there to serve the ships navigating out at sea.
Having reached the middle of the river-mouth, the river cruise boat then makes a U-turn and then slowly moves upriver -- back to town.
Take a look on your left -- as the boat moves slowly -- and besides the fishing boats docking at the river bank, further inland you can see the wooden houses of the fishing village of Tanjung Api. Its yellow-domed mosque seems to be sticking out near the bank.
As the river cruise boat moves further upriver, on your left and later on your right, all along the river bank, you cannot but notice the green mangrove trees and forests.
The ones near the river are smaller, and the local Malays call them "Api-api" trees.
... Well, MAYBE..just maybe... Tanjung Api was perhaps also named after those trees?..ah..hemm...
And then you can see the elegant eagles, kingfishers and egrets perching on the trees, and a few other eagles soaring gracefully above, surveying the waters from the top, and ready to dive in pursuit of fish.
I tried to take a photo of a white-bellied sea eagle perching on the stilts used for tying up the fishing boats, but just as I clicked, it flew away -- maybe because of the noise of the boat’s engine!
On the muddy grounds of the river bank, you can sometimes catch the sight of various types of animals living there.
In fact, on a trip, I saw a big monitor lizard crawling slowly on the bank with its tongue probing the air, and some small brown-colored monkeys swinging and hanging playfully on the trees. I was also told that there is a colony of otters living along the river banks, although I didn’t see any.
... and small baby crocodiles too..
According to the river cruise boat’s pilot and guide, sometimes you can see small baby crocodiles, probably dazzled and misplaced by the changing high and low tides, trying desperately to reach back to its home somewhere along the brackish river.
After about 15 minutes of cruising upriver, you’ll reach the mangrove stop, where the river cruise boat stops for about 30 minutes, and as you climb the steps to the wooden Mangrove Walkway, you can already see the various types of odd looking mangrove plants, huge roots and trees.
And you can hear the peculiar sounds of nature, from the stop - and - go whistling hum of I don’t - know - what, to the familiar but unrecognizable chirps and tweets of the birds.
You can either take the shorter walkway which is about 250 meters long (designated with ropes on the side walkway) or the 750 meters walk (wooden side-walk) and go a bit deeper into the swamp.
The names of the trees are explained with the tags. One tree, the Bebuta Tree, which is usually found at river banks, I found out, has a very poisonous sap, and could lead to blindness if got to the eyes. So be careful - don’t cut and touch the sap.
However, this tree has got a very useful use in that if you’re ever bitten by a poisonous insect, then you use the sap to suck out the insect’s poison!
Evidently nature, as always, provides its own benefit to mankind.
As we all know, mangroves are part of nature’s eco-system with roles to play in the preservation of life and nature. They usually grow and thrive in brackish muddy substrate that is inundated by sea waves every 6 to 12 hours.
Mangroves are excellent wave breakers and wind shields, and can help reduce the destructive impact of storm surges like hurricanes and tsunami, for instance.
In fact, Mangroves act as a defense shield and help to trap debris which would otherwise cause more destruction during a hurricane or tsunami.
For instance, during the Asian tsunami on December 26 2004, areas in Malaysia which were protected by a thick belt of mangroves suffered very little damage as the destructive energy was absorbed by the mangroves.
Well, as you walk along the Mangrove Walkway, you can see that the mudflats have holes -- some big and some tiny -- indicating that crabs, cockles, shellfishes, small animals, etc., live in them.
The mudflats in the mangrove swamp are home to many living things and they in turn provide food for the bigger animals such as otters, monkeys and monitor lizards.
Such is the unique balance of the eco-system that we humans should protect and preserve them not only for our own benefits but for our future generations.
After the enlightening walk at the mangrove swamp (but maybe a little scary to the little children), the river cruise boat will move again upriver (not so upriver, actually) until it reaches under the Kuantan Bridge at Medan Feri, (where you can see many boats for river cruise and leisure use are rented out), and it then makes a U-turn back to base.
The travel back -- which takes about 10 minutes -- was at a pretty fast pace. So don’t take the front seat as the water might splash on your face!!
As you come out of the jetty, and especially if you’re thirsty and tired, you’ll find the restaurants and stalls nearby a big relief. You can order light local dishes to satisfy your hunger pangs, and a wide selection of mouth - watering fruit juices to quench your thirst.
Well, to unwind from the trip and at the same time cool your body, I suggest you just order iced tea (just say "teh beng" to the waiter).
Then just sit and face the river. Take in the scenic river view while you drink...feel the sea breeze.. and just relax...
Or if you have had enough of eating and drinking, you can just take a leisurely walk along the paved riverbank.
Or just sit on one of the benches at Taman Esplanade, the recreational park, there.
And do take a look in the river. You might see a big catfish, a school of striped and colored fish or some other familiar and odd fishes in the waters.
And if you feel it's time to go back, and want to take the taxi home, you can find the taxi terminal located across the main road, behind what used to be a cinema building.
Phew... it’s been a tiring day, but really a very delightful learning experience on the Kuantan river cruise...
So, let’s meet again for the next trip of enlightenment and delights.
And until then...as always, from me...
*** SELAMAT DATANG***