Sunday, June 17, 2012

Kuala Sepetang- Matang Mangrove Forest

10 Icons Of Perak - Matang Mangrove Forest

The 40,000-hectare Matang Mangrove Forest was gazetted as a Permanent Forest Reserve in 1906.  Today, it is recognized as the best managed sustainable mangrove ecosystem in the world.  This mangrove reserve contains rich and diverse wildlife that provide nature lovers to visit and explore its wetlands and resources.  Near to this reserve are silvicultural programmes of the Rhizophora, Lenggadai and Seaward berus forests carried out professionally by the Perak State Forestry Department.  This is also regarded as the breeding grounds for numerous species of marine crustaceans including crabs, shrimps, lobsters, horseshoe crabs and prawns as well as fishes and shellfishes. Like all mangrove swamps, the Matang Mangrove Forest Reserve has been proven to act as a natural barrier against tsunamis.  Undoubtedly, it is an important site for coastal migratory water birds and a portion of migrant forest birds.  As many as 43,000 to 85,000 birds may be seen using the forest during the migration.  According to some ornithologists, there is a small population of rare and shy Great Argus Pheasant (Argusianus argus), known locally by the Malays as Kuang, that stays close to the ground and makes short flights to low hanging branches of the mangrove trees.  These large birds make a characteristic sound in the mangrove forests with two main calls – a repeated slow double note ku-wow ku-wow and a series of single hoots kwow kwow kwow kwow accelerating and rising in pitch.  During courtship, the male clears a display ground of bare earth in the forest from where he calls to attract females to watch it spread its wings in a striking peacock-like show of magnificence and beauty.  Along the coastline and near to villages, tourists will be welcomed by the sight of Brahminy Kites (Haliastur indus)
Brahminy Kites (Haliastur indus)
and White-bellied Sea-eagle (Haliaeetus leucogaster) gracefully in flight scavenging for floating offal and fishes in rivers and the neighbouring mangrove swamps.

It is also found that the 255-hectare Pulau Kelumpang and the 130-hectare Pulau Terong support a viable breeding population of the endangered Milky Stork (Mycteria cinerea) and the Lesser Adjutant (Leptoptilos javanicus).

Stroll along the wooden boardwalk and observe forestry and fishing activities and denizens that thrive in the muddy mangrove floor.  Visit the mangrove forest and charcoal kiln sites which are found more inland.  Bird watching and fishing are the primary activities in the morning while at night get a boat ride to see synchronized blinking lights of fireflies of Pteroptyx species on Berembang trees or Sonneratia caseolaris.  Occasionally, the Chinese White Dolphin (Sousa chinensis), 
Chinese White Dolphin (Sousa chinensis)
 also known as the Indo-Pacific Humpback Dolphin, can be spotted swimming along the river-mouths.  This dolphin is one of the 2 known species of pink freshwater dolphins found in the world.  A native of Southeast Asia, the dolphin is either white or pink-skinned and can grow to the length of 3.5 metres.  There is also a prehistoric archaeological site in Pulau Kelumpang.

Out to the sea, visitors on boats may also be fortunate enough to see dugongs (Dugong dugon) swimming near the river deltas.

According to the Perak State Forestry Department, in the Matang Mangrove Forest there are:

Storkbill Kingfisher

  1. 28 true mangrove species and 13 associate mangrove species;
  2. 19 mammals such as the Long-tailed Macaque (Macaca fascicularis), Leopard Cat (Felis bengalensis), Malayan Pangolin (Manis javanica), Smooth Otter (Lutra perspicillata), Short-tailed Mongoose (Herpestes brachyurus) and Island Flying Fox (Pteropus hypomelanus);
  3. at least 155 species of birds including the Great Argus Pheasant (Argusianus argus), Buffy Fish Owl (Ketupa ketupu), Pink-necked Green Pigeon (Treron vernans), the rare Bronzed Drongo (Dicrurus aeneus) and the Mangrove Whistler (Pachycephala grisola);
  4. a species of river dolphin, i.e. the Chinese White Dolphin (Sousa chinensis);
  5. 112 species of modern bony fishes and 3 species of stingrays;
  6. and about 50 species of crabs and 20 species of prawns and shrimps, both edible and non-edible.

  • Matang Mangroves, Kuala Sepetang with its vast mangrove resources, well managed ecosystem, abundant wildlife and thriving fishing industry, is an ideal destination for tourists.
  • This Mangrove Forest has the distinction of being internationally acknowledged as the best managed mangrove forest in the world.
  • Stroll on wooden boardwalk to get a closer look at the mangrove trees and the animals that live in the muddy coastal floor of the mangrove ecosystem.
  • Being a haven for migratory water and forest birds especially at the Kuala Gula Bird Sanctuary, it is a place where bird watchers congregate and photographers to get their best shots.
  • Visit the charcoal processing sites with their unique and traditional method of charcoal making.
  • Study the numerous ways of fishing using floating fish-cages along Sungai Sangga, visit fishing villages which are built with supporting wooden stilts and examine aquaculture industry.
  • Watch a documentary at the Nature Education Centre or the Pusat Eco Pelajaran Kuala Sepetang and learn about the mangrove environment.
  • Participate in the replanting of saplings of Rhizophora and Lenggadai trees carried out by the Perak State Forestry Department under the reforestation programme for this mangrove ecosystem.
The Matang Mangrove Forest Reserve is located near Taiping, so if by car, use the North-South Highway and exit through the Changkat Jering or the Taiping Utara tolls.  From Kuala Lumpur, it takes 3 hours, from Ipoh slightly more than an hour and similarly from Penang it is an hour drive.  Keep to the coastal region, pass the Simpang junction and follow road to Matang village. Veer right around the bend and follow road with forests on each side and look for Pejabat Hutan Kecil, Paya Laut, Kuala Sepetang sign on the right.  Turn right and stop at entrance gate to sign forms and get advice from forest rangers.

Since there is taxi service available in the town of Taiping, tourists can also catch a bus from Kuala Lumpur, Penang or Ipoh to this town.  From here, get onto a taxi and go to Matang Nature Education Centre or the Kuala Gula Bird Sanctuary or Kampung Dew. 

View Larger Map
At the Matang Nature Education Centre, there are 3 chalets, a multi-purpose hall and a campsite located about 10 metres from the riverbank.   The hall is built on silts and can accommodate about 200 people, while the campsite can easily house 100 campers.  There is a common toilet with bathing facilities.  All these and the jetty are connected by the boardwalk.  Campers must bring their own camping gears and tents.  There is no entry fee or charges into Matang forest, but all other activities (such as charcoal, fireflies) require guides and tour fees.  For more information, contact the Matang District Forest Office (tel: 05-8072762 or 05-8075324) in Taiping; or visit website:
Homestay is found in abundance in villages throughout the Matang Mangroves.  There are homestay in Kampung Dew near Simpang (call: Khairul 012-5145023; Azman 019-5788982 or Zul 013-5256508; or visit website: for those who are interested to see the Pulau Kelumpang Prehistoric Archaeological Site in the morning, the charcoal making factories in the day and fireflies in the night.


  • Bring along cameras and telescopic lens.
  • Carry binoculars for bird watching and monkey spotting.  
  • Guide books to identify mangrove mammals and birds.
  • Headlights or torches for night activities.
  • Toiletries and towels.
  • Wear multi-functional shoes.
  • Insect repellent spray (which must be environmental friendly).
  • For campers, bring along own camping gears and tents.
Prawn mee is a specialty of this region especially at Kampung Dew.  Among them is the Warung Makteh Mee Banjir Udang which is located just before the Chuah’s Charcoal Factory about 2 kilometres from the Matang Mangrove Forest.  Another stall is the Mak Jah Mee Udang.  Both of them also serve specially prepare curry mee.

Around this region, there are several Chinese shops serving an assortment of seafood cuisines and seafood porridge.


  1. Charcoal Production Kilns.
  2. Kuala Gula Bird Sanctuary.
  3. Fireflies River Tour.

    Nearby communities offer night time boat rides to see the fireflies.  One of the simple natural wonders of mangrove forests, these flashing insects amaze visitors with their sparkling displays.
    Kampung Dew is one of the many coastal villages that offer such tours with guides.  For more information, call Khairul (012-5145023) or visit website:

  4. Pulau Kalumpang Prehistoric Site.
Take a guided excursion to see how freshly cut trees are stacked and loaded into large baking kilns to produce charcoal.  Fires burn for up to 20 days and temperatures reach a superhot 220°C to dry out green trees into black fuel after leaving it to cool for 8 days.
Using charcoal to heat the water and make steam, there are a few operators offering healthy steam baths to cleanse your skin.  Such treatment is said to be able to kill the germs on your body and relax your body muscles.

An hour ride from IPOH to North by highway until Changkat Jering Toll Plaza Exit 146. Drive 8km North using old trunk road toward Butterworth until  SIMPANG. Take left turn toward Kuala Sepetang. Meeting and Parking place is in front of Kuala Sepetang Police Station
View Larger Map
There are several charcoal production kilns which are located close to each other and at the Matang Mangrove Forest Reserve.  Thus, once the visitor has gained access to the mangrove forest, these distinctive charcoal production kilns will not be missed.  Access to the Matang Mangrove Forest has been described above.

Simple and comfortable accommodation can be sought at the Matang Nature Education Centre or homestay in nearby Malay villages as mentioned above.


A few kilometres at the northern tip of the Matang mangrove forest lies a large wetland swamp where local and migratory birds flourish. Go see the endangered storks, egrets, herons, kingfishers, bulbuls, doves, woodpeckers, magpies, sunbirds, tailorbirds, swifts, sparrows, kites and migratory birds from the northern hemisphere.
The Kuala Gula Bird Sanctuary is among the well-established bird sanctuaries in the Asian region.  It was established in the early 1970’s with the main objective is to protect and conserve the migratory as well as resident bird species.  There are more than 160 species of birds found in the Kuala Gula Bird Sanctuary comprising at least 48 species of migratory birds and 118 species of resident or local birds.  The migratory birds such as the Eurasian curlew (Numenius arquata), Common Redshank (Tringa totanus), Common Greenshank (Tringa nebularia), Mongolian Plovers (Charadrius mongolus), Pacific Goldenplover (Pluvialis fulva), Common Sandpiper (Actitis hypoleucos)

, Cattle Egret (Bubulcus ibis), Little Egret (Egretta garzetta), Great Egret (Ardea alba), Black-headed Gull (Larus ridibundus), Black-naped Tern (Sterna sumatrana) come from Siberia, Japan and China during the migratory season from September until April each year. They usually come in large flocks, numbering from several hundreds to several thousands, individuals.

The mangrove swamp forest and a long stretched of mudflat beaches here provide an excellent feeding ground and nesting habitat for these birds.  The mudflat or benthos ecosystem is rich with minute organisms and plankton such as small crabs, crustaceans, annelids and copepods which are rich in protein.  These organisms also provide the nutrients to generate energy the birds require to continue their journey to the south.

Malaysian Nature Society and the Office of the District Forest Ranger hold bird watching events called “Bird Race” annually between the months of September and April, and it is a must of bird watchers to participate in these events.  For more information, visit websites of the Malaysian Nature Society: or the Perak State Forestry Department:
Tourists can join fishermen in their daily fishing trips, help them to pull up their fishing nets, collect the fishes and shrimps and put them into pails or ice-boxes.  Tourists can also be of privilege to purchase freshly caught fishes and shrimps from the fishermen.

On the North-South Highway, exit at the Taiping Utara toll and follow road signage to Kuala Gula.  At Kuala Gula, there is a small Chinese fishing village surrounded with scattered Malay houses.  All around this small fishing village is mangrove forest where bird-watchers and nature lovers can venture in. 

Simple and comfortable accommodation can be sought at the Matang Nature Education Centre or homestay in nearby Malay villages as mentioned above.

There are a few Chinese restaurants serving fresh seafood.  There are also a few Malay food outlets selling seafood noodles and rice.


Nearby communities offer night time boat rides to see the fireflies.  One of the simple natural wonders of mangrove forests, these flashing insects amaze visitors with their sparkling displays.
Kampung Dew is one of the many coastal villages that offer such tours with guides.  For more information, call Khairul (012-5145023), Azman (019-5788982) or Zul (013-5256508); or visit website:
For nature guides and tours, contact the Larut Matang District Forestry Department (Tel: 05-8072762) to organize tours with local guides for ecology or bird-watching and book groups to use the camping and information centre facilities.

Kuala Sepetang is situated about 12 kilometres from the Taiping toll exit of the North-South Highway.  Follow the road signage to Kuala Sepetang.

View Larger Map

Simple but comfortable homestay can be sought at Kampung Dew, or call Khairul (012-5145023)Azman (019-5788982) or Zul (013-5256508).

Kampung Dew is famous for its seafood curry mee and prawn mee which are often served together with an icy dessert.



Pulau Kelumpang, an island located in the Matang mangroves, is reputed to have the most picturesque mangrove swamp in the world.  A visit to this island is a must for those who wish to have a closer look at nature and learn about the special habitat of the wildlife found here.
According to an archaeological study by the Malaysia Science University or USM, Pulau Kelumpang was found to be inhabited by an early Malay settlement about 1,000 years ago. Their remains and graveyards together with natural and synthetic gem and rock artifacts have been found in Pulau Kelumpang.
As such, this island is an excellent destination for tourists who are interested in nature or archaeology, but only for a day trip because this island does not have accommodation nor food outlets.

A boat ride is required to go to Pulau Kelumpang.  Make arrangements with either the office of the District Forest Ranger or negotiate a boat ride with the villagers from the nearby villages.  

There is no accommodation in island, and camping is not very suitable as there is no fresh water.  Try affordable homestay at nearby Malay villages.


Sincere there is also no food outlet on this island, visitors are advised to bring along some snacks and bottled drinks.


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