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Thursday, July 24, 2014

AMID THE MANGROVES OF MALAYSIA

Malaysia Perak Taiping Fireflies glow against the Kuala Sepetang night sky.
MARIAM MOKHTAR BRINGS US THE STORY OF HOW
ONE PERSON’S LOVE OF NATURE HAS BLOSSOMED
INTO A GLOWING ECO-TOURISM INITIATIVE.
AMID THE MANGROVES
OF MALAYSIA
Global Snapshots
His memories of seeing the bioluminescent creatures for the first time remain vivid. “I remember like it was yesterday,” says Khairul Salleh, as he whips out his computer to show me photos of the mangrove forest. “We came round a bend in the river and saw the most amazing spectacle. Thousands of flickering lights. It was breathtaking.”
That sight inspired Khairul to tell the whole world about the beauty of the insects he so cherishes: fireflies.
On that night in 2008, Khairul had set off in a small boat to catch freshwater lobsters in the estuary of the Sepetang river in the Malaysian state of Perak. Fishing was his hobby, but catching lobsters was a new challenge. He’d been told that shining a powerful torch into the water would reflect light from the lobsters’ eyes, pin-pointing their position.
Although lobster fishing sounded easy enough, Khairul was more concerned about the accompanying dangers. Mangrove trees have complex root systems that are partially submerged, providing a haven for insects, fish, birds and reptiles. The lobsters thrive in the water beneath the trees, but the aerial roots are also home to venomous snakes like pit vipers, known locally as ular punti.
Hands-on learning about mangrove reproduction – this student holds mangrove seeds



A student thanks Khairul for his talk on the mangrove forest

Left: Students present their catch of cockles

Khairul gives a talk to primary school pupils at a charcoal kiln

Above: Egrets gather on a floating platform off the shore of Kuala Sangga, a tiny, isolated fishing village on the river
“If you are bitten,” says Khairul, “you have a chance if you seek treatment immediately.” The minimal reassurance of his grim statement quickly fades when he adds, “Crocodiles also inhabit the mud beneath the trees.”
The 33-km-long Sepetang river flows into the tidal waters off Kuala Sepetang, but only a tenth of it flows through the Matang Forest Reserve, an area rich in flora and fauna. This estuarine location is famous for its mangrove forest and charcoal production. The fishing villages around Kuala Sepetang produce some of the country’s best seafood, while migratory birds at the Kuala Gula bird sanctuary attract birdwatchers local and foreign.
Scientists believe the synchronised flashing of the fireflies is a mating ritual and display of courtship. Visitors who come to see them will also spot firefly-supporting berembang trees along the riverbanks. These mangrove mainstays have attractive cerise flowers whose nectar lures the fireflies, and light green fruits that resemble crabapples. In 2011, a survey by the Malaysian Nature Society charted 130 mature berembang trees along the Sepetang river.
Studies by the Forest Research Institute Malaysia show that the adult firefly (which is in fact a beetle) is about the size of a grain of rice. The adult female firefly lays her eggs in the rotting, muddy undergrowth of the mangrove forest. Firefly larvae feed on the snails that live in the muddy swamp. After two or three months, the firefly emerges. Its lifespan lasts about four weeks before the cycle repeats.
Right: Khairul gives a talk to primary school pupils at a charcoal kiln
Below: Two mating fireflies on the boat deck
additional income from eco-tourism with homestays, handicraft production, seafood restaurants or the renting of fishing boats.
Although Khairul has spread word of the fireflies, locals have been aware of them for generations. In Malay folklore, fireflies are believed to be the nails of passing ghosts – this is told to children to encourage them to come inside at dusk. The Chinese have a story about a poor student who caught fireflies and put them in a jar (releasing them afterwards) in order to study by their light.
A curious Khairul approached the Malaysian Nature Society to learn more. Soon later, scientists and nature photographers were seeking his services to observe the fireflies. He saw the potential for eco-tourism, but also feared that the fireflies’ habitat might be destroyed.
Dusk descends over Kuala Sepetang
With the aim of boosting local awareness, Khairul started a blog, telling the villagers that the fireflies’ presence meant the environment was in good condition, both in the water and on land. He advised the local community that they could earn some.
Young ladies prepare to plant mangrove saplings

Right: A dolphin swims in Sepetang river (Photo: Zoo Taiping)
For his part, Khairul frequently gives talks to students, family groups and tourists. When he began in 2008, visitor numbers were modest. Five years later in 2013, he counted close to 3,500 visitors from countries around the world.
“It is my mission to tell people to be more aware of nature,” he says with conviction. “The importance of the mangrove forest cannot be underestimated. It protects the shoreline from storms and wave action, even tsunamis. It is a natural barrier against coastal erosion and flooding. The roots act like a natural pollution treatment plant. Mangrove trees are an important food source and nursery for fish and marine life; they also provide timber for making poles and charcoal.”
Khairul teams up with locals such as villagers, park rangers, charcoal factory owners and boat operators. Bringing together these seemingly disparate groups results in a varied itinerary for visitors. Tour groups can walk along the boardwalk through a small portion of the mangrove forest, go on a river tour, help to rejuvenate the forest by planting mangrove saplings, and even visit a charcoal factory. Despite charcoal’s dirty reputation, these businesses are environmentally sustainable according to factory owners, who claim to replant a sapling for every mangrove tree they fell.
Which is not to say that the environment here is free from threats. Khairul points to the attitude of some people who, he says, treat the river as a dustbin and fail to respect the mangrove forest. Having seen the effects of industry pollution while conscious of the development needs of the local community, he knows there’s little he can do to stop the march of perceived progress. Threats to the fireflies’ habitat include effluent from factories, pesticide and fertiliser run-off from farms, light pollution from nearby industrial zones and illegal land-clearing.
His use of eco-tourism to combat these threats has made Khairul’s name synonymous with the fireflies of Sepetang. Amid the charmingly electric atmosphere of the tours, his unofficial title of “Guardian of the Fireflies” feels fitting. And his affinity for the insects proves infectious with visitors. “It looks like someone switched on tree after tree of fairy lights,” gushes a child with eyes the size of saucers, “– in the middle of the jungle!” .

Photos courtesy of Khairul Salleh unless otherwise stated

Tak kerja pun rezeki dikongsi bersama.

Terima kasih atas arrangements. Saya telah transfer deposit ke account En Khairul ref no 2082879403 at 3.26 pm tadi.

Saya akan call Sham untuk boat arrangements and En Non for check in.

Selamat menyambut Syawal dan selamat pulang ke Johor!!!!!

Makcik Liza

Lucky Dolphins fascinating fireflies display

Dear Khairul,
 
We hereby confirmed the tour booking as per below,
 
Date: 23 Jul 2014
Pax: 9
 
Meet up at Changkat Jering Toll (3:30pm)
 
Tour start:
 
5.00 pm Boat Ride
7.00 pm Dinner at Kangkao Seafood Restaurant (own cost) Kuala Sepetang
8.00 pm Fireflies
 
Total packages is RM700 
Could you send me an invocie for payment process – attention to Voith Paper Fabrics Asia Pacific Sdn Bhd.
Thank you.
 
Best regards, Alice Wong

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Peluang menjadi Pemandu Pelancong Hutan Paya Laut.

Jemputan mengikuti Kursus


Pemandu Pelancong Hutan Paya Laut.
Terbuka kepada sesiapa saja yang berminat. Tiada bayaran dikenakan
Berpeluang menambah pendapatan menjadi pemandu pelancong
Bermula dengan mengikuti lawatan yang telah ditetapkan. 
Diikuti dengan mengendalikan satu tajuk yang dipilih dan diberikan nota. Seterus tambah lagi tajuk sehingga lengkap semuanya. Dengan melalui 8 siri lawatan anda berpeluang menyertai kami sebagai Pemandu Pelancong Hutan Paya Laut.
Alami pengalaman mengikuti kursus praktikal 
Tiada kelas teori.
Praktikal Pertama: 
Tetamu: Syarikat Voith Paper.
Tempat: Pusat Eko Pelajaran Hutan Paya Laut Matang, Kuala Sepetang
Lawatan Ke Pusat Eko, Menyemai Benih Bakau Kurap dan Lawatan Pendidikan Ke Kilang Arang Kayu.

Peserta yang berminat, berkesungguhan dan mempunyai keinginan tinggi akan disarankan mengikuti kursus pemandu pelancong alam semula jadi setempat.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

The Guardian Of The FireFlies

The Guardian Of The FireFlies


Thinking Allowed
By Mariam Mokhtar
guardian of fireflies kuala sepetang - KhairulFor 49-year-old Khairul, who is affectionately dubbed ‘The Guardian of the Fireflies of Kuala Sepetang’, Visit Malaysia Year (VMY) 2014 could not have come at a better time. A keen nature lover and conservationist, Khairul did not imagine that his hobby would equip him to play a leading role in VMY.
Setting-off on a fishing trip for freshwater lobster (udang galah) one night, he came across colonies of fireflies(Pteroptyx tener) along the banks of the Sepetang River. He was captivated and from then on, he vowed that he would tell the whole world about these fireflies and do all that he could to protect their natural habitat. What started off as a chance discovery in 2008, has now become an exciting part of his life.
With a projected target of 28 million visitors for Visit Malaysia Year (VMY) in 2014, Khairul is keen to do his bit to promote Perak, specifically the area around Kuala Sepetang and Taiping. According to the United Nations World Tourism Organisation, Malaysia is in the top ten most visited countries in the world.
Looking back to that first trip, Khairul said: “I was concerned about the perils awaiting me. Catching lobsters could be dangerous. Snakes and crocodiles lie in wait beneath the trees.”
He set-off when the difference between high and low tide was very small, and the weak current, allowed the river water to run clear. He said, “With these conditions, it is easy to spot the eyes of the lobsters, with a powerful torch.”
Although the villagers had told him about the presence of fireflies, he had not yet seen them: “Seeing the fireflies for the first time was breathtaking. When the fireflies flashed, their lights reflected off the leaves, which were still wet after an earlier rainfall. It was beautiful.”
Khairul has since started a series of structured programmes, to show visitors the fireflies and the mangrove forest. He also organises tours and activities for the Kuala Sepetang and Taiping area, catering to those with only a few hours to spare, and those who wish to stay for a few days.
He said, “I have my own team of tour guides, forestry rangers, boatmen and villagers to help me. I want to educate the public about the importance of the fireflies and the mangrove forest.
“The presence of the fireflies is indicative of a good environment, both in the water and in the woods. The Matang Mangrove forest provides natural pollution treatment, is a tsunami barrier, a food source, a nursery for fish and provides timber to make poles and charcoal.
“The Matang Mangrove Educational Park is a good starting point for visitors to learn about the mangrove forest, and has facilities such as a boardwalk, chalets, a campsite and a hall.”
He criticised the attitude of some people towards the mangrove forest: “Sadly, most of them do not care. They treat the river as their dustbin. “Effluent from nearby factories have previously threatened the fragile ecosystem of the mangrove forest, affecting the water quality and the life that the river systems support.”
Aware of the dilemma faced by the community and their desire for development, he said, “States will want development, which means more factories and farms to generate more jobs. This will affect the natural habitat of the fireflies. “The government have promised to make Sungai Sepetang a Forest Reserve and FireFly Park, but to date, nothing has happened.”
Kuala Sepetang has a fascinating history. Khairul said, “Some people will know Kuala Sepetang by its old name, Port Weld. This area is rich in history. During the British era, the first railway was built to Taiping, in 1882. Before the Pangkor Agreement, nearby Matang was the administrative capital for this district.”
“Kuala Sepetang is now a fishing village and has a large, blood cockle farm. The place is an important centre for ecotourism in Perak, with 2 hotels, 12 tourist boats, floating chalets and many seafood restaurants. Local specialities are mee udang, curry mee and fresh seafood. During the school and public holidays, both my mangrove tour and the planting of mangrove saplings are popular.”
“There are other attractions like the charcoal factory, river cruises, fishing trips and the night- firefly tour. All our boats are licensed and equipped with life-jackets and rescue equipment.”
Khairul looks forward to VMY 2014: “When I started, two years ago, I had 1000 visitors. Last year, I had 3500 visitors with tourists from Singapore, America, Europe, Japan, New Zealand and Australia. “The local tourists are mainly university students. The rest are families or groups of people. They all love to learn new things and experience something new.”
Aware that a few tourist operators have sullied the reputation of the industry, he was keen to stress the qualities of a good tourist operator: “Being honest, professional and inspirational.”
Khairul knows that Kuala Sepetang can be successfully promoted during VMY: “First. It would be good if the Perak Tourism Board could coordinate with the Penang Tourist Board to inform the tourists, about Taiping and Kuala Sepetang. Penang is only a short distance from these places.”
Appealing to the authorities he said, “Second. We need help with infrastructure, such as a jetty in Kuala Sepetang.” He added, “The Kuala Sepetang tourist industry is like a rough diamond. If the community were to have a hand in its development, the diamond will be polished and shine. There are plenty of opportunities for everyone to share.”
Footnote: Visitors interested in touring the area around Kuala Sepetang and Taiping are welcome to contact Khairul at www.kualasepetang.com.
Tags : 182Guardian Of Fireflies Kuala SepetangHighlight,


About Author

Mariam Mokhtar

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Pembangunan Pelancongan Kuala Sepetang

Pelancongan Kuala Sepetang amat rancak ketika ini dengan pelbagai tarikan pelancongan semula jadi seperti perkampungan nelayan, hutan bakau, paya laut, ikan lumba-lumba, burung-burung, helang dan kelip-kelip. Industri kilang arang, udang kering, ternakan ikan dan kerang juga menambah impak kepada pelancongan di Kuala Sepetang.
Sebagai satu tempat pelancongan eko Kuala Sepetang bakal menjadi satu tarikan pelancongan utama di Taiping. Sebagai sebuah agensi yang bertanggungjawab kepada pembangunan  setempat MPT sepatutnya dilihat sebagai peneraju kepada pembangunan sektor pelancongan di Kuala Sepetang.
Justeru seluruh warga Kuala Sepetang mahu tahu apakah plan tindakan pelancongan yang akan dikemukakan kepada Kuala Sepetang.

Jika MPT nak bantu di sini disenaraikan beberapa cadangan.
1. Buat Jeti baru yang lebih selamat dan selesa.
2. Buat papan tanda pelancongan Kuala Sepetang.
3. Membina pusat informasi pelancongan.
4. Mengkaji semula sistem pembuangan sampah.
5. Mengkaji semula sistem jalanraya dan parking.
Pengusaha bot pula mesti
1. Mengikut pengiliran ambil penumpang
2. Tidak dibenarkan mengikat bot pada jeti yang menyukarkan kerja mengambil dan menurunkan penumpang.
3. Mengamalkan etika pengendali pelancongan yang baik.