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Kayaking in Sungai Sepang, Mangrove Forest

Updated: Jul 7, 2022

Mangroves account for only 0.7 percent of the Earth’s tropical forest area, but they are among the world’s most productive and important ecosystems.

In 2004 after the catastrophic tsunami in Bandar Aceh, governments started to raise awareness of the importance of preservation, rehabilitation and replanting of this depleting forest! They straddle the connection between sea and land and human and nature.


After being inspired by a post by my favourite blogger on her insta, I contacted Outdoorgate_Soloution who are experts in nature adventures.

Besides, having clocked endless hikes in lush tropical jungles, I thought it would be a refreshing change to kayak and workout my triceps and biceps whilst meandering through the lazy currents of the Sepang River...... although it wasn't entirely lazy!

The boats were launch at the fisherman's jetty at the meet-up point



Assembling a group of 14 with a good mix of children, teenagers and adults who were mostly noobs at kayaking would surely be a disaster, but luckily none of us manage to capsize the boat! We started our journey to Kampung Tajung Mas, in a drizzling morning, worried and anxious if it would progress into a storm.


Don't worry if it is your first time, because Ai Vee from Outdoorgate will give a mandatory briefing on basic techniques on how to manoeuvre the kayak, besides, the depth of the river is rather shallow and you will be in a lifejacket the whole time.


Our journey will span about 5.5km on the the Sepang River, which is a natural boundary between Selangor and Negeri Sembilan. Depending on which route you take, but there are some parts that you will be kayaking in Negeri Sembilan territory.


What to bring

  • cap

  • insect repellant

  • sun-screen

  • light clothes suitable for water coz you will get wet

  • loads of water

  • change of clothes and towel


*Tips about kayaking


Most of the kayaks are tandem but there are 3 seaters too, it is best to place the child in the middle if you are on the 3 seater kayak (as the seat is small). Something else to consider is that if there's one paddler who is physically stronger than the other, it makes sense for them to sit in the back while the weaker paddler sits in the front. I also realise that paddling in unison is key to gain speed and avoid collision with paddles.


The BUS! 3 seater kayak is best to seat a child in the middle

Practising our moves before we head to the river

The route of the trip depends on the daily tides and if you prefer to start paddling against tides or start with drifting with the flow. (Check link for tides timing)

But either one you choose first, you will have you work those arms one way or the other! We chose the former so that our homeward bound would hopefully be a breeze.


Tough work against the current

THE RIVER


Captain Ai Vee lead the way upstream against the receding tide. It required a lot of energy to keep the boat straight, while moving against the tide. We also learn to keep to the side of the river to minimise the resistance. We paddled about 2 km upstream, stopped for a quick picnic on the boat, before entering the mangrove forest. Note that the weather can be hot and there is no canopy cover on the river, and it is necessary to bring along water in the kayak. Most of us were exhausted battling the currents and it was a great respite to moor our kayaks on some dead trunk at the river bank.


Snacks came with eco-friendly packaging!


THE MAGIC MANGROVE TREES


Ai Vee gave us a little lesson about the importance of the magical mangrove ecosystem in protecting erosion, filtering water pollutants, and host for sea life before we entered into the forest.

This is also the start of serious manoeuvring, reversing, stopping, putting our skills to the test and failing miserably as we bumped and collided and got stuck in roots and fallen logs.

As we got closer we manage to inspect the unique root system of different trees. At some point the tributary became narrower, and a troop of curious monkey, hanging from tree to tree were observing us just as we were to them. Their tails were noticeably longer, as the locals tell that these species of macaques wriggle their long tails into mud burrow to catch crustacean for their meals. It's up to you to believe the story, but I certainly do believe that seafood is indeed part of their diet! #longtailmonkey


The swamp was teeming with wildlife and it felt like an outdoor zoo at some point. Many mud skippers and schools of fish criss-crossing our path in the water and birds on the aerial. I think I would be able to enjoy the moment more if not for my divided attention to control the kayak.


It felt like a theme park ride with creepy trees, lizards and monkeys reaching out! Bruguiera tree

As the tide receded the root system of the Bruguiera exposes

Among the other wildlife that strive among mangrove trees, are fireflies. The fireflies congregate mainly on Sonneratia caseolaris (type of mangrove tree) for the nectar, and the chemical reaction release photon flashes seen as synchronous flashing!


FAUNA


Our journey upstream was shorten by some fallen logs across the tributary. After around 4 hours on water, the gloomy morning weather cleared up. It was noticeably hotter, but there was a soft breeze from the direction of the sea, and as soon as we rejoin the river, flocks of herons and egrets were out hunting.


The roots also provides habitats to wildlife

As we were drifting back, a mud skipper crossed our paths and few low flying eagles were spotted. The receding water exposed the muddy habitats of male fiddler crabs (with one large claw), colourful crabs and hermits. And occasionally at the banks of the river, you can see huge splashes, not sure if it was a monkey, otter, lizard or a crocodile.


Male fiddler crab holds one claw, always much larger than the other, somewhat like a violin.

Monitor lizards are good swimmers just as the alligators

Reflections


The experience to paddle out in open waterways without a boatman on a motorboat was liberating and exciting.

This trip, I was able to experience wildlife so close to me, unlike when on one of those roaring motorboats like the ones in KILIM mangrove sanctuary in Langkawi. The mangrove forest here is rather unharmed and still untouched by mass tourism. It is important that this mangrove forest continues to flourish and rehabilitate for the greater environmental benefit.

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