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West Aspiration Sdn Bhd
THE MAGIC OF THE KILIM RIVER
By Kamila Delart
Eager to explore the natural beauty of the island, I spent some time researching the available tours to finally choose a Mangrove Kayak Trip: an eco-friendly expedition in tune with nature, omitting the gimmicky and irresponsible feeding of eagles or monkeys. As I never kayaked before, I am glad that I will be provided with proper instructions. And although the kayaks are very stable, the fact that life jackets are compulsory puts me at ease.
Having booked my trip nearly a week ago, I couldn’t be more excited when the day of my big adventure finally arrives. Accompanied by Mandy, a passionate Nature Guide, our group boards a small boat, and the journey into the magical past begins.
The water of the Kilim River shimmers in a deep emerald green as we follow the river bank, taking in the changing scenery with overhanging bogak trees and baby mangroves. We spot a large monitor lizard, and on a dark bulky rock, half hidden among the lush green, sits a family of long tailed macaques - as if to welcome us in the wilderness…
As our boat glides through the quiet waters, Mandy begins to talk about the Kilim Geopark. She shows us the various mangrove species, explaining how these resilient trees survive in the mud, and tidal-washed with salty water… Listening about the ingenious aquatic eco-system of the mangroves, that provides a breeding ground for hundreds of fish species, and builds a natural barrier protecting our island against tsunami, all of us get a little silent, in awe of the nature’s wisdom. The river reaches ‘The Hole in the Wall’, a narrow opening between impressive rock formations connecting the Kilim River and the Andaman Sea.
In front of us opens up a picturesque bay. Seamed with tall lime stone cliffs, with tiny islands on the horizon, and colorful boats quietly floating in front of us, the view is just … magnificent. And then there is this unusual sound. I lift my head - and against the blue sky is a group of eagles. Their large russet- colored wings widely spread, white chests proudly breaking through the air as they watch over their territory.
But the truly fascinating part o our journey is yet to come. Leaving the boat, we get in our kayaks, and after a short paddling across the bay, we enter the mysterious world of the primordial mangrove forest. The secret waterways wriggle labyrinth-like between ancient mangrove trees, sometimes so dense the kayak can barely squeeze through, with branches hanging so low we have to duck.
As the tide begins to fall, between the trees emerge tiny islands of swamp with crooked roots reaching out of the mud like the fingers of an old man. I notice a fiddler crab crawling out of his hideaway, and there is this bizarre walking fish gasping for breath. As if we found ourselves in the magical realm of the Lord of the Rings…
It is so quiet in here. And a little dark. Just the rare scream of a wild bird, and the few sunrays that find their way through the dense vegetation remind us that the time does not stand still. That there is so much more for us to explore. And so we leave this enchanting place.
After a short lunch break in a floating restaurant adjacent to a fish farm, the boat takes us to Gua Kelawar, the famous Bat Cave. We first enter the smaller cave with walls covered with prehistoric oyster shells that tell the story of an ancient river that must have been lifted by powerful tectonic processes millions of years ago.
Following a wooden platform, we reach a second cave with giant stalactites and stalagmites. The air is cool, and our voices bounce back from the walls, carrying the echo throughout the space. There is something sacred about this place - as if we were standing in a cathedral built to worship nature. It takes a moment before we get used to the twilight . But once our eyes adjust, we notice that the entire ceiling is covered by bats. Resting - so that they are strong enough to embark on their nightly haunt once the darkness sets in.
Creatures of night… Another magical experience I don’t want to miss! But if my memory serves me right, a guided evening walk through the jungle is among the many other nature trips offered. And if the nocturnal rainforest trek is half as brilliant as my mangrove experience, it is without doubt something to look forward to…