Cuti-cuti Malaysia – Kuantan Night River Cruise: Of Crocodiles and Fireflies

Paradise on earth. Photo credit: Arivien

To the city dwellers living in Kuala Lumpur (KL), if you are running out of ideas on where to go for a quick weekend trip, why not head to Kuantan?

Situated approximately 280km away from KL, nestled on the East Coast of Peninsula Malaysia and overlooking the South China Sea, Kuantan is an ideal holiday getaway to escape from the hustle and bustle of big cities. While Kuantan is not exactly a small town, it boasts natural wonders and beauty, ranging from white sandy beaches, limestone caves, fishing villages, mangrove forests, delicious, mouth-watering East Coast Malay cuisine, and the list goes on.

It was a plan in the making for a long time, but finally my friends and I managed to squeeze in an action-packed 2-day, 2-night trip around Kuantan.

One of the main highlights of our Kuantan trip is none other than the Kuantan River Cruise. If you imagine it to be a slow and relaxing river cruise on a boat ploughing through the idyllic Kuantan River, then you couldn’t be more wrong!

Observing the fishermen’s livelihood.

At 7 pm, our tour guide-cum-helmsman of the day, Zainal, welcomed us onboard at the Shahbandar Jetty which is adjacent to the Kuantan Esplanade Park. Zainal was in his element when he explained about the ecosystem of the mangrove forest, various types of fishermen boats, the significance behind the different colours and the alphabets on the boat plate numbers. He even threw in some interesting commentaries and trivial quizzes to keep us engaged and entertained throughout the entire boat ride.

Why do fishermen specifically used Nibong tree trunks as stilts staked into the riverbed for docking their boats?

When the number of monitor lizards increases, the number of crocodiles drops, why?

Kuantan is not the original name of this city, what’s the old name of this place?

Those who can answer his questions correctly are given a chance of a lifetime to maneuver the speed boat. :)

The boat tour started off with a slow and steady ride along the Kuantan river while observing the fishermen’s livelihood on fishermen boats. We even spotted a few playful otters frolicking underneath the Nibong stilts in the river!

With the last glimmer of twilight peeking through the clouds, we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves amidst the serenity and tranquility of the Kuantan River.

Sunset at the river
An abandoned boat spotted at the river bank.

As darkness sets in, we swung into full crocodile-hunting mode where we were given torch lights to look for crocodiles along the river banks. You might be wondering how did we spot crocodiles in pitch black condition with just a torch light?

The answer is to look for red or orange glowing eyes which are reflective when you point a spotlight or flashlight at them.

Once any one of us spotted a red or orange reflective light, Zainal steered our boat towards the light source and as we approached it, we slowly cruised by the river banks to have a closer look at the reptiles.

We managed to spot several juvenile and some baby crocodiles. Yet our task was not yet over as we were on a bigger mission in search of the elusive adult crocodile.

A juvenile crocodile caught on camera.

It was definitely no easy task to spot an adult crocodile. They are stealthy and often go into hiding, submerging in the water.

After a few false positives, Lady Luck was on our side and we finally found our grand prize in all its glory! The adult crocodile was partially submerged in the water right next to the river bank. Zainal estimated the crocodile to be around 40-50 years of age. We were in awe of the size and monstrosity of the beast, as we could not even see the end of its tail! The video definitely didn’t do justice to how humongous the crocodile was in actuality.

Firefly spotting was also on the menu of the night. Away from the city lights and light pollution, hundreds if not thousands of fireflies perched on mangrove trees emit faint bio-luminescent light in a non-synchronized manner. From a distance, the wave of non-synchronous luminescence from the fireflies gave off the effect that resembled a glittering Christmas tree. It was a truly a mesmerizing sight to behold.

Interestingly, Zainal also taught us a trick to attract the fireflies to our boat. We used a red LED torch light and by using the hand to cover the torch in an on and off manner at a set interval, one is able to mimic the luminescence pattern of a female firefly. And it really worked! We saw a few male fireflies flew towards our boat and perched on the person holding the red torch (ready to mate xD).

Fireflies are extremely sensitive to their surrounding environmental conditions and can only thrive in habitats where the water quality is clean. Thus, the abundance of fireflies along the river banks actually signifies the pristine condition of the mangrove forests. I hope it would stay the same for many generations to come.

Our tour ended at around 9pm, giving us a magnificent view of the Kuantan nightscape, featuring a huge “Kuantan” signboard lit by multi-coloured lights shone onto it and the new, glittering Teruntum tower in the backdrop.

A big shout out to Aiman and Zainal who are a husband and wife team who runs this small yet thriving river cruise business. Thank you for giving us such an interesting experience in Kuantan! :)

For those who are interested with the Kuantan River Cruise, please check out their page on Tripadvisor:

Prices: RM380 per boat up to 5 persons, RM68 per person for the 6th person onwards.


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