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Category: Traveling with kids

Sambah River Cruise And Magical Fireflies

We booked ourselves for the half-day Sambah River Cruise tour which starts from the Kampung Bunga, Tenghilan jetty, about 40 minutes drive from Kota Kinabalu. We had to drive through…

We booked ourselves for the half-day Sambah River Cruise tour which starts from the Kampung Bunga, Tenghilan jetty, about 40 minutes drive from Kota Kinabalu. We had to drive through a local village to get to the jetty giving us a glimpse of what to expect during the tour. We arrived at a huge parking space and a small jetty with some seating space while we waited for the tour to start. In the next few hours, the boat will take us into secluded a water village, explore the life, sights, and sounds of rural living and witness colonies of magical fireflies twinkle in the darkness.

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The tour started at 430pm where we were all given life jackets before hopping into the boat. Our children, 5 and 2 years old (together with our friends and their three children) thoroughly enjoyed the boat ride with the refreshing breeze and occasional splashes into the boat. They roared with laughter every time they got a little wet!

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We arrived at Kampung Sambah, a water village inhabited by the Bajau community. We had a quick pit stop at the jetty for a quick bite of local traditional snacks – goreng pisang (banana fritters) and kuih pinjaram (sweet chewy cake that’s in a distinct green colour).

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This small village of about 200 villagers has only one primary school with an amazing student to teacher ratio of 18:12. We made a beeline to Sekolah Kebangsaan Kampung Sambah after the light refreshments. This small school has a tiny canteen, an English corner, an outdoor play area, a waste segregation shack, a manual water pump that draws water straight from the ground and beautifully decorated school grounds and classrooms. I was amazed at the upkeep of the school and was encouraged by the education opportunity children in this village were given.

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Just outside the school compound, children and youth gathered as they played in the evening cool. There were a group of boys playing football, and another group kicking the sepak takraw ball, and then there were a bunch of younger girls playing chase and cycling around. The atmosphere was one of freedom and simple joy!

We learned that Kampung Sambah is known for udang salai – smoked prawns. This is a local delicacy that is produced mainly in this village where river prawns are smoked for hours until they turn a nice tan brown colour. The taste is distinct and I’m sure will go very well with some sambal (chilli prawn paste) and white rice.

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We headed back to the jetty walking on raised wooded pathways connected to wooden houses. Children peered out from their homes offering friendly waves and bright smiles. Our tour guide pointed out to his house and beamed with pride as he continued to show us around his village.

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We hopped back into our boat just before sundown to a midway jetty where we stopped to have our dinner and tried our hand at fishing. We were each given a plastic ring with a nylon string twirled around it. At the end of the string is a weight and hook where a tiny piece of shrimp is attached. The children enjoyed uncoiling the string into the water and waiting for the gentle tug from the fish nibbling at the shrimp. My son, Seth successfully caught a tiny fish, snapped a photo of his first catch and gently released the fish back into the water.

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If fishing does not entice you, you can simply bask in a hammock and watch the sun come down while enjoying the gentle breeze. We had an early dinner around 6pm, where we helped ourselves to a simple spread of Malaysian favourites – stir-fry vegetables, spicy prawns, fried fish, fried chicken, fresh herb salad, and fruits.

As night fell, each family was given a paper lantern and some markers. We penned some words on the delicate lantern, lit it, waited for it to expand and released it into the sky. It was such a thrill watching the lantern drift into the darkness.

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The magic continued into the night as we hopped back onto the boat to look for fireflies. Our guide used an LED bulb to attract the fireflies and as we neared the colony, the fireflies lit up like a Christmas tree. Fireflies produce light through a chemical reaction (a process called bioluminescence) at the lower part of the abdomen. The beetle although small is not hard to spot especially when it is pitch dark. I’ve seen fireflies in Kuala Selangor (Peninsular Malaysia) but have heard that the numbers have dropped significantly. It’s no surprise as fireflies are a good indicator of a healthy habitat – which means that if we lose natural habitats like this connected mangrove forest, our friendly fireflies will also dwindle. Let’s hope they stick around for long!

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Fun recreational tours like this is an incredible learning getaway. Children can learn about the ecosystem and how human, wildlife and nature are dependant on each other. Here are the details of the tour:

Price: RM80 per adult / RM40 per child (inclusive of dinner)
Note: You will need to drive yourself to the Jetty. If you require transport from KK, there will be additional charges.
Duration: 430 – 830pm (approximately 4 hours)
Website: http://sambah.weebly.com/
FB: https://www.facebook.com/sambahrivercruise
Things to bring: Insect repellant, sunscreen, and water

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Glamping in Snowdonia National Park

Camping was initially on the cards when we planned our stopover at Snowdonia National Park, but quickly realised that most camp sites only rented out tents and sleeping bags – but…

Camping was initially on the cards when we planned our stopover at Snowdonia National Park, but quickly realised that most camp sites only rented out tents and sleeping bags – but we needed other camping essentials for a comfortable experience. With a four year-old and a one year-old with us, we decided not to rough it out in the chilly weather. Snowdonia is known to be cold with super strong winds. We needed to stay warm while having the thrill of being close to nature.

Without searching far, we found the perfect spot at Pant Hwfa Farm in one of their glamping bell tents. In case you haven’t already heard, “glamping” is the fabulous reincarnation of the classic camping experience without the need to pitch your own tent or set up your own rickety camp bed. It’s an ideal choice for those looking for a bit of a rugged experience without compromising on comfort.

We arrived at the farm passing through narrow countryside roads and up a hill slope overlooking acres of farm land. We found some sheep happily grazing and unperturbed at our arrival. Our bell tent opened into a spacious and well-designed space for our family. It had a queen size mattress and two single mattresses all fitted and complete with fluffy duvets, a drawer cupboard filled with proper cutlery, Dutch ovens, a portable stove, a kettle, picnic mats – practically, all the essentials you will need for a cosy stay.There was even an icebox to keep our groceries fresh, a big dispenser of drinking water, hot water bottles, throw blankets and leather cushions for seating. Just outside the tent is a fire drum for cooking and a table and bench with fairy lights for a meal out in the open.

On the evening of our arrival, the winds were so strong that we couldn’t start a fire outside, so we had to cook a quick meal of pasta and meatballs in the tent. Unlike dome or A-frame tents, the bell tent is massive and we did not need to bend over to walk or cook. The space was just right for our small family. We huddled together and slurped up the warm meal in minutes!

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That night, we filled up our hot water bottles and tucked into bed for an early night. The children snored off very quickly making a soft symphony in the quiet of the night. At 5am, I woke up and decided to take a peek at the night sky and was duly rewarded with star studded skies. The soft gentle wind in the stillness of the night was incredibly special, so special that I didn’t go back to sleep. Not long after Terence woke up and started a fire and we sat by the fire and waited for the morning sun to peak.

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By 6am, the birds broke out in singing, the crisp morning dew set in and the sheep started grazing again.

Then the children clambered out from their warm hiding and sat by the fire while roasting marshmallows as we cooked up some eggs and sausages for breakfast. Seth wandered off looking for branches and twigs to pick up while we cleaned up after brekkie, camping style – bucket and water system.
Then we settled back in the tent for some card games and slowly crept back into bed for a late morning snooze. What piggies! It’s rare to find holidays with no agenda but enjoy each other’s company and rest.

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We did some exploring around the national park that afternoon and in the evening we were back at our tent. We cooked a hearty stew in the Dutch oven and for supper, we sipped hot chocolate with our legs tucked into the duvet as we told stories to the little ones. It was cold and windy outside but we were warm and toasty – bliss!

Camping is awesome, but consider glamping if: 

  • It’s your first time sleeping out in the great outdoors 
  • If you’re traveling with young children  and you want a bit of comfort and convenience for your little ones. Camping is a wonderful way to spend time with the family. You can teach them about nature, how to start fire and make smores and how to cook a simple meal over the fire. 
  • The weather is not great and you need a snug shelter for the night but still be able to start a fire and do all things associated with camping. 
  • You’re traveling for a long period of time and don’t have all your camping equipment with you. Sometimes renting equipment can be expensive or you may not find everything you need. 
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