Monday, May 2, 2011

A trip to Kelah sanctuary in Kenyir Lake

There are three Kelah sanctuaries in the country . The most successful one is located in Sg Petang which is a river within Lake Kenyir. For those of you who are unaware, Lake Kenyir is a huge lake with an area of 225 sq miles. Kelah(or Mahseer ) is a breed of fish which require clean streams which are highly oxygenated to survive. If the rivers are polluted they simply disappear. The government has been wise to set up a sanctuary in Sg Petang to allow this species of fish to breed in it's natural environment. The sanctuary in Sg Petang is only open to public from March to OctoberWhen my partner in crime Cheong decided to come over to pay a visit to our parent in laws last week I snatched him away for a trip to visit the sanctuary. If anyone wants information on the sanctuary by googling he will be quite disappointed as there are not much informations of the place. I took along my inflatable hoping to get the coordinates of the place so that we can get there in our own boat. I know , sometimes the boat operators might want to make a quick buck out of us and i am not going to allow this to happen to me.The entry point for the sanctuary is at Sg Gawi. The entrance permit costing RM10 per person had to be purchased at the Tourist Information Centre Tel 09 622 1276/ 019 943 9168). No one here can give me the coordinates for the place. I am now at the mercy of the boat operators! Luckily there is a boat going in the next morning to pick up some tourist. The clerk here (picture above) arranged for us to hitch a ride on the boat at a reduced rate. Each of us had to pay RM 100. Not too bad but it would have cost me RM 10 for fuel to my Yamaha 2 hp!The state government has decided to allow the locals to operate the boat service in the lake. This gentlemen, En Hassan is one of the contractors and he will ferry us to the sanctuary early next morning. Just for your info, no one is allowed to stay overnight in the sanctuary. Only day trips are allowed . This En Hassan is a good guy and he can be contacted by HP no 019 984 3291/019 966 3075/ 019 943 8303By evening we decided to camp outside Lawit Resort . They have a shelter ready and it comes together with a table as well. Of course we had to cook our own yummy meals.Our excellent campsite has a beautiful lake view and it gets very cold in the early hours. We cannot ask for more ...fresh air, birds singing, nice view and all for free!By 0815 hrs next morning we were at the jetty. We waited a few minutes and were off by 0830 hrs.We had the whole boat for ourselves.The boat was doing about 20 knots on a 75 hp engine. These people obviously do not know much about fuel consumption verses speed. If only they throttle back to 15 or 16 knots they could save 50 % fuel! All along the way I was getting GPS fix for the turning points so that the next trip I can come by kayak or my sailboat (no fuel required!)We arrived at Petang Island Resort in bout 40 minutes (10 nm miles from Sg Sawi jetty) to pick up 5 more passengers. Petang Island Resort to me is almost haven on earth..pristine, well kept, little outside influence, surrounded by forest and it is an island on fresh water. Next trip I will camp here. I think the adjective to describe this area is PRISTINE.From Petang Island Resort to the Kelah sanctuary headquarters is another 4 nautical miles. This is a floating office where we have to give our licence to enter the sanctuary. Informations about the Kelah fish could be found here. From here the park rangers will escort the visitors to the streams and luboks where the kelahs are abundant. No fish could be taken out dead or alive. The penalty is RM 10000 fine. Cheong cheekily asked if we could take just one small fry home as a souvenir.. Answer was a firm NO.From the park HQ it was another 2 miles of boat travel. The river was shallow and there were a lot of logs. Being a boatman myself I had to jump down a few times to assist and tow the boat away from the rocks. Each time I jumped off the water I told the boat operator he owes me RM 50. for the effort! At the designated parking place for the boat we had to start trekking.Clear water, shaded jungles and no noise pollution..hmm this is going to be a nice trek.The place is clean too. From the park HQ onwards visitors are not allowed to bring in food and there is even a No Smoking restriction. Good work Ketengah, the body entrusted to the project.The trails are well maintained and marked. I think anyone below the age of 75 has no problem on this trail.All the park restrictions are up on a board. Make sure you obey the rules otherwise you will be fined and maybe banned for life to visit the place.Soon we spotted some schools of kelahs in the clear river. Actually Sg Petang is only about 21 km long and has 91 streams feeding into this river.Then when the fish hear that there are visitors around they come by the hundreds to welcome us! What a lovely sight.We were allowed to swim with the fish. The only discomfort is the fish keep nibbling us. I had camped in this part of the river about 25 years ago. Of course we did managed to catch a wild kelah and had a good meal (it was not protected then) . Now 25 years later with "self enforced discipline" we can actually swim with the kelahs. This I give thumbs up to the authorities.Soon it was time to say good bye. As General Macarthur once said and I will say the same.. " I shall return......(pretty soon)!"


Sg Gawi Jetty N05 08.193 E 102 48.270

Route Check 1 N05 03.632 E 102 48.840

Route Check 2 N 05 02.768 E 105 47.132

Route Check 3 N 05 00.560 E 102 47.126

Route Check 5 N 04 59.056 E 102 46.831

Petang Island resort Jetty N 04 58.802 E 102 47.021

Route Check 6 N 04 58.277 E 102 46.665

Route Check 7 N 04 57.380 E 102 47.164

Route Check 8 N 04 55.466 E 102 47.867

Now, any takers for a canoeing trip to the sanctuary?


  1. Hi Wong,i am looking at kayaking to the Kelah Sanctuary and then around the shores of Kenyir Lake. I have been to Kenyir several times and have keen interest to explore it further.


  2. Very well written and the information is very complete with complete GPS coordinates. If you take your sail boat, perhaps I would like to follow you for your next trip going up there.

  3. Hi Wong...
    Good information about Kelah Sanctuary...

    Thanks for sharing

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