Thursday, October 30, 2008

The Malaysian Mahseer Kelah sanctuary at Sungai Petang, Tasik Kenyir

I am proud to say that I have personally visited the Kelah sanctuary at Sungai Petang in Tasik Kenyir. I was actually in Tasik Kenyir with a retired army Col to do a recee for a potential adventure based project there. With the permission and support from Ketengah, a Terengganu state government agency, we got the opportunity to enter the well guarded Sungai Petang Kelah sanctuary. Compared to my first encounter with the Kelah which was somewhat more destructive, this visit was more ‘friendly’ so to speak.

The Sungai Petang Kelah sanctuary is located rather deep inside the huge Tasik Kenyir lake. To find out more about my adventures at Tasik Kenyir, click on the Kenyir ‘label’ on the right hand side of the page. From the Pengkalan Gawi jetty, one would have to take a speed boat ride to Sungai Petang. It takes about an hour or more to get there. At the rivermouth (Sungai Petang and the lake), there is a ranger’s floating office where visitors are required to register themselves. Note…if you decide to visit this Kelah sanctuary, you are actually required to obtain written permission from the Ketengah office. Ketengah’s office address and contact numbers can be obtained at the bottom of this entry.

The park ranger's floating post

The visitor's log book

After putting your name into the great book of visitors, you will then proceed upstream on a speedboat. Depending on the water level, the boat will stop as soon as the water becomes to shallow for it to go any further. You will then have to walk further upstream to the actual Kelah sanctuary spot. I was lucky that during my visit, the water level was quite high and the boat manages to get quite deep upstream. We only had to walk less than 30 minutes. If the water level is low, treks can often take up to an hour!

Work was on the way to upgrade the walking paths. Some areas were rather narrow and prone to corrosion. So, its good to watch out where you are stepping on.

You can never imagine how exciting and thrilling it is to witness the Sungai Petang Kelah Sanctuary. The moment we arrive at the ‘lubok’, the water was already churning up waves. The guides that brought us in carried with them bags of fish food. With one cast of a handful of fish food, the water immediately turns into a feeding frenzy of thousands of Kelah. And believe me…its by the thousands. The water literally bubbled with the Kelah’s mouth bobbing up and down swallowing gulps of the fish pallets. It’s simply amazing.

The water starts to boil with Kelah

Malaysian Mahseer everywhere! The fishes were so used to human that you can literally pick on up (not too long though) and feed them from your hands. Some of the fish pallets that dropped off from our hands and rolled off the rocks didn’t get the chance to hit the water as there were already some of the Kelah that pushed themselves out from the water trying to get to the pallets! Its simply amazing!

I just couldn't believe my eyes!

However, I was unable to see the really huge Kelah. The guide informed me that the Kelah are very shy fishes and the big ones tend to dwell a little bit deeper away from the humans. Once the Kelah hits a certain size, they will then make it down stream where they will roam the waters of Tasik Kenyir.

Some of us during this trip braved to put our feet at the water edge. Some of the Kelah nibbled on our feet, it was ticklish but the scary thought of a big fish giving us a nasty bite was enough to keep some of us well away from the water.

Me and one of them Malaysian Mahseer

It was magnificent...awesome in fact. I would even go as far as describing it more thrilling than fishing actually. The sight (and sound) of thousands of Kelah churning the water for food pallets is simply incredible. I never imagined such a place existed, what more right in the heart of beautiful Tasik Kenyir lake. I applaud the fact that efforts are already in place to ensure the survival of the Malaysian Mahseer. This Sungai Petang Kelah sanctuary can only be described as a must see place for all nature lovers.

NOTE: To read more about my adventures with the Malaysian Mahseer (Kelah), see ‘Malaysian Mahseer’ under ‘LABELS’ on the right side of this page.