Friday, 8 June 2012

A Day in Nibong Tebal - 3 June 2012

Nibong Tebal is a small town beside the Kerian River, which is about 40km from Penang. Most people will bypass this town and head straight to Penang island. We spent a day in this small town because we had heard much about the firefly cruise along the Kerian River. The best time to watch is between 8 to 11 pm. Before the firefly watching, we left at about 5pm for a cruise to a fish farm at the sea. 

Nipah palms and their fruits (photo inset) were common sight along the Kerian River. The fruits made very refreshing drink in this hot weather.

Mangrove trees of the species Berembang lined the riverbank of Kerian River. Fireflies are attracted to these Berembang trees. They are found in clumps between the Nipah palms.

A pleasant journey with cool breeze.

White egrets - friends of the river

Finally we saw the cage fish breeding farms dotting the sea, about 3km from shore. According to our guide, Nibong Tebal has the largest fish farms in Northern Malaysia. The risk is high but the return is high too. There were more than 200 of such farms concentrating in that one area, from small to big sizes. Imagine the fish poop and litter produced by these farms flowing back to the popular beaches along the Penang island......

A breeder rears about 50,000 to 100,000 fish at one time but will keep the stock for a few years before selling them. The wooden planks form the perimeter of each square cage on the farm. For such a farm, there are 4 workers running it on a rotation basis - amazing how they could cope!! Species that are raised include garoupa, red snapper and siakap and they are mainly exported live to overseas  market. The fish nets need to be cleaned regularly, if not, the fish cannot get their oxygen.... The fish also need to be separated regularly so that the big fish will not choke the small ones. 

Nothing will stop the workers here from paddling to see their friends in neighbouring farms, even in a bucket!

On our way back, we stopped by Sg Udang fishing village, on the border of Penang and Perak. Most of the villagers were fishermen both at sea as well as on the cage fish breeding farms. 

After the harsh reality of development, we continued our journey to the much awaited fireflies. It was not the best timing to watch the fireflies because of the brightness of the full moon.

It was an enjoyable and refreshing cruise at night to watch the fireflies on our way back. The boys were thrilled to see the flickering lights on the mangrove trees, generated by the firefly colonies, which was like looking at a glittering Christmas tree. We have mixed feelings for the outing knowing that the firefly colonies were decreasing year after year as a result of development. Yet the tour operators remain hopeful because there is huge tourist potential, and there are plans of more seafood restaurants lining the Kerian River in future.....

A tiny firefly that flew to the boat!! 

Fireflies glow to attract mates and to scare away predators. The males and females of the same species will flash signals back and forth as a way of communicating. Each firefly species has its own signal pattern. Female fireflies will hang out on a tree branch or in the grass while the male fireflies will fly around showing off their best flashes. In return, the female will answer the male of the same species with her best flash. Perhaps this one got distracted by the electrical lights at the jetty...

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