The Cruise – Part 4

What cruise, you must be asking? Well, so did I when I first heard that there were cruises in Cherating. That’s also why it’s always good to talk to the locals…in this case, the local wasn’t exactly local – she was a total Mat Salleh. Remember Amelia of Amies Cafe? Amelia was surprisingly engaging and told us we shouldn’t miss the mangrove river cruise up Sg Cherating…
Maybe it was the awfully laidback way she said it. Or there’s something in the burgers she serves. (Here’s something else: she and her husband run a friendly breakfast/lunch cafe serving everything you could possibly want to eat – muesli, homemade yogurt, homemade lassi, drinks so kick-ass your sinuses clear immediately, burgers, heck, they even bake their own brown bread. At night, the other half of the cafe turns into an Indian cafe, serving Indian food. Now I can’t vouch for the Indian food because we never tried it.)
The next thing we knew, we had signed up for a mangrove river cruise at RM15 per person from this guy named Junaidi who lives/owns/operates Payung Guesthouse. Whom we later found out also runs the Indian cafe at night. Talk about multitasking!

You’d be blind to miss this yellow signboard!

Entrance to Payung Guesthouse…

Payung Guesthouse is actually a bunch of rustic little kampung huts for rent. Each hut has a small bedroom, with mosquito net included, its own little verandah [so you can sit back and enjoy your beer in total hedonism], its own attached bathroom and a little kitchen area.
The last time I had been on a river cruise or sampan ride was in Kampung Kuantan over in Kuala Selangor where I first glimpsed the incredible fireflies. That was hmm…4 years ago I think. And that was at night where the river looked dark as ink. This time, however, the cruise would be in the morning, about 9am. No one seemed to be astir at that hour.
Except our hunky boatman.

The four of us followed our suntanned, muscled and longhaired boatman (imagine The Rock with luscious locks) to the almost falling apart jetty.
We scrambled in, and made ourselves comfortable while he steered the boat expertly. Accordingly, we would see a variety of mangrove inhabitants if we kept our eyes open such as wild boars, monitor lizards (yep, those are aplenty in USM), mangrove birds, fish, mud crabs, snakes etc. But of course, city-dwellers like us wouldn’t even know if the inhabitants came and snorted in our faces…

The boat puttered along the calm green Cherating River, the morning mists just gentling lifting and us craning our necks looking for the animals. The roots of the mangrove trees were visible as it was low tide. These roots are actually useful because they work like filters, before allowing the water to flow into the sea.

Just found out this mangrove shrub is called the Red Teruntum.
As it was going to be a 90-minute boat cruise, we relaxed and hoped our boatman would let us know when he saw anything. The first thing he spied was a snake, curled up high on some branches of a mangrove tree. Which we couldn’t really see until he kept backing the boat up for a more strategic view.
Puffer fish! That’s what Mr Boatman pointed out to us. Tiny ones in a fresh, flourescent green colour, swimming merrily near the river bank. I never knew puffer fish could be found in mangrove areas, did you?
Besides the fish, we also saw fiddler crabs, monitor lizards running like hell away from our boat, mudskippers and birds whose name I didn’t quite know (egrets?). We also got acquainted with the nipah palm. This fruit is where you get the chewy “attap chee” for your regular ais kacang. Mr Boatman said that the nipah palm fronds are used for weaving roofs of kampung houses. It was also good to finally see the mangrove trees which I used to study about when I was in school – what we just called Bakau can actually be categorised under Avicenniaceae, Rhizophoraceae or Sonneratiaceae.
There’s something magical about going back to nature, smelling mud and watching animals watching us. It was also great for contemplation as one sat in the boat, with its puttering engine switched off at times, just floating along. Mangrove swamps are just teeming with all sorts of animals. It’s basically a nursery ground for all types of living organisms.
I would highly recommend the mangrove river cruise but I wished Mr Boatman was a bit more garrulous, at least tell us something about the mangrove. Up till then, I was vaguely unaware that the mangroves were such an important part of our ecosystem. For example, aquaculture actually destroys the mangrove forests. Yes, the commercial cockle-rearing, prawn-rearing and etc. And more important, mangrove plants are undiscovered medicines!
* What else you can do in Cherating: you can windsurf, go sea kayaking, river kayaking, surfing, boogieboarding, snorkelling to the nearby Snake Island, go on a firefly watching trip at night, or go for a leisurely fishing trip (with all equipment provided). Just contact Junaidi from Payung Guesthouse and he’ll make the necessary arrangements ( 019 917 1934/ o9 581 9658) .

5 thoughts on “The Cruise – Part 4”

  1. Hello!
    We really would like to go to Payung Guesthouse! The phonenumbers seem not to work. Could you please help by sending me there email adress, thank you!
    Kinds Regards,
    Fawzia

    Reply
  2. hi,
    We planed to go to payung guesthouse with my girlfriend but we don’t know how to contact them. could you send me the email or the telephone number please? Thanks you
    kinds regards,
    Phil.

    Reply

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