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  • Writer's pictureAlexandra Venkova

Travel Notes - Kukup National Park

This week, we will be exploring a new destination and a very interesting one. Interesting, because I have never seen anything like it-it's truly a new experience and filled with some curious trees, authentic villagers, boat rides and the smell of fish and other things...

Did I get you in the right mood? This week's destination is Kukup island and its National Park. Pulau Kukup is one of the biggest un-inhabited mangrove islands in the world, located west of Johor. It is predominantly covered by mangrove and mudflat. Mangrove trees are shrub or small trees that grow in coastal saline or brackish water (water that's saltier than freshwater, but not as much as seawater). These trees are adapted to live in harsh coastal conditions. They contain a complex salt filtration system and complex root system to cope with saltwater immersion and wave action. What impressed me about these trees, are their roots, which are exposed above ground, giving a very mystic look and feel to the mangrove forests. Any seconds those trees might turn alive and walk away-you can definitely get some 'Lord of the rings' vibes. (If you know, you know).

The island represents a series of wooden bridges, around 800 m long, suspended throughout a mangrove forest, providing a magnificent view of the trees. The National Park is also home to various fauna of crawling multi-legged creatures. There are different attractions along the way, plus an occasional monkey or two. At the end of the boardwalk is the Aery, a six-storey high, approximately 30-meter tall tower. You have to climb to the top to admire a bird’s eye view of Kukup island along with the peace and tranquillity and the picturesque view of treetops and neighbouring islands. 

The dazzling island was not the only highlight of this adventure though. Another fun part of the trip was getting to the island, which involved a walk through a traditional fisher's village and an unforgettable boat ride with real fishermen.

The village walk was an eye-opening experience. Most of the houses were built in kelong style. A kelong is an offshore platform built predominantly with wood, which can be found in waters off Malaysia, the Philippines and Indonesia. Kelongs are built by fishermen primarily for fishing or fish farming purposes, although larger structures can also function as dwellings for them and their families. People here live 'together', literally. Different families have their own properties, however, during the day, everyone is out, mingling with their neighbours. Children are running around, and motorbikes crossing the narrow streets, passing dangerously close to the edges of those kelong platforms. In low tide, these are suspended 3 m above ground. During low-tide, the ground is filled with thousands and thousands of sea creatures-crabs, eels and more. I can't not mention the fish smell that floats through the air, not because it's bad, but because it adds to the whole experience of being so close to the real-life of the real people.

The village is also popular for its super fresh, delicious seafood that you can get at very reasonable prices. The people smiling and friendly. Met an older lady, that was responsible for selling tickets for the boat ride. Treated her to some cherries, in return she wished us good fortune and once on the boat, she waved and waved until we were out of sight.

Goodbye, Kukup! Might see you again!


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