How to see the Fireflies?  A place acknowledged to have fireflies all year round.  They make their appearances every night - rain, with or without moonshine.
  Where can I find such a place ?

To locate a possible site, the vicinity must be familiarized by day. Know some basic facts about the lifestyle of Fireflies. For example - The necessary essence of a wet damp forest and preferable filled with tall trees. Then next, if the area is sparsely populated, it would save a lot of time if you seek the opinion of local residents of any sightings. The intensity, regularity and also any seasonal patterns if such Fireflies were sighted in the past.

If all the answers point to a possible sightings, then be ready to do your nocturnal stalking.

In the tropical area like Malaysia, the dense foliage of thick grass land and forest edges like this scene in the picture below is representative of an ideal site. [You cannot see the wet ground, but the type of palm will denotes that it is so]

How would we know that we are at the right place ?

You need not spend the whole evening, walking, hiding or even waiting for the Fireflies to show up. As soon as the darkness sets in,  these beetles if they are present, are at work and can be seen from places some distances away.  If they are not, then you should have a fall back plan as to the next nearest options to continue your hunt.

Another example to supplement the scene above.

This is a typical scene of a river and there are forest lining both banks. It meets the main criteria of  a possible Fireflies site.

OK! This scene is one from my featured site Kuala Selangor. Unknown to many the river banks here, are also subjected to inundation and this fact enhances the possibility of breeding grounds for Fireflies.

Both banks are flanked by thick riverside vegetations. The tidal effects have created a buffer zone of mudflats that supports specially  trees that  are surviving in the inundation table. The area, also termed as the intertidal area where the salinity and water conditions is conducive to the propagation and well being of the Mangrove, Nipah and Sago Palms. Sonneratia caseolaris and the fireflies has taken a liking to one another. The tree thrive here and not elsewhere. The belt of special vegetation has seclude it from disturbances or development. The diverse vegetation and the rich soil support a populations of insect that forms the lower rung of the food chain after the Fireflies.

The habitats have been instrumental to allow huge colonies of fireflies to thrive. They breed in the ground and gather around the trees nightly to perform their mysterious rituals. 

How long does the consistent landscape stretches. For the purpose of doing the nocturnal journey along the banks - long enough.

Another uniqueness - below - an example of the healthy Sonneratia - a  plant full of fruits. Sonneratia do not cluster themselves into forest.

Here along the river banks, they can be seen alone and apart from their own kind. In between these trees, are other Mangroves, mainly the hardy Avenccenia or even fig trees. 



What are we expecting to see in Kuala Selangor?

In the darkness of the night, the glow of the pulsating lights projected in the shape of trees to create a shoreline scene. This subtle glow as the sky line is in stark contrast to the eerie "darkness" of the night forest. The result - the mood is so mesmerizing that you have to see it to believe. To complete the hat trick, the synchronized flashing display will leave you pondering about the wonders of nature.

For those who are having apprehensions about wilderness in the dark, please be assured that you will not be in a situation of pitch darkness; the stars in the sky itself radiates fair amount of lights. Reflected from the water, the profile of the river, water surface and its banks are very distinct. It is the quietness, stillness and never the darkness that makes such a boat rides memorable.

You will witness the silhouette of a riverside tree with blinking lights scattered over the entire clump of trees. This scene is repeated over a long stretch of the river banks, but you will get to see what the boatman will show to you - along a selected one kilometer or so.

In general, the light pattern indicate that almost the beetles have gathered in swarms, among the trees only. Their flashing is so consistent that earns themselves the term of synchronized fireflies. The mention of this  "Christmas tree" syndrome is a natural wonder and a "Must See" sight, is not a situation of over emphasis but concurrences from those who had seen it.

A picture of towering tall trees that also form the landscape but the beetles will limit their activities to certain heights. There will not be any display in this canopies.  Passengers are requested to remain absolutely quiet and do not use lights or camera flash during the entire trip! If you need to know more, it would be worthwhile to see the trees by days for better appreciation.

Is it true that there are less fireflies now ?

This is matter of opinion and expectation! It correspond to the situation of your Christmas tree at home and that of your neighbor. Whose tree has more lights! Each night many "entire" trees are quite well patronized by these beetle. Some has better crowds than others, depending on a host of reasons. Regulars to the destinations have not noticed any drastic changes in intensity.


The Kuala Selangor  Fireflies sites The terrain, ecology and the vegetations that are conducive for the large colonies to thrive have being briefly introduced. 
A couple of the more pertinent FAQ's that reach the mind of first time visitors -such as - Where can you venture out to watch Fireflies?

    What can you do in Kuala Selangor when you are waiting for the night to come?

The habitats in Kuala Selangor is a world renowned site. Many write ups and books featuring Fireflies have cited the species in this area as references. That speaks much about the phenomenon that you are set to witness. Do not miss  the "Must- See" wonder of the world. Who knows -this could be your last chance in this era of fast disappearing fantasies.  Do not use flash gun in your trip. There is almost nothing that can be recorded in the situation of near darkness. Understand the "Lights" in previous page under the heading of "Flashing"

A picture tells a thousand words, setting many more unknowns aside - below is a sketch to assist in familiarizing yourself with the hinterland.


 Fireflies that emerge from the forest and gather around the trees that dot the entire river banks. There are now 2 spots along these banks. In both spots, the forest cleared and designated as official departure points operated commercially for the nocturnal river cruises. Meaning - You need not consider looking elsewhere.


As to the choice of departure point, the quality of sights that one gets from both locations are almost identical. There may be some minor variations in comfort and ambience during the ride. That again is influenced by the individual's other preferences - such as convenience and transportation. 

This general location that the tour activities is focus on, is a stretch of river banks of the Selangor River. Almost towards the estuary and is about 5-8 kilometers upstream.  The fireflies gathers along this belt  in largest numbers.

Watching Fireflies

The boats departing from Kampong Kuantan are paddled manually by oar. The boatmen will slowly, quietly paddle against the river flow on the outward bound journey. Time for a relaxing ride and absorbing the beauty of the spectacular scene. On the return trip, it will be another smoother but faster ending.

Pay for your fares at the ticketing booth, then walk to the departure point,  just some meters away. Wait in the departure lounge for your turn - upon reaching the head of the queue, board the vessels . The boat will then leave the jetty and head into darkness. Minutes later lights will appear on the banks.

The viewing sites is measured by the distance traveled. It is about a kilometers upstream or downstream i.e. once out of the glows from the lamps of the jetty. Why upstream or down stream?. That is governed by the tides, incoming or outgoing at the time of your trip on the river. The boatman will paddle against the tide on the way out and drift home on the return leg.         

How  would first timer knows that they have being taken to the appropriate spot? There is no appropriate spot! Along the bank, there will be trees, those with conventional leaves [non-palm trees] will be mobbed by swarms of fireflies. In your river trip, you will be passing by one "Christmas tree" after another. Hence, the quality of your sightings will be measured by the number of leafy trees you have floated by and also the weather for the evening.

In fact you will get to see them twice! On the outward bound and the return trip. The duration and length of your trip is predetermined [with marginal adjustments upon personal urging].

More information about the 2 departure points :-

The original operating center - Kampong Kuantan Fireflies Park

This is the venue that started the awareness and the craze. It has being recognized as the portion of the banks that has the highest number of trees and greatest concentration. Used to be the one and only officially appointed departure center.

The operation of the once loosely organized boatmen evolved. The whole operation of this center is now handled by the village committee. All trips into the darkness is controlled and co-ordinate. No other unauthorized villager can ply the business of ferrying visitors. So you need not ponder about making your own arrangement to stay longer on the river. Or having apprehension as to whether you need to hassle or striking a better deal in your visit.  There are now 31 boats belonging to 3 private owners. The proceed of the ticket sales are distributed as follows:- the Boat owner will get Myr 20, the Co-operative and the Boatman will each receive Myr 10.

Those intending for a daylight river cruise can get your boat here for Myr 120. Capacity will be around 4-6 persons with the time of the ride extending up to half a day.

The regular tours begins at 8.00 pm each night - officially the ticketing booth will stop accepting visitors by 11.00 pm. On weekends, in worse scenario, there has being instances where late-comers reaching there at closing time, needed to hang around until 1.00 am for their turns for the boat ride.

Boats used here are conventional "sampans" [small wooden boats] that can spaciously accommodate  4 persons. The boatmen or women paddles the boat with twin oars.

Tickets for the tours are available from the booth which opens after dark, though the boat ride only starts at 8.00 pm..

Standard arrangement, each boat will take 4 persons. If your party for the night has less than 4 persons or you are with a large group where the final number are not in multiples of 4, then you may decide to get other visitors to fill and share the boat cost. For example, on less crowded days, it is not that it not easy to get others to share but you can have the boat all to yourself. This decision need to be resolved before obtaining the tickets as they are issued for each boatload. In this complex that houses the ticketing counters are toilet facilities, souvenirs shop and an outlet for snacks. A children playground is in the playing field next to the building. Each ticket will be accompanied with a bottle of plain water as refreshment.

The departure terminal is a short walk about 100 meters from the ticketing counter. It is mandatory all visitors are strapped on with a life jacket before boarding. The boats are there, always waiting for boarding and at its peak, boats are departing every 2/3 minutes. The lag time for the time taken for each disembarkation and boarding.

The "Plus" point for this nostalgic place is the boat ride with that rustic mood. I would equate it as reviving memories of a ride from a Amazon night safari or feelings captured in the Venetian canals.

A new private operator in Sungei Belimbing

On the opposite bank of Kampong Kuantan is this private operator. You cannot just hop across. The only bridge to get across to the other side, is in Kuala Selangor town itself. Hence to get to this new destination, it is about 9 kilometers from town or a big loop of 20 kilometers from Kampong Kuantan.

The complex consist of an enquiry counter cum reception, a cluster of chalets and a departure jetty. The center caters for staying-in guest as well as causal walk-in sightseers. There is also a fair size air-conditioned Chinese Seafood Restaurant beside the reception office.


This is a private operator - under the name of Firefly Park Resort.

The Resort in my last visit in May '02 has a fleet of 8 fiber-crafted boats. The boat are electric powered by wet cells, have 5 rows of wooden bench seats and a fiber canopy.

You get the ticket at the Reception counter of the Resort and enter a fenced compound housing the Chalet and the boat terminal about 50 meters away.

Departure is upon filling up the seating capacity usually of about 10 persons. During the slack period the boat will leave as soon as the boarding crowd is cleared. The obvious difference here is the charges for the boat ride is fixed at MYR 10 per person.  You need not worry about about meeting a quota of a boatload- just board as an individual.

  Here electric powered boats takes over.

The boat tours starts at 8.00 pm and ends at 10.00 pm and each ride last about 30 minutes.

Marginal differences between the 2 departures points

 1] On normal days, there is virtually no waiting time at both points. However during the peak periods as on Saturday night, the waiting time at the Resort is shorter. Reason being, each boat carries 10 persons. Less group tours visiting the center.

2] The Kampong Kuantan Center is located on stretches that has more "leafy" trees. Banks on the Belimbing center are interspersed with Nipah palm and intermittent clumps of trees. In this way, opportunity of seeing a continuous row of trees is better in the former.

3] There will be contacts at the restaurants and taxi terminals that offers to guide you. Ignore the points raised by person promoting their choices.

If you still need more information about the Fireflies Site in Kuala Selangor or traveling there, my main site has the pertinent links.


Scenes as perceived by  Wanderbug - log on for more

Watching Fireflies in Malaysia