Sunday, April 02, 2006

Dolphin Watching in Sarawak, Who to Go With


Currently there are only two operators in the Kuching area that regularly conduct dolphin watching tours. These are tour operator CPH Travel and boat owner Ehwan Ibrahim from Kampung Buntal. Both are experienced at locating and approaching Irrawaddy dolphins. If you are going on a dolphin watching tour, bear in mind that Irrawaddys are not the easiest of dolphins to spot. They are shy and only appear on the surface very briefly. Sightings are not guaranteed so you might want to combine dolphin watching with another marine tour, for example a mangrove cruise. That way you are guaranteed to see some wildlife, even if you don’t see a dolphin.

CPH Travel pioneered dolphin watching tours in Sarawak. They first offered the tours in 1998. They have a range of modern boats and their boatmen are good dolphin spotters. Most of CPH’s boatmen come from the fishing villages in the Santubong area. CPH’s dolphin watching tours focus on the Santubong estuary. Tours depart from the Santubong boat club, just 5-10 minutes away from the areas where dolphins are commonly spotted.

In addition to offering dedicated dolphin watching tours, CPH offer a range of marine tours including mangrove and wildlife cruises, trips to the Kuching Wetlands National Park, snorkelling trips to Satang Island and full day boat cruises that take in all the attractions of the wider Santubong area. Most of CPH’s marine tours incorporate some dolphin watching but this is not the primary focus of the tours.

One of CPH’s most popular trips is the Santubong Wildlife Cruise which departs around 4 pm and returns around 7.30 pm. First you go in search of Irrawaddy dolphins in the Santubong estuary; then you head upriver to check out the mangroves and wildlife (with good chances of seeing proboscis monkeys). As darkness falls you go in search of crocodiles, using flashlights to locate the croc’s eye shine.

CPH Travel, 70 Padungan Road
93100 Kuching, Sarawak, Malaysia
Tel: 082-242289 Email: cphtrvl@po.jaring.my
www.cphtravel.com.my

Ehwan bin Ibrahim is a boat owner from Buntal. A former fisherman, he started offering mangrove and wildlife tours in and around the Buntal area about 6 years ago. He has two fibreglass boats; both can take a maximum of 6 people. Ehwan uses boatmen from his village, although sometimes he runs the tour himself.

As the Bako-Buntal bay is a wider stretcher of water than the Santubong estuary, the chances of seeing dolphins are perhaps not as high as Santubong as you have to cover a wider area. But during hide tide the dolphins sometimes enter the Buntal River itself, offering great opportunities to view and photograph the dolphins.

Ehwan will usually combine dolphin watching with a mangrove/wildlife tour. You first head out of the village into the estuary to search for Irrawaddy dolphins, if they are not around the boat turns back and enters the Buntal river. You then go in search of wildlife such as silver-leaf monkeys, macaques, proboscis monkeys, estuarine crocodiles and whole range of birdlife. All the time your get to see life in the bay and the river, with fishing craft coming and going and heaps going on.

Ehwan is quite flexible. Tell him what you want to see and do and he’ll tailor the boat cruise to you requirements. The good thing about Ehwan’s tours is that you get to immerse yourself in Kampung life as well. After a tour you can have a stroll round Buntal village, or sit down and have a chat with Ehwan and his mates. Ehwan’s wife Serimah also bakes some of the best Malay-style layer cakes in Sarawak so you can even stuff your face with cakes after your trip.

Ehwan Ibrahim
No. 211, Kampung Buntal, Sarawak, Malaysia.
Tel: 082-846977 or 019-8785088

Ehwan’s house is opposite the 88 Seafood Restaurant, just before the village’s market area.

Finally, a word of warning. Over the last year or so a number of other tour operators in Kuching have started to market dolphin watching tours, or at least claim that they do. Some of these operators use CPH or Ehwan so essentially act as booking agents. However, some use inexperienced boatmen and guides-cum-spotters who do not know how to approach dolphins properly. Sad to say but many of these operators are clueless. One even advertises Irrawaddy dolphin tours by using a photo of a Spinner Dolphin! Whilst you may see dolphins on these trips, your chances of success are less than if you use the more experienced and responsible operators/boat owners.


6 comments:

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Anonymous said...

Wonderful! Argyll is such a beautiful place to visit. The countryside is amazing and there are sea trips that are fantastic too like watching the dolphins argyll in their natural habitat. It's surely one great thing to see.

Adeline Ong said...

Informative. Thanks

Adeline Ong said...

Informative. Thanks