The outback of Terengganu packs plenty of pleasant surprise in Malaysia’s largest man-made lake. Beyond the amazing landscape, Kenyir Lake is a treasure chest of natural, historical and cultural affairs.
The creation of Kenyir Lake or Tasik Kenyir (in Malay language) is unintentional. This freshwater lake was formed circa 1980s when a dam was built to generate hydro-electric power and mitigate flooding in Terengganu. Water from the dam would flow to the valley and fertile land behind, filling the lowland and naturally forming around 340 smaller islands from remaining hilltops.
Present day, exotic wildlife, fishes and various plants species beautifully endowed Kenyir Lake as it thrives on a landscape drawn with mountains, rivers, limestone caves and waterfalls. Without a doubt, Kenyir Lake is a dark horse running as one of Malaysia’s top eco-tourism.
Living on a Houseboat
A houseboat is akin to a house on water; there are living room, bedrooms, toilets, kitchen and even an entertainment space for karaoke session. At Kenyir Lake houseboats, you can choose to hire a houseboat chef for your stay or wear the chef’s hat yourself.
During my time in Buyong Houseboat, the kind operator took us to different waterfalls on two evenings to make the most of Kenyir Lake’s attractions. On my second night, we even had a barbeque on the houseboat right in front of the waterfall! Even without a phone connection, nothing beats waking up to the sight of waterfall, sun rising on the waters and smell of the surrounding forests when you’re living with nature.
There are many houseboat operators on the lake with different packages so when you’re choosing, see which activities are the best interest to you and your travelling friends. Fares for houseboat living are usually determined by the type of boat, activities covered in Kenyir Lake island hopping and your length of stay.
What To Do at Kenyir Lake
There are plenty to be done in Kenyir Lake so I would recommend spending at least 3 days and 2 nights on the lake, just so you can make the best out of your time on the lake!
The natural forests on the Kenyir Lake islands are worthy of an expedition. For this trip, I was blessed to have Mr Khairul Abu Bakar–a national award-winning tour guide–to lead the way to see the biggest Melunak tree in West Malaysia.
It is an extremely valuable tree in the logging industry and the large tree is estimated to be 314 years old. Along the way, trekkers can also spot the trail of elephants, traces of tapir and excitingly, prints of a tiger cub in the forest. Discover other popular and challenging trails at Gagau Mountain or Lawit.
Kenyir Lake is an angler’s heaven. The 38,000 hectares of freshwater lake is estimated to be the home to 300 species of freshwater fishes. Popular ones are snakehead, friendly barb, green arowana and giant gourami. It is also said that during the rainy season, the fish can even be caught with only a pair of hands. Although you can fish from your houseboat’s deck, anglers are encouraged to fish at designated spots on the lake like Cacing Island, Leban, Petuang, Saok and Terenggan.
There are two limestone caves to be explored in Kenyir Lake; Gua Bewah and Gua Taat. Gua Taat would be inaccessible at times due to high tides so make sure to catch the right timing for a visit. See more on cave exploration in Kenyir Lake here.
As Kenyir Lake a heaven for anglers, the champion of all fish breeds is the Malaysian mahseer. It is also Malaysia’s most expensive gourmet fish and sought-after game fish for anglers. Threatened and dwindling in numbers, a conservatory zone is set up for the species to naturally breed at Petang River. Tourists to the lake can visit the sanctuary and swim with these unique fishes! Continue reading here.
It is only natural to go island hopping among the hundreds of little islands on Kenyir Lake. The 3 notable stops for tourists are definitely Herbal Park, Orchid Garden and Butterfly Park. Check out in depth the stops around these islands here.
Kenyir Elephant Conservation Village (KECV)
Visitors can feed, interact and bath the rescued and wild elephants at KECV. Also, catch an educational show where the elephants perform with their trained caretakers, showcasing the creature’s level of intellect and playfulness. See more of my experience here.
Good To Know
• It is recommended to hire a licensed local tour guide to get the most out of Kenyir Lake. There are plenty of Kenyir Lake’s historical and interesting local stories to know about.
• Kenyir Information Center is open from 8am till 5pm every day at Pengkalan Gawi, the main jetty entrance to Kenyir Lake.
• Extreme sports like waterfall abseiling and zip-line into water are also offered in Kenyir lake. Contact Go Nature Travel & Tour at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Text and photos by Jessy Wong