The capital city of Johor might be better known as a gateway to Singapore, or for its abundance of theme parks. Thus, a boat tour around the river and mangroves is probably the last thing you would associate with the bustling city.
But that’s exactly what visitors will find at Kampung Sungai Melayu.
The century-old Malay village in Gelang Patah, about a 15-minute drive from the Johor Baru city centre, is a hidden gem that’s been designated as an ecotourism village by the Johor state government in 2013. Since then, the villagers have worked tirelessly to receive travellers into their humble home.
Why you should go
Located just a stone’s throw away from the heart of JB, Kampung Sungai Melayu is close enough to urban comforts. Yet when you enter the village, it does feel like a remote oasis. It probably has to do with the fact that you’re in an actual kampung!
“Sometimes, we see some city kids getting so excited about seeing a chicken. Every now and then, we will hear shouts of ‘Eh chicken, chicken!’,” a villager tells tell me with a straight face during a tour. If the only kind of chicken you’ve ever seen is at a night safari or fried to crispy perfection in a fast food chain, then by all means do stop by.
Poultry aside, birds – the non-domesticated kind, at least – is one of the village’s main draws. The area sports local and migratory birds, and is a heaven for birdwatchers. Homestay facilities are available for those who want to stay overnight.
What to do
A highlight here is certainly a tour to the floating mussel farm located on the Straits of Johor. To get there, you will need to take a short trip on a boat. Lined along the docks, the boats do come across precarious, but rest assured that all safety precautions are taken into consideration.
From the mussel farm, make your way to the surrounding mangroves where you will be given an education on the great biodiversity of the area. Visitors are also given the chance to catch crabs and fishes.
Back at the shore, go on a trail around the village and learn all about the architecture of a traditional kampung house. The villagers are also more than happy to give a demonstration on cooking, crafts and local produce. Do shop for produce like belacan, keropok and dried mussels as most of them are made right there at the village.
Who will like it
Children growing up in an urban setting might benefit from a visit to Kampung Sungai Melayu. More than just a glimpse of a simpler life, the village offers great insight to the economy and biodiversity in such a setting.
Anglers should stop by for some recreational fishing while birdwatchers should not pass up on the chance to see species such as hornbills, eagles and storks during migration season (typically between December and February).
Driving is your best bet to get to Kampung Sungai Melayu. Those coming from JB can take the Lebuhraya Pesisir Pantai Iskandar to Jalan Sungai Temon Asli. Take the exit toward Taman Laguna/Kampung Sungai Dang from the highway.
Kampung Sungai Melayu
Nusajaya (Iskandar Puteri)
80200, Johor Baru, Johor
Tel: 019-704 5904 (Puan Sharifah)