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Desaru Revisited – A Tom Sawyer Firefly Riverboat Adventure Cruise


It was a homecoming after many years…

Desaru – a popular seaside destination on the East Coast of the state of Johor, Malaysia; located very close to Singapore, is a favourite short weekend getaway destination for Singaporeans young and old.

We booked a 2D1N package after checking out the Desaru Fruit Farm website. We got there one day earlier as we had booked an extra night’s stay at Tunamaya Beach and Spa Resort to relax and unwind from the hustle and bustle of busy Singapore.

  Tunamaya Beach and Spa Resort - All rooms face the sea.
Tunamaya Beach and Spa Resort – All rooms face the sea.

With additional time, this allowed us to re-explore and revisit this destination Desaru Malaysia again after so many years. The latest development is the Water Adventure Park and some new hotels and resorts at DESARU COAST such as Hard Rock Hotel Desaru Coast and The Westin Desaru Coast Resort.

What to do in Desaru

1. Water Fun: Desaru Coast Adventure Waterpark

Our guide-aka-driver brought us to the waterpark to take lunch at a small food court as it was too early to check into our resort. We took the opportunity to walk to nearby Hard Rock Hotel (soft opening) to take a look after hearing so much about it. The Water Park was located right next to it.

Desaru Coast Adventure Waterpark is one of the World’s largest waterparks.

It is known to have one of the biggest wave pools in the world and a First-of-its-Kind Water Roller Coaster in the region. Located within the premium integrated destination resort of Desaru Coast in Johore, the new waterpark offers a mix of wet & dry rides and slides for its visitors who come from all around Asia and the world. Pity our kids were not around if not they would have loved it!

View of the newly opened Adventure Water Park from Hard Rock Hotel
View of the newly opened Adventure Water Park from Hard Rock Hotel

The next day we started our tour led by our guide aka driver Bob. First, we visited the Crocodile World (not the Ostrich Farm this time which we had been before). It is basically a real legit crocodile farm which keeps and breed crocodiles for their many uses such as their skin for various products (such as bags and accessories) and their meat for health consumption.

Following that, we had a sumptuous lunch at the Desaru Fruit Farm which included, of course, its signature fruit galore – the fruit buffet has the usual staples of papayas, pineapples etc plus favourites like mangoes, jambu, passionfruits. We had just missed the Durian season which was around July to August period – a popular season, especially so for Malaysians and Singaporeans, to visit the Desaru Fruit Farm because of its famed durian buffet which includes seasonal fruits such as mangosteens and rambutans.

 

Do you prefer the beach life of Malaysia? Then check out Langkawi or Tioman for some beach and water activities!

Why one should visit Desaru Fruit Farm – Tropical Fruits Galore 

After lunch, we climbed up a specially designed pick-up truck to bring us nearer to the 180-acres large organic fruit farm. The friendly and knowledgeable Malaysian guide then gave us an educational commentary of the various fruit trees we could see as we walked along the trails.

Desaru Fruit Farm Galore | Desaru Coast Revisited
Desaru Fruit Farm Galore | Desaru Coast Revisited

Durian fans anyone? Some places in Desaru even offer Fruit and Durian Buffets

Desaru Fruit Farm is truly unique as it also grows a huge variety of rare plants and tropical fruit trees. During our walk, we also spotted a unique banana tree different from the rest, as its flower was pointed upwards instead of the usual downwards as seen from the other banana trees.
If you come and visit Desaru in the right durian season here in Malaysia, you get to enjoy this exotic lavish tropical fruit that you either love, or hate.

Tasty Meals at Desaru | Desaru Malaysia Revisited
Tasty Meals at Desaru | Desaru Malaysia Revisited

Lastly, we were brought to the mini animal farm; if there were any children in the group, they would be the ones most excited at the sight of rabbits, goats, etc. You could buy some carrots to feed them and pet them if lucky. On top of that, there is also a fish pond to feed fishes, namely the colourful koi fish.

Mini Animal and Pets Farm | Deasru Day Excursions and Tours
Mini Animal and Pets Farm | Deasru Day Excursions and Tours

Keen on doing a farm stay at Desaru Fruit Farm?

If you are into farm stays, this is also available here but you need to do more prior research before that.

Tom Sawyer Adventure – Book a Firefly Tour Package

Tom Sawyer Adventure - Onboard Firefly Riverboat
 

The last but most anticipated programme for the day was the Firefly Tour/ Cruise.

To get to the venue, we were driven through a long narrow road fringed on both sides by oil palm plantations. The area looked rather secluded and cut off from the rest of the world.

The last but most anticipated programme for the day was the Firefly Cruise.
 
 
On arrival, we were led into a riverboat anchored at Sungei Lebam which also acts as a dining venue. We chose a table overlooking the tranquil greenish colour river. At dinner time, we were served a yummy seafood spread with a good variety of dishes from soup, vegetables, meat and carbs. There was even a speciality dish black pepper crab to be tackled with our bare hands (not recommended to bite with your teeth!)
 

Delicious Local Meals and Seafood Provided

Yummy seafood spread with a good variety of dishes from soup, vegetables, meat and carbs
Yummy seafood spread with a good variety of dishes from soup, vegetables, meat and carbs
 

We took a long enjoyable time savouring our dinner, occasionally looking up to behold the mangrove-lined river view as the sky darkened gradually.

Tom Sawyer Adventure - Onboard Firefly Riverboat
Tom Sawyer Adventure – Onboard Firefly Riverboat
 

 

Where to see fireflies – The Moon Light Night in a riverboat

When night fell, we were ushered into another riverboat – a double-deck ferry reminiscent of Tom Sawyer’s Riverboat adventure. (In our previous firefly viewing trip years ago, it would have been a queue of tourists batch by batch donning safety jackets before climbing onto small boats. It was a bit riskier if you were a bit clumsier and fear falling into the river)

boat cruised alongside Sungei Lebam's mangrove, we were awed by spectacular twinkling lights displayed by our nature's own fireflies
 
As the boat cruised alongside Sungei Lebam’s mangrove, we were awed by spectacular twinkling lights displayed by our nature’s own fireflies! It was a moonlit night and a lady alongside us in the cruise recalled the popular song ‘Moonlight Bay’ sung and recorded by various famous singers.  The moonlight cast a reflective light on the leaves of the mangrove. It made the mangrove swamp come alive with shimmering lights intermixed with the fireflies luminescent ‘lanterns’.
 
the boat guide caught one firefly and showed us at close range how it looked like ( without hurting it).

After the boat guide caught one firefly and showed us at close range how it looked like ( without hurting it). Some of us tried to catch the fireflies as well when they flew very close but ended up in futile ( requires great skill!)

Sungei Lebam Fireflies Cruise – Highlight of the Trip

Firefly viewing venue at SUNGEI LEBAM

I would say this Firefly viewing venue at SUNGEI LEBAM was my highlight of the day, especially for these following reasons:

  • the Tom Sawyer’s adventure mood and ambiance on a riverboat,
  • the pretty view of the river and its vegetation as we dined riverside on the riverboat deck.
  • the good weather  and the moonlight added to the unique feel of the night out atmosphere

Love Malaysia so far? Why not go further up to Kuala Lumpur or Langkawi as well?

Some other interesting places in the Desaru area waiting to be discovered

Firefly viewing venue at SUNGEI LEBAM
Firefly viewing venue at SUNGEI LEBAM
 

Mangrove Day Cruise

Even as we chatted with fellow travellers on the cruise, we found out from them, as they shared their day’s adventure, that there were some more places in the Desaru area waiting for me to be discovered and experienced eg Tanjong Balau, the mangrove day cruise. The best boat cruises I had were in Luang Prabang in Laos and Chiang Khan in Thailand, but this one would have to wait till the next opportunity!

 

ATV Quad Bike Ride Experience

The last I tried quad biking was in Bicol in the Philippines. However, while that was an ATV experience up a volcano, this ATV ride will bring you through the fruit farm up close to a lot of these incredible fruit trees, bushes and shrubs. Be careful not to go too fast as you will damage some of the plantations, or even risk a durian falling on your head in the process, which wouldn’t be a pretty sight.

Ostrich Farm

Ostriches are powerful and strong creatures, though they do make you want to laugh with the peculiar little faces on a long neck. If you have never got the chance to be up close to ostriches which most zoos or national parks do not allow, this ostrich farm in Desaru Fruit Farm gives you that opportunity to come up close, feed them and spam some good photos, and if you are lucky, a selfie with an ostrich. I would love to be able to see a baby ostrich someday though!

Crocodile Farm

I was just in Brunei recently and spotted some wild crocodiles in the river during the boat cruise. If being in the same river as a crocodile is not your kind of fun, then perhaps a crocodile farm will be a tame and more controlled environment to see them. Look at the size difference between the big crocs and the small one.

Paintball Group Activites

Who here loves paintball? I have never tried it before, believe it or not, but I heard it is loads of fun and can get a little painful too! But if you want a great group bonding and team building activity with friends, colleagues or business partners, why not try paintball here in Desaru. Its gonna be super fun and a great workout, which can be rewarded with a fruit or seafood feast after that.

Before going on your next travel adventure, consider booking Affordable Travel Insurance from US$14 onwards for that peace of mind! 🙂

Some Extra Tips and Recommendations:

How-Tos: Get to Desaru ( Transport Mode/ Timing/ Where to buy)

The fastest and convenient way (though not very frequent timings) is by ferry from Singapore’s  Changi Ferry Terminal to Tanjong Belungkor Terminal, Johore, which is about 15 mins’ driving to Desaru. It is better to pre-arrange with the hotel for pick up service on arrival as it may be difficult to get transport to the hotel.

There is now a coach service from Singapore to Desaru Coast at $17.50 offered by WTS Travel.

Desaru fireflies

List of Hotels to stay at:

  1. Westin Desaru
  2. Hard Rock Hotel Desaru
  3. Tunamaya Beach and Spa
  4. Explore All

HOW TO GET THERE

By Ferry to Desaru Fruit Farm

From Singapore’s Changi Ferry Terminal to Tanjong Belungkor Terminal, Johore in Malaysia.  See Ferry Schedule below:
 
 

Admission Fees

Entry Fee to Desaru Fruit Farm :

Malaysian Ringgit 26.50 per adult, 21.20 per child  for   TOUR AND FRUIT PACKET
58.30 per adult, 50.90 per child  for  TOUR, LUNCH AND FRUIT FIESTA
For other packages, refer their website www.desaruff.com

Desaru Coast Adventure Waterpark Tickets:

Soft Opening hours: 10am – 6pm Thursday to Sunday
Park closed from   Monday to Wednesday
For more info, check out http://www.desarucoast.com

By Road to Desaru Fruit Farm

Daily coach from Singapore to Desaru Coast from SG$17.50 offered by WTS Travel

Hence concluding what you can experience here in Desaru.
Have you booked your firefly tour package yet?

Don’t forget to get some travel insurance too if you haven’t got to it!

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4 Comments

  • Reply
    Carol
    October 14, 2019 at 7:45 pm

    Pm the price and time table

    • Reply
      Yolo
      October 15, 2019 at 7:07 pm

      The packages are booked through the Desaru Fruit Farm’s own website. The email and contact numbers are shown in one of the images in the website.
      You can find some admission prices and transport costs shown further down in end of the post.

  • Reply
    Shawn Quek
    October 16, 2019 at 10:00 am

    Hi!
    Enjoyed your entry and will be visiting Desaru with my family this December too! I got some questions and hope I did not miss out the answers in your entry above:
    1) How did you go about booking that particular firefly dinner package tour?
    2) How/who did you book to bring you around from point to point? Since getting to the firefly area seems tricky. (do you have the rates you had in July and the contact?)
    Thanks very much and hope to hear from you soon!

    • Reply
      Lydia Yang
      October 21, 2019 at 1:57 pm

      Hi Shawn,
      Hope you are looking forward to your trip in December!
      Regarding your queries, the rates for the fruit farm entry is mentioned near the end of the article under Admission Prices, but for hotel rates it might vary depending on the stay period you booked, in this case Dec. I gave some recommendations of hotels you can book with in my article as well:D Everything else is coordinated with Desaru fruit farm directly.
      Hope that helps!

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