Weston is a small fishing village that lies on the south-western part of Sabah. It has a population of just about two thousands, and most of them live in the water village which is located at the back of the Weston commercial shoplot. Weston was once an important seaport for North Borneo Company during the late 1800s. Most of the produces from the interior was transported to Weston, where big sail ships would come and carry these goods to other parts of the world. In the 1900s other towns on the west coast of Sabah were given preference for development and Weston was very much left behind. Today only a few shops and a market are seen open for business at the town centre. While Weston has lost out on modern development, its eco-system which consists of many rivers, mangroves, wetlands and wildlife is pretty much preserved and kept in tag. The Weston Wetland Park is only one kilometre away from the town centre. Here guests can go on a river cruise to see monkeys, fire flies, crocodiles, birds, otters, plus the unique Proboscis monkeys which are only found in Borneo.
The best time to go for the river cruise is during the late afternoon, when the sun’s heat power has been turned down considerably. After boarding the river boat and with the safety jacket in place, the able boatman will bring guests on a mission in search of the elusive and handsome proboscis monkey. The Nabahan river, one of the tributary of the Weston river, is a popular cruising area for most of the tour companies that operate at the Weston Wetland Park. Nipah trees, “Bom-Bom” trees, and “Bidarah” trees are the main types of plant and vegetation that can be seen along the river bank. Watch out for the Bidarah trees which look like trees during the winter season where most of the leaves had dropped to the floor. The Proboscis monkeys like to hang out on the Bidarah trees, as they would pluck and munch on the young leaves of these trees.
The Proboscis monkeys normally live in a group or harem. Each harem would consist of a leading male with about ten or more females and their young ones. The leading male has a big nose which sometimes grows until it covers the mouth. It is usually seen sitting on top of the tree with its pot belly clearly visible. Another unique feature of the Proboscis Monkey is overseeing its subjects. The leading male Proboscis monkey would spend many hours protecting its females from getting intimate with other male proboscis monkeys. While humans champion monogamy in marriage, the Proboscis Monkey will not have it any other way but its polygamy life style. It seems to have a lots of fun doing just that.
Apart from the proboscis monkeys, guests with a keen eye-sight would be able to spot many other wildlife too. Cohabitating with the proboscis monkeys are the long-tail macaque and silver leaf monkey. They are often sighted in groups as well and are commonly seen hanging out on the tree branches. Along the sand bank of the river, big and small crocodiles can be seen warming up their body temperature under the sun. A distance family of the crocodiles is the monitor lizards, and they are sometime seen resting on tree branches. Small mammal like the otters are occasionally seen running up and down doing their daily chores. Birds are common at the Weston wetland too. The colourful Kingfishers, with its blue and orange feathers, are expert fish hunters in these riverine. School of egrets have a habit of hanging at the mangrove trees when dusk is approaching. This in turn makes the mangrove tree look like lot of white tissue papers thrown at it, a delusive visual effect from afar. During the fruit season, one would be able to spot fruit bats flying in groups during the early evening.
From north to south along the South China Sea all the coastal areas on the west coast of Sabah have very good sunset view. Weston is of no difference, therefore guests here would have the good fortune of witnessing this wonderful display of nature, so long as it is not a raining day. Before heading back to the resort for dinner, the boatsman would bring guests to a special spot on the Weston river and here guests would want to take sometime to apprecaite the beautiful sunset of the wetland. The show would last about 15 minutes, where the blue sky and white clouds would change colours a few times from sky blue to golden yellow or from snow white to deep orange and purple before eventually settling on dark black.
Dusk is also the time where one can see many white egrets congregated on the mangrove trees near the riverbank. Talking about numbers, a few hundreds of these egrets would fly in from all directions especially from the sea, and these birds would settle down on the branches of the mangroves. These egrets create a special illusion on the green mangroves by turning many trees in the area white, as if some one has thrown lots of white tissue papers at them. This is a nice moment for pictures taking especially for the contrasting colours of white and green.
After about an hour and half on the river exploring wildlife and nature, guests are brought back to the restaurant for their dinner. Most of the tour agents have their restaurants on the Weston river. The restaurants are normally built on stilts with an open air concept, so that guests here can dine in style and enjoy the wonderful view of the wetland river too. The Ko-Nelayan Restaurant is one of these operating at the Weston river. Here dinner consists of a variety of dishes from vegetables to meats. A must try item at Weston is the river prawns, a local delicacy. These river prawns are caught daily to ensure that the meaty river prawns are always fresh.
Weston Fire Flies
Many people are facisnated with the sight of fire flies blinking in the trees. Yes these small flying insects give out tinny little green lights that are able to light up the tree like lights on a Chirstmas tree. At Weston the boatsman can actually take one directly under the mangrove trees where close contact with the fire flies is sometimes possible. Some part of the Weston river have big fire flies concentration that they light up a row of trees that run parallel to the river for almost a hundred metres. Weston is surely one of the best places to watch fire flies at night.
Most tour packages will end after watching the beautiful fire flies display and many would board the tour coaches and head back to Kota Kinabalu. For those who want to experience a night by the wetland they can choose to stay at the dormitory at Ko-Nelayan Resort. Two rooms each with seven bunk-beds are available. The interior is simple, basic and most of all, clean. And each room has two attached toilets and showers, plus an air-conditional and industrial fan which help to cool down the place especially during the hot summer months, from May to September. The bed only costs RM 30.00 per person per night and the price includes a wonderful breakfast by the riverside restaurant the next day.
Weston is a quiet place at night, and most of the shops would have closed up by eight o’clock in the evening. For entertainment, prawn fishing is a splendid activity for the night. Just head out to the jetty on the side of the river, with hooks and baits in hands, one would have good fun fishing the local prawns. The river prawn looks a bit like the mantis prawn with large head, but it has long tinny claws instead. Part of the body is in blue colour and it has red eyes. A mature one can grow up to six inches. A good night catch can land someone with a sizable amount of about two kilogrammes. A bit of advice here please just bring in the big ones, let say those bigger than four inches, and throw the smaller ones back into the river so that more bigger ones will be available in the future. This can be a day time activity too where the boatsman will bring one to a special spot at the Weston river for fishing. Prawn fishing is an activities not to be missed here and it is definately fun, and at the end of the day, you can cook the fresh river prawns for a tasty meal or the chef at Ko-Nelayan Restaurant would be happy to do it for you, and serve it to you in a plate.
Weston can be dated back to 1889, when the North Borneo Charted Company was busy building the railway system that linked up many parts of the west coast. Does Weston sound English? If you say yes, you are right. Because Weston is named after Arthur J. West, a railway engineer who was given the task of building the railway from Weston to Beaufort and eventually to Tenom. The total distance for this track was 80 km and it was completed in 1905. The North Borneo Railway imported a few Steam-powered trains from England, and these trains were used to bring tobacco, the main produce, from the interior to the Weston Seaport. For decades the trains ran smoothly, until the beginning of the Second World War and the Japanese Occupation which destroyed almost all the rail road. After the war, the train from Beaufort to Weston was put back to service, but it was closed down in 1963. These old steam trains are now artifacts at the Sabah Museum.
Many people believe that the Weston Wetland area has the highest concentration of proboscis monkeys in the west coast of Sabah. The fire flies here are also special, because they crowd the tree from the bottom to the top, and are busy blinking throughout the night, and also the prawn fishing activity, Weston Wetland Park is very well worth a visit. As simple river cruise at Weston Wetland Park will cost about RM 60 onward, which includes a simple afternoon tea and dinner.
How to go there?
Weston is about 122 km south of Kota Kinabalu. Take the A2 road from Kota Kinabalu to Beaufort. After passing the old steel bridge over the Padas river another 32 km will get you to Weston. Just watch out for the junction on the right hand side of the road after 20 minutes drive from Beaufort. The road is tared all the way. Weston Wetland Park is just one kilometre from the town centre and take the road beside the Mosque. For independent traveller, one can take a bus from Kota Kinabalu to Beaufort (RM 10) and from Beaufort take a mini-bus to Weston which only costs RM 5.
Ko Nelayan Resort
mobile: 017 833 63 60 (Ainah)
For tour package in Weston Wetland Park:
mobile: 010 955 3161 (Mr. Burhan)
Weston Wetland Park Gallery:
Nabahan River At Weston Wetland
Weston Wetland Park Sunset
Ko-Nelayan Restaurant at Weston Wetland Park