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An underwater encounter – in Sungai Petang visitors can get unusually close to the ’king of fish’

An underwater encounter – in Sungai Petang visitors can get unusually close to the ’king of fish’

News from Malaysia: the partner country of ITB Berlin 2019

In the Asian country of Malaysia the kelah plays a very important role. On the one hand the ’king of fish’ is regarded as a very tasty freshwater species. On the other hand, when kept in an appropriate environment it is easily approached and shows no fear. Visitors to the state of Terengganu can take part in an unusual encounter with this freshwater inhabitant. For in Sungai Petang, around 45 minutes on foot from the Pengkalan Gawi landing stage, there is a nature reserve that opens its doors to the public annually from October to March. Fishing there is strictly forbidden in order to protect the kelah and ensure that the species thrives. 

At the entrance visitors are handed bags of fish feed to attract the fish – they can also be carefully touched and visitors can even swim with them. The animals also like to nibble at one’s feet in order to remove skin scales, just like at a fish spa.

The fact that the animals are quite docile was found out in the past more or less by coincidence. Their habit of “feeding” on fingers and toes is quite harmless as kelah have no teeth. Visitors encountering these fish for the first time will be overwhelmed at how quickly they swim in their direction when they sense food.

Visitors can enjoy a similar experience in Taman Negara, where in addition to other highlights the Kelah Sanctuary in Lubuk Tenor is one of the latest attractions. This nature reserve also features a centre for researching and preserving this species. What is also quite an experience is to watch huge swarms of young fish swimming in the crystal clear water.

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