Kenyir Lake, Largest Man-Made Lake in Southeast Asia

Kenyir Lake, Largest Man-Made Lake in Southeast Asia

A vast body of water, this man-made lake paints a picture of serenity and stillness that has endeared itself to the hearts of the locals and foreigners.

The Limpid Waters of Kenyir Lake; Dazzling Sights to Behold

Vast Lake Kenyir
The Kenyir Lake, bold in its splendour

Kenyir Lake encompasses an area of 260 square km (roughly a third of Singapore), including 340 small islands, 14 waterfalls and 30 rivers feeding the lake. Capable of generating up to 400MW of hydroelectric power, the lake was contrived in 1989 following the construction of the Sultan Muhammad Power Station, which is also known as the Kenyir Dam. Since then, it has gained the reputation of being the largest artificial lake in Southeast Asia and has been successfully developed as an ecotourism destination, welcoming visitors from all over the globe. The best time to visit the Lake would be in March and April as the water levels are highest and you get to enjoy Kenyir Lake in its full splendour.

Beautiful hornbill
Beautiful Hornbills at Kenyir Lake warily eyeing visitors

Described as a wondrous nature getaway, even the Myanmar Times: Unnatural Nature Offers Surprising Beauty at Tasik Kenyir speaks highly of the Kenyir Lake and it is not surprising; this nature sanctuary harbours thousands of flora and fauna species, including 8000 species of flowers, 370 species of orchids, about 1000 species of birds, butterflies and other animals. Furthermore, it is also home to Asian elephants, Malayan tigers, deer and snakes. Sightings of different hornbills species have been recorded here, so to the avid birdwatchers, this is the place to be!

Do you know that the Kenyir Lake is also the gateway to Taman Negara? To find out more about Taman Negara, read about it at Adventoro’s Adventure News: Taman Negara, One of the World’s Oldest Tropical Rainforest.

Getting to Kenyir Lake

Situated only a 50 minutes’ drive from Kuala Terengganu Airport, you can easily fly from Singapore or Kuala Lumpur. If you’re departing from Kuala Terengganu city and only wish to experience Kenyir Lake for a day, you can opt to join the Kenyir Lake Exploration Tour which includes return transportation from the city.

Pengkalan Gawi, serves as the main entry point to Kenyir Lake. This is where the Tourist Information Centre, a parking bay, a jetty and various watersport activities for rental can be found. Before entering the park though, note that fees would be levied for the conservation and maintenance of Kenyir Lake. You would have to pay an entry fee (RM1), camera fee (RM5), fishing fee (RM10) and if you so chooses, a camping fee (RM1). If you are going to the Taman Negara National Park, you need an additional permit from the Wildlife Office at Kuala Berang or obtain it at the National Park entry point at Tanjung Mentong.

Casting the Rod at Kenyir Lake

Calm lake for fishing
An a
ngler’s playground

You would have heard of Kenyir Lake’s reputation for being an angler’s paradise. Home to over 300 freshwater fish species, avid anglers would attempt to capture the Malaysian mahseer, the snakehead, Friendly barb, Giant gourami and the Green arowana, to name a few. If you’re looking to fish, the best time to fish is during the dry season in August when the water level is low.  

Gigantic Arapaima
The gigantic Arapaima Gigas

Not too long ago, Kenyir Lake graced news headlines as being the habitat for a monster fish. The Star: Giant Fish Sightings in Kenyir Lake, dubbed as the “Kenyir Monster”, it was later speculated that the “monster” is probably an arapaima gigas, released into the waters a while ago. It is said to be able to grow up to 4.9m and it is a native of the Amazon rivers of South America. It was even linked to the death of two men, which caused quite a commotion. Till this day, no one knows what may have befallen this colossal fish; it may still be roaming the lake.

Hop from One Nature Park to Another!

Path to the Herbal Park
Take a relaxing stroll at the verdant Herbal Park

In order to fully utilise its natural resources, the authorities have converted some of the islands into parks for tourists. One such endeavour is the Kenyir Lake Herbal Park situated on Pulau Sah Kecil (Sah Kecil Island). The Herbal Park consists of more than 200 species of traditional herbs such as Tongkat Ali, Misai Kuching, Haji Samad and more. Just a 10 minutes’ boat ride away from Pengkalan Gawi, you can easily drop by to learn about the different herbs and even sample some herbal beverages.

Furthermore, there’s the Tropical Park which boasts 110 rare and exotic fruit trees such as the Bacang, Terengganu Cherry and Asam Gelugor. Catering to younger crowds, there’s also the Kenyir Water Park, a small theme park with slides, obstacle courses and a pool for children. Note that there is an entrance fee for the water park: RM25 Adult; RM15 Child (open from 10:00 AM to 05:30 PM). Furthermore, Kenyir Lake also has a Butterfly Park (located at Pulau Lubuk Geras) and an Orchid Park with a wide selection of imported and native orchids. 

Shoal of Malaysian Mahseer
A shoal of fishes waiting to welcome you and nibble at your feet

The Kelah Fish Sanctuary where the Malaysian mahseers are bred might pique your interest. It is a dedicated fish breeding grounds for the mahseer as it this particular species is highly sensitive and would not thrive in low oxygenated waters. Situated at the Sepetang River, it is only opened to the public from March to October and its entry point is located at Sg. Gawi. With just a small sum of RM10 per person, you'll be able to experience swimming with the fishes and enjoy a tickling massage as the fishes nibble tenderly at your feet. Even the Borneo Post: A Successful Dam Story states that the Kelah Fish Sanctuary is a must-visit here at Kenyir Lake! 

Take a Dip at the Refreshing Lasir Waterfall

Beautiful Lasir Waterfall
Admiring nature’s beauty at Lasir Waterfall

Lasir Waterfall is impressive; it cascades gracefully into natural pools that seem to lure weary hikers into its cool, refreshing pools for a dip. Its near-phantasmal beauty; silvery streams seemingly coming out of water-eroded boulders paints a wildly picturesque image. Near this powerful waterfall is a suspension bridge that provides you with a good view of the fall - perfect for photography.

In a bid to develop Kenyir Lake into a tourism hub as well as the first duty-free lake in the world, the Malaysian authorities also look to rebrand it to be exclusively for women. This unique approach stems from the request made by many women travellers and tourists from West Asia. Daily Mail: No Men Allowed! Stunning Waterfall in Malaysia to Be Rebranded as Women-Only to Create a ‘Unique Tourist Attraction’. Now before we get all worked up, men are only banned from a waterfall (one of the many) and not the entire lake.

There are numerous other cascades for you to explore; the Saok fall is the closest to Pengkalan Gawi and only takes half an hour by boat to reach. The less frequented Lata Baju may not be as impressive as Lasir Waterfall but it is attractive nonetheless, flowing into a natural pool. The Sg Buweh fall is only a few kilometre from the jetty and is as good as any for a short visit.

Standing at the Border of Three States, Hiking the Mount Gagau

Mount Chergau
Swathed in green, Mount Chergau

Those of you who aren’t into fishing or aren’t too keen on spending hours on a boat, stretch your legs and try hiking up Mount Gagau; its peak a convergence of three separate state borders (Pahang, Terengganu and Kelantan). Aside from that, you can also explore and trek up Mount Chergau, known to be the highest peak at Lake Kenyir, standing at an impressive 1,375m above sea level. Mount Bongsu and Mount Padang, situated close by are also viable options for hiking and camping if you have the time.

Partake in Fun-Filled Water Activities

 If you’re under the impression that a trip to Kenyir Lake is only for fishing, you’re sorely mistaken. Time spent at Kenyir Lake is guaranteed to be fun. Aside from fishing and embarking on nature trails, you can also opt for canoeing, kayaking, rafting or experience the thrilling rapid shooting down one of the many rivers that feed the lake. Head to Pengkalan Gawi and you’re sure to find a selection there to make the most of your Kenyir trip.

Spelunking Adventures at the Lake

Limestone formations at Taat Cave
Gorgeous limestone formations at Gua Taat

For those intrepid travellers, the limestone caves of Gua Bewah and Gua Taat beckons. Home to numerous creepy crawlies such as tiger-spiders (recognisable by a diamond-like crown on its head), centipedes and—unmistakably—swarms of bats, these caves are also adorned with gorgeous stalactites and stalagmites. The Gua Taat (Taat Cave) is not always accessible; the entrance is easily submerged especially during rainy seasons but the Gua Bewah (Bewah Cave) is open for visits all year round. Cave exploration was also one of the five listed at Expat Go: Top 5 Things to Do at Lake Kenyir.

Astonishing Relics and Prehistoric Fossils Were Uncovered

Limestone formations at Bewah Cave
The limestone abode of the "Bewah Man"

Aside from stunning stalagmites and stalactites, the Gua Bewah is also the grave of a 13,400-year-old Neolithic human, locals dubbed the “Bewah Man” and said to be the oldest skeleton discovered in Malaysia! Ancient utensils and various other Neolithic tools were also discovered; read more at The Star: Bewah Man Focus of Archaeology Event. Aside from that, The Malaysian Department of Minerals and Geoscience discovered the fossilised remains of dinosaurs and ancient plants, dating back some 250 million years ago; read more at NST: Fossils of Dinosaurs Found in Tasik Kenyir Area, who knows? You might even stumble across a fossilised bone while exploring!

Have Fun with Playful Elephants at the Kenyir Elephant Village

Playful elephants
Playful Pachyderms without a care in the world!

We’ve already established that Kenyir Lake is more than just the lake. Just a stone’s throw away from the jetty lies Kenyir Elephant Conservation Village where elephants roam about freely without a care in the world. The village covers 256 hectares and also include a canopy walkway for visitors to gain a bird's eye view of the elephants and their playful antics—dust-bathing, digging and more. You may also get to see the elephants perform a handful of tricks, and although these sort of thing often have negative connotations, rest assured that the elephants are well looked after and happy. Check out NST: Where Elephants Roam Free for more on the elephant sanctuary.

A Place to Rest Your Weary Head

Lake Kenyir Resort
Enjoy a comfortable stay at the serene Lake Kenyir Resort

The serene 70-acre lakefront Lake Kenyir Resort strives to bring comfort and convenience to the nature retreat. Though it is currently closed for refurbishment, the resort has even been reviewed by CNN Travel: 12 Magical Malaysian Rainforest Retreats as one of the choice accommodations for a relaxing nature getaway. Enjoy the swimming pool, various outdoor activities offered by the resort or relax at the Jenagor Bar & Lounge with some cocktails or beer while enjoying the sounds of nature.

Lake Kenyir Resort & Spa  // Add: Pengkalan Gawi Tasik Kenyir, Kuala Berang, 21700 Malaysia // Check-In/Out: 03:00 pm/12:00 pm  // Contact: +60 9-666 8888 // Website: resort@lakekenyir.com

In a Nutshell

The beauty and serenity of Kenyir Lake are well-known; its waters are teeming with life, fringed by lush verdure and towering canopies, blanketing the facade of limestone hills that keep vast limestone caverns hidden. Undeniably riveting, this wondrous tourist destination would fill your time with copious fun and excitement. Adventoro also offers the Kenyir Lake Exploration Tour to give you a taste of the Malaysian outdoor adventures.

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