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If you think Paya Indah Wetlands is only about controversies (illegal sand-mining, abrupt closure in 2006 and RM10 million worth of refurbishment works), think again. Oh well, don’t think. Go and see for yourself what’s in store at this sprawling site that takes just 15 minutes’ drive from Putrajaya. You’ll be surprised to find the serene recreational park buzzing with visitors who come from as far as Singapore and Penang. Since its soft re-opening in 2008, the park has recorded a steady number
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  If you think Paya Indah Wetlands is only about controversies (illegal sand-mining, abrupt closure in 2006and RM10 million worth of refurbishment works), think again. Oh well, don’t think. Go and see for yourself what’s in store at this sprawling site that takes just 15minutes’ drive from Putrajaya.   You’ll be surprised to find the serene recreational park buzzing with visitors who come from as far as Singapore and Penang.Since its soft re-opening in 2008, the park has recorded a steady number of visitors, most of whom throngthe place on weekends and public holidays. Some 40,000 have visited the park so far this year.Though the 3,200-hectare park still needs upgrading , it’s clear that the earlier investment has been put to good use.The Department Of Wildlife, which took over its management from Malaysia Wetlands Foundation following financial difficulties, redid the park’s landscape, treated the land and water, and re stored eco-tourism facilities like chalets, gazebos, restaurants and meeting rooms. It also built a viewing tower and afishing jetty.Will you see nature and wildlife affected by the illegal sand-mining nearby last year? No.So what can one expect at Paya Indah Wetlands? Well, pack your picnic basket and be there when itopens at 7.30am.Early bird gets the wormEarly visitors get to see the birds. Not one or two but 229 species! Bring binoculars (and camera) andlook out for purple swamp hen, white-breasted water hen, white-bellied woodpecker, olive-backedsunbird, brown shrike, red wattled lapwing and yellow vented bulbul.These are just some of the birds that have been spotted here. Then, when the birds have flown off to lookfor breakfast, look out for colourful butterflies, dragonflies and beetles.As you move from one lake to another (the park is said to have at least 18 lakes), take time to admire theblooming lotuses in pink, white and purple hues. These beautiful blooms add colour to blue skiesreflected on the surface of the placid lakes.This is also the best time to decide on the best place to spread your picnic mat. The family zone isprobably the best spot as there are basic amenities such as toilets, gazebos and a cafeteria. Hippos don’t eat humans, they biteAt 10am, take a walk over to the hippo pond and wait for the wildlife officer to call a family ofhippopotamuses. Just a whistle and the mother and her cub will come out of the water.There are four hippos actually. Three adults (one male and two females) were gifts from the Botswanagovernment when the then prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad visited the country. A baby wasborn here in July.Next to the fence at the pond is a wheelbarrow filled with banana, papaya and grass. The hippo is aherbivore. But its huge canine teeth and sharp incisors are capable of breaking a small boat in half! Nevertheless, seeing them up close is an interesting experience. So close that you’ll get to see that thishuge animal “perspire blood”!  Actually, the red-coloured liquid is an acidic secretion that gives sunscreen protection effect. It’s even more exciting when you get the chance to throw fruit to them. Yes, throw, because you don’t want your hands caught in between those strong teeth or to get too close to its enormous mouth!No hands over the fence!At 11am, quickly make your way to the crocodile pond. From afar you can hear another whistle, but silly me thinks it’s made by a bird!    Also following the sharp pitch are “floating tree trunks” moving fr  om every corner of the pond.  Those trunks are crocodiles and the sight of these reptiles breaking the water surface is hair-raising. Itgets more chilling when I am told there are at least 30 crocodiles in the pond and that the largestmeasures almost 5m long!As the crocs get closer to the edge, a park employee throws chickens into the pond. At this, the reptiles,which earlier displayed a passive demeanour, turn aggressive at every throw of the chicken.The serene water breaks into ripples as the reptiles poke out their heads with wide open jaws, displayingtheir sharp fangs. Despite their hefty weight, the crocs sometimes jump out of the water to grab theirshare of chicken.What next? The next activity is at 5.30pm. But until then, you’ll have the park all to yourselves. Walk, cycle, kayak,fish or take a nap — the park is vast enough for you to have your own private time and zone.A small fee is charged to hire a bicycle and a kayak and if you want to fish but all other activities are free.You can hire a guide (RM90) for a guided walk that takes you through nature trails at its educational andconservation zones.The walk through the conservation zone will take you to a beautiful Terengganu house, a bamboo forestand a junk that was used to ferry miners to a dredge during the tin mining era.The park is divided into three zones. The recreational zone is where most activities take place. The othertwo zones are only accessible with a guide. If you don’t come prepared with meals and drinks, don’t worry. A cafe and stalls offer not only tidbits anddrinks but also rice and a la carte dishes.Interact, interpret Just when you think you’ve covered everything at Paya Indah Wetlands and are ready to go home,something is happening that’s worth waiting for.  The wildlife interaction activity is at 5.30pm at the Interpretative Centre.There you will meet Bell, Bobo, Koko, Kiki and Amoi. Well, once you meet these animals, you will agree that they are not as “wild”.  These are tame, cuddly animals that you can touch, carry and play with. Get up close with the slow loris,albino python, otter, porcupine and parrot.Kids will love the otter, slow lorry and parrot while they need a bit longer time to get close to the porcupineand python.Grand finaleAfter the wildlife interaction session, tarry a while to watch the stunning sunset colours spread across thesky and the reflection on the lotus-dotted lake. Try spotting the birds as they make their way back to their nests after a hard day’s hunt for a meal.  Soak in the serenity of Paya Indah Wetlands as it takes on a different character at dusk. The night is quietand the only noise you hear comes from airplanes taking off and landing at neighbouring Kuala LumpurInternational Airport in Sepang.Still full of energy? Go on a night safari —   with a guide. See the park in a different light and, if you’re lucky, you may see nocturnal residents going about their business.Where to stay If you’d like to stay, Paya Indah Wetlands has 24 chalets - all strategically located to offer a lakeside view.Under the old management, the chalets cost over RM500 per night, so you can imagine the level ofcomfort, luxury and space.  Styled like Malay houses, the spacious chalets with sexy bathrooms make you feel like you’re in the  heavenly islands of Langkawi or Redang.Today, you only pay RM120 for a chalet per night! Word has it that the chalets are fully booked till the endof the year!How to get thereThe park is just 15 minutes drive from Putrajaya. The easiest way is to follow the directions to Dengkil,where more signages will direct you to Paya Indah Wetlands, which opens from 7.30am to 7pm daily.What to doThe animal feedings and wildlife interaction activities are only available on weekends, public holidays andschool holidays. But if you’re there on a weekday, you can go cycling (RM5 for two hours), jungle trekking, bird-watching, fishing (RM10 per rod), fish feeding (RM3 per pack of pallets), kayaking (RM7 perkayak) and climb the viewing tower.If you want to go outs ide the Recreational Zone, you have to hire a guide (RM90). There’s no entrance fee! Call 03-8768 7616 or email piw@wildlife.gov.my.Read more: Wetland wonders - Holiday - New Straits Times http://www.nst.com.my/life- times/holiday/wetland-wonders-1.6704#ixzz1uLvkouWx  
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