‘Magical’ is a word that can be over-used to describe experiences, particularly while travelling. But when P and I had just returned from a beautiful trip down a river in search of fireflies, we both agreed that ‘magic’ truly was the best word to describe it.

The coastal town of Cherating in Malaysia is pretty in itself, but this excursion is what truly made it for us. There were just the two of us in the boat with our guide, following the river upstream and into the darkness. The journey in itself immediately had an enthralling aura about it, with a few stars peeking out from behind the clouds and the trees faintly outlined against the dying light. At first all seemed dark ahead, then we began to make out a few flickers in the distance. These became stronger and more frequent, until suddenly a whole tree would be glittering and glowing. Imagine walking through a forest at night, to suddenly find in the distance a tree lit up with fairy lights gently twinkling through the shadows. I now understand why fairy lights are so named; these days they are fairly overused, but in isolation they retain an enchanting simplicity which is incredibly beautiful.

Not content with allowing us to view this spectacle from a distance, our guide drew out a faint red torch and began enticing them towards us. Like a sorcerer in a fairy tale, he sat in solitary splendour charming spirits from the trees. They followed him like a cloud, swirling around him as they flowed from the riverbanks in a never-ending stream. With a wave of his magic wand, he sent them flying towards us; soon we were both surrounded by the little glowing creatures. Words really can’t describe just how miraculous it felt to have them so close, landing on our hands, our hair, and flying so close to our faces that we were almost blinded by their little lights. Along our journey so far we have become familiar with mosquitoes, cockroaches and other such ‘evil’ bugs, that I have usually been more than happy to exterminate at the first opportunity. Yet if I harmed even one of these fantastic little fireflies, just by accident, I would have felt terrible, like I’d spoiled something truly special.   Like in the movie ‘Avatar’ where the forest suddenly comes alive, it felt like we had a glimpse into another world, totally removed from the busy riverside restaurants we had passed just moments before.  


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