Thursday, April 15, 2010

Sungei Buloh Take 2

We first went to Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve back in October, and we really enjoyed ourselves. So the weekend before we went to Vietnam, we decided to spend the day out there again. As soon as we walked through the Visitor Centre, I was glad we'd come because we saw OTTERS!!!! They were smooth otters to be exact, and they were lounging alongside a pond full of monitor lizards and turtles. They were sleeping on the far side of the pond so we had a hard time getting photos of them.We hiked some of the trails that we'd bypassed on our previous trip. Along one trail, there was a huge swampy area FULL of mudskippers. I love the big, fat ones. Bryan had fun watching them make sudden, surprisingly agile leaps to catch insects and small crabs. They move in such a strange way, just kind of dragging themselves through the mud with their fins. As they move, they leave behind really bizarre trails that look like the tracks made by mountain bikes.We also witnessed an epic ant battle! It took me back to a hot, dusty day in New Mexico when I had to spend hours outside, observing ant behavior for my Behavioral and Evolutionary Ecology class. Good times.See if you can find the water monitor in this photo. I'll give you the answer later in the post : ) You can double click on the photo to make it larger.
We revisited my favorite sign in S'pore.Sungei Buloh is known for being a haven for migratory birds, so there's always interesting birdlife around- egrets, herons, sandpipers, kingfishers, and more. The kingfishers were our favorite. The ones at Bukit Timah are usually just blue, white, and black, but the ones here were much more colorful- blue wings, golden chests, brown heads, and red beaks. They were beautiful, but difficult to photograph. Bryan was excited when he snapped one of them snatching up a fish, but disappointed when the photo turned out to be grainy.There was a lookout spot over the river that we were walking along, and it was strange to feel like we were in total wilderness, but to still be able to look into the city.As I was walking on a boardwalk, two huge monitors crashed out of the underbrush next to me and scared me half to death. I literally ran and hid behind Bryan. Very courageous of me, I know.The water levels must have been lower than usual, leaving these trees a little high and dry.
When we got back to the Visitor Centre, I was thrilled to see that the otters were still around. Bryan and I sat down to watch them for awhile. This adorable turtle hung around us, staring up expectantly. I assume he's used to having people feed him.At first, the otters were still being lazy, totally lounging around like they owned the place. We were curious about the sandbox-like structure that they were relaxing in, and then I overheard one of the NParks guys say that the otters hung out around the pond so often that eventually they built the little space especially for them. Despite the fact that it looks like they live there, the otters still come and go as they please.Eventually the otters woke up and got a little more active. It was very bizarre to see otters and massive reptiles co-mingling peacefully. The otters were huge and it looked like they had pretty sharp teeth, but they still didn't look like much of a match for those monitor lizards and their long, leathery tails. The two species must be pretty evenly matched though, because the monitors did not appear interested in messing with the otters.It was really fun to watch the otters ease down into the pond and swim around. They swam over and played right in front of us, but they were moving so fast that it was hard to get pictures. It was like trying to photograph a squirming mass if puppies. The one shaking the water off his fur was pretty cute!Here's that lizard! It was a water monitor, and Bryan and I were amazed to watch it lumber awkwardly across a swamp, and then just go vertical and continue lumbering right up the tree. He found a great perch in the fork of some branches and cuddled right in. There's a close-up too so you can get a better idea of what's actually going on.We'd taken a taxi out to the park this time. When we went out back in October, we'd taken public transportation (the MRT to Kranji and then a bus) there and back, but this time we figured we'd taxi out to save time and then take public transportation back. So when the park closed we headed out to the bus stop only to find that the bus runs ONLY on Sundays and public holidays. Given that that's the only bus and Sungei Buloh is in the middle of nowhere, we called for a taxi to come and get us, but were told that all of the taxis in the area were busy, so we started hoofing it in the hope of getting to a larger street where we might be able to catch a different bus or hail a taxi. Eventually a taxi pulled up behind us and we were able to hop right in. It turned out there was a bigger street close by anyway, where we would have been able to catch a bus. Moral of the story: If you ever find yourself stranded at Sungei Buloh, no worries. Just start walking, and it'll all work itself out.


  1. Haha YEAH!!! Pogonomyrmex rugosus ROCKS!

  2. I've always (not really always, but in my Singapore time) wondered if one can actually step on those monitors. Many times when trail running, and my husband goes first, the monitor snoozing on the trail dashes off just when I hit the spot, and I miss it by centimeters.

  3. Tei, I've had a couple of close calls with them myself, but I've never actually stepped on one. The other day I saw one that appeared to be sick (he was missing the end of his tail and wasn't moving much). The monkeys and I got really close to him and he never moved, and then a runner coming down the hill stopped, walked over to the monitor, and petted him right on the back! It was really strange!

  4. Oooo!!! You guys spotted the otters relaxing. How cute! XD