Thursday, July 29, 2010

Stormy Sungei Buloh

After a relaxing day the day before, KT and I decided that we were ready for another outdoor adventure.  Mark wasn't too excited about another day of roaming the Singaporean wilderness in the heat, so he opted out and ventured off on his own again.  KT, Bryan, and I headed to a hawker centre to fuel up on some local food before going to Sungei Buloh to see some impressive reptiles.  I'd been repeatedly surprised by some of KT's food choices.  Typically one of the most adventuresome foodies I know, she'd been a bit overwhelmed by the strange menu choices here (fish head curry, anyone?), and had been ordering some of the blandest food she could find, like pasty-looking chicken on white rice.  I enjoyed my usual kacang pool, a bean dish with an egg on top, served with toast, while Bryan ate some laksa for breakfast.  KT eyed our food warily while repeatedly saying, "I can't believe people eat this for breakfast."

As usual, the entrance to Sungei Buloh was surrounded by the big, hearty water monitors.  They're always a surprising sight, even after having seen them a number of times.  I feel like I always forget exactly how large they are!  While we stood there watching the monitors, I told KT about all the animals that Bryan and I have seen at Sungei Buloh in the past- otter, turtles, a crocodile, tons of awesome birds.  However, I told her, we still hadn't seen one animal that we'd been hoping to see there.  I really wanted to see a mangrove pit viper, a vicious-looking black snake with red eyes, known to be venomous and aggressive.  "I'll find it for you," she promised.

Malayan Water Monitor

Just inside the reserve, I got a kick out of a whole line of nature photographers lined up side by side, huge cameras all aimed at a tiny bird.  It was the colorful stork-billed kingfisher, and Bryan quickly joined the photographer lineup.  He managed to pull off a pretty good shot before the bird flitted off!
Stork-Billed Kingfisher

Eventually we managed to drag Bryan along the path, but we stopped plenty more times.  The reserve seemed  to be just teeming with exciting birdlife that rainy Sunday!  We also spied this emerald dove, a white-breasted waterhen, and plenty of little egrets.
Emerald Dove
White-Breasted Waterhen
Little Egret

I was surprised to see a whole pack of dogs roaming around at one place in the reserve.  We stopped to watch their fighting and yapping for awhile, and we were very sad to see that one of them was horribly injured- he was missing a huge chunk of flesh out of the back of his neck.  Poor guy.
Injured Dog at Sungei Buloh

I always enjoy Sungei Buloh on the weekends because it tends to be less crowded than Bukit Timah and the Central Nature Reserves, and that day was no exception.  We strolled along the paths with plenty of space to ourselves, chatting about Singapore and animals and the impending trip to Thailand and Vietnam that Bryan was sadly going to miss out on.  At one point on the path, KT grabbed my arm, threw her leg in front of me, gasped, and stared at me wide-eyed while pointing with one hand and keeping a death grip on my arm with her other hand.  At first, I remembered the way she'd screamed bloody murder when I stepped on a leaf at Bukit Timah a couple days before, and figured she was goofing around or freaking out at a tree branch or something.  But a split second later, she recovered her voice and choked out, "SNAAAAAAAAKE!!!"  Sure enough, in the undergrowth right next to the path was the mangrove pit viper that Bryan and I had been trying so hard to find!  I could hardly believe it- Bryan and I had lived in Singapore for a YEAR without ever seeing this snake, and I'd told KT about it less than an hour before, and here she was, pointing it out to me.  I got super excited and Bryan and I both fumbled with our cameras, angling ourselves to get good photos.  My excitement was forgotten for a second as the words VENOMOUS and AGGRESSIVE seemed to flash into my head in neon lights, and I stopped to make sure everyone was a reasonable distance from the snake.  Reassured that we were all safe, I snapped away, loving this awesome reptile, and KT for finding it!
Mangrove Pit Viper

The snake looks huge in the close-ups, but in this picture with the two of us in it, you can see how easy it would be to pass by it without noticing.

We hung out with the snake for awhile and just as we began to move along, it began lightly sprinkling.  I thought it would probably pass quickly, but apparently I was on a roll with doing a poor job of predicting the weather because rather than going away, the rain began pouring with a vengeance.  KT and I ran ahead of Bryan, who was walking slowly, hunched over with an umbrella, trying to protect the camera.  As we ran, tree branches began to fall, and KT kept screeching, "WHAT IF THERE'S ANOTHER SNAKE?!?!"  By the time we finally found a lean-to type shelter, Bryan had managed to keep our camera dry, but everything else, ourselves included, were soaked to the core.  We huddled under the shelter, squeezing our clothes out and jumping every time there was a deafening clap of thunder or a bright flash of lightning.
Storm at Sungei

We were under that shelter for what seemed like forever, and sometimes it sounded like the whole forest was crashing down around us, but eventually the storm stopped and we emerged, still sopping wet.  We began making our way back to the main entrance, along the muddy paths, past all of the recently fallen trees.  It looked as though we'd been lucky to find the shelter when we did, as we could have easily been struck by one of the many errant branches or trees.  When crossing a bridge, the point was really driven home when we had to climb through a fallen tree to make it across.
Bryan Crawling through Tree

On the other side of the bridge, we stopped for a few minutes to watch a big group of mudskippers on the muddy ground below.  KT kept laughing at the hilarious way the creatures do everything- they flop when they move, they spit mud to clean out their holes, they leave behind funny tracks, and sometimes they make a preposterous sound like a sneeze that manages to sound horribly disapproving.  While we watched the mudskippers, Bryan noticed something else...A SNAKE!!  It was a two-snake day!!  We're pretty sure this one's a dog-faced water snake.
Dog-Faced Water Snake
Snake with Mudskipper

Even though we were headed out of the reserve, there turned out to be plenty more to see.  We stopped to watch tree-climbing crabs and more mudskippers.

When we got close to the entrance, we were all surprised to see not ONE or TWO but THREE crocodiles!  It began to rain again as we watched them, and I thought the photos turned out especially well with the water plopping all around the crocs.
Estuarine Crocodile

Seeing the crocodiles was the perfect way to end the day!!  If only there had been otter...but then again, maybe it's better that the crocodiles and the otter didn't cross paths!

After leaving the reserved, we headed home, cleaned up, and met Mark for dim sum at Din Tai Fung in Jurong Point.  I knew that Din Tai Fung served dim sum in the evening, and I knew it was delicious, so I was confident that I could make up for my faux pas at Red Star a few days before.  Turns out, I was right on.  The food was amazing as always, and we all gorged ourselves on dumplings, buns, rice, tea, and more.  I even managed to teach Mark, a leftie, to eat with chopsticks, a skill that he mastered amazingly fast once he put his mind to it!   We returned home satisfied and began getting our things together to leave for Thailand the next day, on a trip that we'd been planning for months.  I only wished that Bryan was coming along!


  1. what was that that was really cool i like the place where you go.. what can you called that snake "vipper" is it dangerous. well when i read your post i have been watch true blood season 3 episode 7 online coz i love reading while watching.. nice post...

  2. Great post - snake when you wanted one; KT is power! Was the dog-faced teensy-weensy or was that just a scarily humongous mudskipper? The croc photo is very jadi and the tree fall over the boardwalk is priceless. The crab named after Singapore.

  3. Great photos of animals! Thanks for sharing : )

  4. Love it...I read it to the kids.

  5. Sivasothi- the dog-faced water snake was pretty small, but that mudskipper was pretty big too!

    Craig- Glad to hear that you read the post, and shared it with the kids :) Miss you guys!

  6. oh wow! what a nice adventure... would definitely visit this park soon to see some animals in their natural habitat

  7. Wow. Im soo going back there! Miss my childhood!

  8. Wow!!! Crocodiles even! Have you seen otters around the area?