Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Matang with Nparks Volunteers - Day 1

Last weekend from 26-28 Sep 2009, I attend an Nparks volunteer trip to Matang in Peninsular Malaysia. The Matang Mangrove Forest Reserve is the largest mangrove reserve in Malaysia, covering an area more than 40,000 hectares. I was really looking forward to this trip actually, hoping to see some rare mangrove plants.

We started the journey on 25 Sep night, and finally reached the reserve around 7.30am on the next day. Here's a quick shot of the gang just after we reached Matang.

Our chalets were in the middle of the mangrove forest, and we had to walk on a boardwalk to reach them. Several parts of the boardwalk were in rather poor conditions, and we had to be quite careful as we walked along. But guess that added to part of the fun :P

Along the boardwalk, I was very excited to see that many of the mangrove trees that were rather uncommon in Singapore were so common here, such as the Gedabu (Sonneratia ovata), which were fruiting like nobody's business!

What got me even more excited were the many Berembang (Sonneratia caseolaris) trees with its glossy fruits!

There were several Tengar (Ceriops tagal) trees. Though these were not exactly as uncommon as the previous 2 Sonneratia species, it was still nice to see so many of them here!

This was our chalet, which I shared with Dr Chua, Brandon, Jacky, Ali and Yusoff.

It was next to a forest of Lenggadai (Bruguiera parviflora), yet another uncommon mangrove plant back in Singapore! And we have a huge forest of them at Matang. Wow!

After settling down in our rooms, our next activity was to go for a talk given by the forest reserve staff. We walked along the boardwalk for about half an hour to reach the Interactive Centre(?) for the talk.

Along the way, we saw several gigantic bracket fungus growing on tree trunks!

The staff give a short talk about the reserve, especially on how charcoal was made. Apparently, Bakau minyak (Rhizophora apiculata) was the preferred tree. Usually, only 30-year-old trees were harvested for making charcoal. We were also shown some of the byproducts from making charcoal. After the talk, we went for a break and were treated to some really tasty Nasi Lemak for breakfast.

After the meal, off we went to visit a charcoal factory. Inside these dome-shaped kilns, the Bakau Minyak logs were placed. A small fire was lit to dehydrate the logs, turning them into charcoal.

Over here, a new kiln was being built. It's all handmade form brick and clay.

Not far from the kiln, there was a pile of chopped-up charcoal, and a man was packing them into sacks.

Some of the charcoal was not cut down into smaller bits though. We saw this group of workers loading the charcoal onto a truck. Not sure where they were bring the charcoal to though.

After the tour at the factory, we made our way back to the reserve for lunch. We saw a few Long-tailed Macaques (Macaca fascicularis) on the boardwalk.

After lunch, we went ot the nearby jetty to take a look and saw many of these reddish Fiddler Crabs (Uca sp.) below. Have no idea what species they were though.

Another crab we saw was this one with rather long claws.

But the highlight at the jetty must be the Smooth Otter (Lutrogale perspicillata)! We saw 3 of them, but unfortunately, due to a few screaming kids nearby, they did not stay long and swam away after a few minutes.

The next programme was a visit to the mangrove nursery which the reserve just started in recent years. The above were young Sea Hollies (Acanthus sp.). They had other mangrove species, such as Xylocarpus spp., Bruguiera spp., and and Rhizophora spp. too!

It was free and easy time after the visit to the nursery, and a few of us decided to explore another part of the boardwalk which we didn't explore earlier. And the moment we stepped onto the trail, I saw this Flying Dragon (Draco sp.) on the sides of a tree trunk. It certainly blended very well into the colours of the bark though, I must say! At this part of the boardwalk, we also saw lots of Gedabu trees with flower buds, and thus we decided to come back again in the evening to check if they will be blooming.

Heading back to the jetty area for tea, we had a pleasant visit by a Silver Leaf Monkey (Trachypithecus cristatus)! Unfortunately, I did not managed to get a good frontal shot though.

At the jetty area, I also found a flower bud of a Berembang, which looked like it would bloom in the evening!

Another nice find at the jetty were a few Api-api Jambu (Avicennia marina). This mangrove tree was also quite uncommon in Singapore!

Also at the jetty, we spotted a Brown-throated Sunbird (Anthreptes malacensis)! It appeared to be feeding on the nectar or the stamen of the flower bud of the Perepat (Sonneratia alba).

Later close to dusk, we took a boat ride to see the synchronous fireflies! We passed by a rather charming fishing village along the way.

The fireflies were really awesome, but unfortunately, it was really too dark for me to get any photos... It was still a great trip though, to see the Berembang being lit up like Christmas trees!

When we went back to the jetty, I immediately went back to the Berembang flower bud I found earlier, and it was blooming! The flowers were really pretty with part of the stamen coloured pink.

The nearby Perepat was flowering too! Unlike the Berembang, the stamens are fully whitish in colour though.

We went to the patch of Gedabu, and they were also flowering! So I managed to take photos of all 3 species of Sonneratia in one night! Back in Singapore, this is certainly something that's very difficult to achieve! :P

Later in the evening, Dr Chua, Brandon and I went for a short walk around the boardwalk, hoping to find some nocturnal creatures. However, the forest was really quiet though with few animals except for lots of spiders, a few crabs, and the slug above.

It was a tiring day full of activities, but I really enjoyed the experience. The only thing that I really dislike were the uncountable mosquitoes, and I ended up with lots of stings on me when I woke up the next day. I must remember to bring mosquito coil the next time I stay overnight at a nature area.

See also:


namnam said...

Ron, WOW! your pics are fabulous! and 3 Sonneratia flowers on first night too! Thanks for diary.

Adelle said...

Love the photos and the useful information!
I must say the mosquitoes there are frightening, they bite thru our pants too and they are in the bathroom waiting. Gary wanted to pass us the mozzie coils on first night but there were so much things to remember to do. =P

Unknown said...

Joanne said:
Ron, your blog is so interesting to read...I learn much from the info that you gave abt the flora and fauna and the feathered friends. :>
I'm eagerly waiting for your Day 2 and Day 3 blog, to let me reminisce abt our Matang Trip. :D

Ron Yeo said...

Thanks for visiting my blog! :)