Friday, September 11, 2009

Pulau Tioman with Nature Explorers - Day 1

Earlier this week, we brought a group of students who topped the Nature Explorers Programme we organised earlier this year to Pulau Tioman for a field study camp. The students got to stay on Pulau Tioman over four days to learn more about ecology and research methodologies. Certainly hoped that everyone had enjoyed the trip while learning more about nature at the same time. I will highlight some of the major activities in 3 separate blog entries.

Orientation Walk
Upon reaching the island, we started off with an orientation tour of the areas around the resort that the students could go during their stay at Paya Beach Resort.

Along way, we came across a number of interesting things, such as these stingless bees.

Malayan Water Monitor (Varanus salvator)
While crossing the river, we saw this Malayan Water Monitor (Varanus salvator) under the bridge. Recently studies shown that monitor lizards are closely related to snakes, and are in fact venomous!

Sea Teak (Podocarpus polystachyus)
Among the various coastal plants we saw was this Sea Teak (Podocarpus polystachyus). What we have in the photo were the cones of a male tree! This tree does not flower, but develops its reproductive structures on cones.

Red Weaver Ants Nest(Oecophylla smaragdina)
We saw several nests of Red Weaver Ants (Oecophylla smaragdina) on many of the plants. These ants "weave" their nests from leaves but sticking them together with a sticky silk produced by their larvae. Interestingly, the silk is produced when the ants squeeze their larvae!

Common Birdwing Butterfly (Troides helena)
We were rather lucky to have spotted this Common Birdwing Butterfly (Troides helena). This is one of the largest butterflies that you can find in the region.

The orientation took us onto a boardwalk through a little village.

And at times, we stopped by to look at the vegetation by the sides.

Hornet (Vespa sp.)
One of the palm trees in the village was fruiting, and we saw several Hornets (Vespa sp.). Hornets are basically huge eusocial wasps. Unlike bees, they can sting multiple times as their stings are not barbed.

Casuarina equisetifolia
Near the sandy beach, we found several Casuarina Trees (Casuarina equisetifolia). These trees are sometimes mistaken to be pine trees. However, while the pine trees are non-flowering plants, Casuarinas are flowering plants. You can see the little red flower in the above photo.

Snorkelling Training
Towards late afternoon, we rented our snorkelling gears, and JL gave the snorkellers a crash course on how to snorkel.

Tumu Merah (Bruguiera gymnorhiza)
And in the evening after dinner, we were off for a night walk again. This time round, we went into the secondary forest, but unfortunately, did not see many wildlife, except for several flying foxes. We eventually went down to the muddy mangrove area. The most common mangrove tree here must be the Tumu Merah (Bruguiera gymnorhiza), spotting a red calyx.

Dog-faced Water Snake (Cerberus rhynchops)
There were quite a number of Dog-faced Water Snake (Cerberus rhynchops) in the river. This mildly venomous snake usually feeds on fishes. Must say that I was really a chicken when it comes to venomous snakes. Give me a file snake anytime, and I will gladly hold it with my bare hands. But a dog-faced... I still need to do it with gloves at the moment.

Kalak Kambing (Finlaysonia obovata)
I was quite excited to see a big patch of Kalak Kambing (Finlaysonia obovata), and they were flowering and fruiting! Back in Singapore, I had only seen the fruits once on Pulau Ubin so far. This plant is rather uncommon in Singapore, though I have seen several huge patches at Sungei Buloh, and a few along Kranji Nature Trail.

Kalak Kambing (Finlaysonia obovata)
The fruits of the Kalak Kambing always remind me of the mustache of the cartoon character for Pringles potato chips. Haha...

It was certainly a day full of fun and great finds. The next day - marine ecosystems, my favourite! Have to wait till the weekend to find time to blog about Day 2 though. Haha...

Related Links:
- Pulau Tioman with Nature Explorers - Day 2
- Pulau Tioman with Nature Explorers - Day 3

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