Epic Wetland Adventure

Trip Start May 01, 2011
Trip End May 15, 2011

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Where I stayed
The Royal Hotel
What I did
Visited Sungei Buloh, a wetland reserve
Saw mudskippers
Went on a Night Safari

Flag of Singapore  ,
Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Visiting the Reserves: Today is our free day.  Lots of people from our group opt to go shopping.  Some even go to Universal Studios back on Sentosa Island.  But I have my sights set on the Nature Reserves.  I wake up around 8 A.M. to some very loud thunder.  I roust Dan at 9:30 A.M. and we head downstairs for some complimentary breakfast.  We catch a taxi knowing that we have three nature reserves to choose from.  On a whim, I select Sungei Buloh - the one that has crocodiles. 

The past two days have been all city driving.  This ride instead takes us on the freeway, which is surrounded by lush, tropical forest.  And the people are driving incredibly slow!  Not in an obnoxious Oregonian way; in a polite way.  The weather is cool and partially cloudy.  Our driver is very friendly.  He suggests that the next time we visit Singapore, we spend one day in Malaysia and another in Indonesia.  It is then we realize, while proceeding north, that we can actually see the country of Malaysia across the water!  In fact Malaysia is so close, Singapore's government has put sensors underneath the water in order to prevent the smuggling of goods like tobacco.  (In Singapore,
the taxes on cigarettes are so high that one pack costs twice as much as it does in Malaysia!).  He tells us a lot about Singapore, especially how well respected the women are.  He says that a woman can go out drinking all night, walk home by herself, and will be completely safe.  During that 20 minute cab ride, our driver gives us more insight into Singapore than our lazy-ass tour guide has in the past two days. 

Out in Nature: We arrive at Sungei Buloh.  Admission is free and the place is practically deserted.  Dan and I start down the trail, which is a loop of about 7 km.  Right away, Dan spots a Monitor Lizard near the restroom.  Approximately 3 ft long, it looks like a smaller version of the Komodo Dragon.  We are really excited and start taking pictures.  I notice a worker nearby who seems amused by our unbridled enthusiasm.  Seeing these giant lizards must be commonplace for all of the locals.  As we continue down the trail, we stop for a moment and listen.  There are no people and no cars - just the sound of trees rustling, birds and insects chirping; we can even hear the splashing of fish as they jump out of the water.  There are squirrels running around with straight tails. 

Through the trees, Dan notices otters.  They are eating vigorously and rolling around in the water;
even from this distance I am surprised at how big they are.  The lake is is teeming with fish - from giant carps to tiny minnows.  Along the trail are enormous spiders hanging from thick webs.  Out on the marshland there are Snowy Egrets.  We stop when we see a large Monitor Lizard, bathing in the sun.  She seems completely undisturbed by our presence and allows me to get close enough to photograph her.  As we continue walking, Dan sees two more Monitor Lizards in the woods.  They appear to be having a showdown, until one of them focuses his attention on Dan and me.  He starts running full speed toward us on the trail - and then he veers off into the woods last-minute. 

Man Eaters:  After about two hours of walking, we have seen more Monitor Lizards and many other smaller lizards.  We approach Prawn Lake, the reserve's freshwater pond.  The instant we notice a sign with a crocodile above the words 'WATCH IT!', Dan points across the trail.  We are just in time to see the thick, scaly tail of a croc disappearing into the bushes.  I really want to get a picture of a crocodile but, after much deliberation, we decide not to go any farther down that path.  We instead walk along a wooden suspension bridge.  The swampy floor below is covered with Mud Creepers (a type of snail), crabs, and MUDSKIPPERS!  Oh my goodness, these little guys make me so happy.  Mudskippers are these funny little fish-frogs (well, technically they are amphibious fish).  They have big, protruding eyes and they move with the aid of their pectoral fins.  They also have a large dorsal fin that sticks straight up in the air.  Watching them jerk their little bodies through the mud is hilarious!  Mudskippers remind me of Ren and Stimpy because there is a character named Muddy the Mudskipper.  He is a movie-star. 

Lunch Time:  There is a lot of incredible plant life, too.  Especially impressive are the Mangroves.  Mangroves are interesting because they are trees which grow in salt water, and this requires many adaptations.  By the time we get over the suspension bridge, we are parched.  Dan and I stop at the cafeteria.  Again, this place is empty.  During the course of our five hour walk, we have seen approximately five people (you do the math!).  At the cafeteria, there is one woman working and one patron who leaves shortly after Dan and I sit down.  I get a water and samosas, which are surprisingly good.  Dan orders fries and root beer, so he inevitably ends up drinking my water.  We are sitting on the deck overlooking a pond and see turtles, fish, and even one of those Monitor Lizards swimming around.

Monkey:  We catch a cab to the McRitchie Nature Reserve.  Closer in to the city, this place is more like a recreation park.  There is a cobblestone path surrounding a very large reservoir, with big gorgeous trees and lots of benches.  Before we start walking I order an iced coffee.  As we start down the footpath, Daniel comments that he wants to see monkeys more than anything.  It is then we look up and see that the trees are full of Macaque monkeys!  Dan tries to take some pictures, but they are too high.  So I notice that there is a pair of Macaques sitting on a stone wall nearby.  One of them is gnawing on garbage.  We approach them excitedly.  The instant they see us, they jump down off of the wall and come toward us.  When we meet, we are still.  The monkeys are looking up at me; I am looking down at them.  Clearly, they want food.  I laugh and try to explain that I do not have food - only coffee!  Suddenly, one of them leaps up in the air, aiming for my face.  Alarmed, I step back, and they come even closer.  Now I am contemplating throwing my coffee at them.  I try leaving at this point, but they are following close behind.  Dan tries to help shoo them away until one of the monkeys hisses at him.  He doesn't like that at all and quickly distances himself from the monkeys.  I continue walking and they are still pursuing me!  At first, I thought they were so cute I almost wished I had food to give to them.  Now, I want to feed them so they will leave me the hell alone.  There are signs everywhere not to feed the monkeys, and people clearly still do; I can see how this has become such a problem.  Finally the monkeys abate, and Dan and I walk on. 

Much Bigger Monkey:  We want to go to the suspension bridge which hangs between the two largest trees in the park.  Dan locates the trail, and it appears to be a 4 km walk through the woods.  At the trail head, however, we look down the path and see an enormous monkey.  And he sees us.  He is at least 3-feet tall!  The tiny Macaques were bad enough - I don't know what I would do if this monkey came at me!  So we choose to go down a different trail, instead.  It is a wooden bridge along the reservoir's perimeter. As we are walking I notice many of the locals carrying sticks, presumably to shoo the monkeys away.  We catch a taxi back to the hotel which, incidentally, is only five miles away.  Our driver is an adorable old man.
Night Safari:  We freshen up and catch our bus for the Night Safari around 7 P.M.  This is a highly acclaimed attraction - the world's first nocturnal zoo!  At the zoo, we wait in line to get onto the tram.  There is an Indian man behind us with his wife, and he will not stop pushing Dan.  There is literally no place for us to go because there are people in front of us, but he seems to think that this will expedite the process.   It is incredibly awkward.  After a good fifteen minutes of this, we finally get on.  Initially the tram is packed, but at the first stop about 85% of the people (including our line buddy) get off.  I like that.  We continue on our ride through the park, which is illuminated only by artificial moonlight.  The park is divided geographically into regions: Himalayan Foothills, Nepalese River Valley, Indian Subcontinent, Equatorial Africa, Indo-Malayan Region, Asian Reverine Forest, and Burmese Hillside.  The most amazing thing is that the animals are not caged!  There are natural barriers, instead - like motes and grates.  The tour guide tells us that the animals are very well fed and extremely disciplined.  We believe her because at that moment there are tigers on our right, and gazelles to the left - completely out in the open!  We see striped hyenas and a sloth bear, a one-horned rhino, cape giraffe, and bongos.  There are Lions, hunting dogs, and a hippo. 

Bat-Cave Fail: After the 40-minute tram ride, Dan and I take to the walking trails.  This morning the taxi driver had been telling us all about the bat cave.  He described the cave as being filled with giant bats that fly right past your face!  On the tram ride the tour guide had also been telling everyone how great the bat cave is.  Plus, Dan is petrified of bats.  So I am very excited!  However, when we get there, we do not see bats.  The attraction itself is very nicely designed.  Made to look like a real cave, its walls are faux limestone adorned with stalagmites and stalagtites.  There is even a little water feature.  Embedded in the walls are glass cases with live scorpions, giant toads (my personal favorite), and rats (Dan's absolute least-favorite).  But no bats. 

Burger Fail:  We hurry to the fire show and see Servals along the way.  They are in a glass cage along the foot path.  The fire show is kind of corny but, hey - it still involves people swallowing fire and blowing huge fireballs out their mouths.  Dan decides to get a burger and a beer for dinner, which costs an appalling $24.  I get nothing.  And this happens to be the worst burger I have ever tasted.  In fact it is so bad, Dan doesn't even finish it!  Unfortunately, he used the last of our cash.  Dan feels sad about it, so he gets us some sweet 'Singapore Night Safari' patches for our backpacks! 
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Daniel Cuesta on

Clearly, this was the best day in Singapore. Being able to share this experience with Jess was absolutely amazing!

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