A day and a night in the mangroves of Singapore
by Tom Schultz -- February 26th, 2016
Sungei Buloh: a mangrove wetland on the north side of the country looking across the Straights of Johor to Johor, Malaysia. There is a nice visitor center with a paved nature walk through the mangroves. We saw a large number of monitor lizards (including some large monitor lizards), red-eared slider turtles, geckos, tilapia, cichlids, apple snails, snakehead fish, storks, egrets, kingfishers, red jungle foul, and a crocodile! Don’t worry, all 15 Duke students returned with all 10 fingers and toes…..wait a minute, didn’t we have 16 students? Just kidding! There was an interesting contrast walking through a lush mangrove and emerging to see a major city (Johor) across the straight in Malaysia. I was fortunate to capture a shot of a crocodile feeding on fish in the river before it disappeared upstream.
Bolywood Veggies: We then took our charter bus to have lunch at Bolywood Veggies, a beautiful vegetable and flower farm with a wonderful restaurant. “Poison” Ivy Singh (owner) graciously gave us a personal tour of the property and was an entertaining and eclectic hostess. We had a fantastic lunch consisting largely of fresh vegetables grown on the property and were told that everything on the plate was edible, including the hibiscus flower which I actually enjoyed. I’ve been enjoying the noodle and rice dishes in the food courts so much that a lunch with fresh veggies was a welcome addition. After lunch, we walked around the corner to a newly renovated wetland area (Krangi Marshes), unfortunately we didn’t have enough time to hike it’s trails.
Qain Hu Fish Farm: The students (and me!) were all interested in visiting a fish farm on this (north) side of the island so we caught a small shuttle which we over-filled with our group. We were unaware the shuttle made multiple stops including a 10 minute stop at a frog farm! We walked among pens with literally hundreds of huge American bullfrogs selling for $8-12 apiece. We then headed for the fish farm. The farm breeds and raises aquaria fish (not food fish) and had a huge selection. We wanted to see the fish bred with Chinese characters on their sides, we wanted to know how they bred fish with such specific markings. We learned that they are no longer selling these fish and that the fish were not actually bred but tattooed. This fish farm specializes in Arowana fish which can sell for over $25,000 per fish! We saw several specimens priced at over $1,000, including one for $4,800, in their aquaria. We then headed back to the hotel for a quick break, a quick bite to eat before going snake hunting at Pasir Ris.
Pasir Ris: this mangrove forest is located on the east side of the island, we went from one side of the country to the other today! We arrived around 9pm and used dive lights to walk the mangroves in search of snakes. We searched for approximately and had no luck seeing snakes, only a few tadpoles, one toad, and a furry form of snake food! When we were about the give up, they decided to come out! Before the night was over, we saw 8 snakes from 5 different species, including a spectacular find by Scott of a mangrove viper curled up in mangrove leaves. Dan had only seen this species once before. The students were quite excited (fueled be Dan of course) about finding a ‘snorgy,’ a group of mating African land snails consisting of 3 different species….kinky! It was interesting biology that a mating group consisting of a single species attracted 2 additional species that we didn’t observe outside the ‘snorgy,’ indicating there may be a cross-species pheromone involved. This was a long day (over 15 hrs) and we were ready to head back to the hotel for a well-deserved nights sleep, for some of the students, the nights sleep began on the MRT.