Beautiful Sarawak

Posted: April 17, 2009 in butterflies, holidays, macro photography
Tags: ,

Note on photo: This butterfly takes less than a second to slap open those orangey wings the moment it lands. Getting the photo above of the underside took half an hour of waiting and also I only got this shot after I kind of tripped and wobbled and that seemed to have spooked it a little and it didn't open up its wings but flew away shortly after I took the shot.

Note on photo: This butterfly also has a habit of making circles back to the same spot.  The leaf you saw above had about 10 landings over the half an hour I spent trying to get a good top shot.  And as long as you stood there quietly and patiently with your camera, it would keep coming back after flying off a few rounds into the forest and then back out again in a very predictable pattern.











Beautiful Sarawak

10 years ago, The Veritable Quiet (an old uni friend who lives in Kuching) would probably have to drag me unconscious to Sarawak in order for me to visit. 

Note on photo above: You wouldn't believe how difficult it was to get to this butterfly. Sarawakian rainforests are no laughing matter.  The density of the plantation is so thick at areas where the trees were shorter that it was quite impossible not to get smacked in the face by a branch/twig/unhappy leaf.

10 years later, I'm just hopping to go.  I didn't know what to expect.  But when I looked down from the plane window and saw the neat little short houses and that beautiful dark winding river through the vast expanses of land, I realised Sarawak is fantasy land for the exploring nature photographer.

Note on photo above: I found this butterfly in the area really close to the Dark Blue Jungle Glory above.

And it truly was.  Right at The Veritable Quiet's backyard, flowering bushes where I would normally find a few Pygmy Grass Blues had so many tens of them that I was quite worried about the plants.  Grey pansies were extremely common and they flew out from underfoot when you disturb a bush and everywhere you turn you can see a grey pansy flittering around. 

Note on photo above: Another butterfly hanging out with the Dark Blue Jungle Glory.  In order to take a photo of this butterfly I had to lie on my stomach and concentrate really hard on not thinking about what was crawling on the forest floor.  The Veritable Quiet thought I was quite mad and quietly advised against doing so… but I could not, would not listen.

We didn't stay long at The Veritable Quiet's backyard because my friend wanted to take 'a nice walk' through one of Sarawak's most popular Nature Reserves.

Note on photo above: I initially thought this was a flying bug/moth like thing because it didn't zip like most skippers.  It hovered uncertainly over a patch of grass like twinkling little yellow star.  When I drew in close on it after it landed, I realised it was a very very small skipper.  It looks extremely common.  But I've never seen a skipper fly that way.

The 7km Trail At Bako Reserve

This 'nice walk' turned out to the a 7km hike up what felt like a mountain.  To be perfectly honest, all of us had underestimated the Sarawakian forest.

Note on photo above: This is an extremely common butterfly.  I found them in groups flitting over the forest floor.  The topside is brown with yellowish bands across the forewings.

Various Points of Underestimation

Here's how we pooh-poohed a whole forest:

1) We did NOT have breakfast before trekking

2) We did NOT have enough water for 7km

3) Some of us did NOT have proper equipment for the terrain

4) We did NOT do any research on the trail

Note on photo above: Grey pansies everywhere!  Here, there, here, there, over, under, everywhere!

Note on photo above: 3 rings everywhere underfoot.  Hopping along in the underbrush. Everywhere everywhere everywhere!

Paying The Price For Pooh-Poohing Sarawak Rainforests

Because we pooh-poohed the forest, we:

1) Ran out of energy before we were even halfway through.  We had only one biscuit between us and I had to give it to my friend because my friend was already faint from lack of sugar.

2) Ran out of water slightly over halfway

3) My friend's sole of the shoe came off.

4) Realised we faced the problem of being out here when it became dark and we did not hire a guide and nobody would know we were here because I (yes my fault) had cheekily wrote on the ranger table that our group would be going "everywhere".

Note on photo above: Once in a lifetime shots like these…

Note on photo above: I'm not very confident about the identification of some of the odonates here.

The Nature Of The Nature Trail

Here's how the trail was very different from the ones back home:

1) The definition of a walkway is a clearing of brush so that you can see the dense network of tree roots on the ground

2) The dense network of tree roots are also your footholds for getting up the hill

3) Some footholds are 1 metre apart in height

4) There are many mossy slippery boulders to climb up and down from

5) Some ascents go on for more than 1km and the descents sometimes take longer than the ascents.












Shooting made Doubly Difficult

Imagine holding a camera across one shoulder with a monopod while trying to use your peripheral vision to locate surrounding butterflies while at the same time looking right down and concentraing on where you want to step next in order not to fall on your face.

Note on photo above: I'm also not confident of this one.  The male has a bright yellow synthorax but without the yellow band across the eyes like the E. Aurantiaca.

And what was most laughable about all of that was that the trees along the trail were so tall and you could see large nymph like butterflies and archduke looking butterflies and other very strange butterflies flying around above your head and not within range for you to identify or even photograph.

Either that or your heavy wobbly steps would startle them if they were on the ground and the moment they take flight and zip into the dense vegetation, there is that horrible dilemma of "should I kill myself climb all the way up/down the hill to try to trace the butterfly and then climb all THAT way back up/down here or do I stand here and feel completely useless?"











Odonate Heaven

But if you really loved odonates then you would love the trail.  The trail runs past several streams and tributaries and it's at areas where there is some amount of water or dampness that you can find damselflies and dragonflies hovering around.

And the best part was they are easier to spot because you have your eyes on the ground all the time picking out your steps carefully.

Trail Blues

In the end, I was the only one who went out to the trails on the second day (and was joined soon after with The Veritable Quiet) because everyone was so sick of wobbling on tree roots nobody wanted to see another tree root or boulder for the rest of the trip.

Note on photo above: And you wouldn't believe it if I told you that the jackpot of odonates was about 10 metres away from our chalet where a quiet stream hidden by tall grass was overcrowded by territorial odonates.










Note on photos above: Nature truly at your doorstep waiting to embrace you the moment you stepped out the door.  The unidentified dragonfly above immediately landed on my friend after she left the reception area.


Nature At Your Doorstep

Sarawak was truly madly deeply nature at your doorstep.  Also partly because the recept decided to put us 3 girls at the chalet that was right at the foot of a trail which made things very interesting for us.

For example (photo above), we had so many run-ins with wild boars (babirusa), we were afraid to go walking around by ourselves at night.  Not that company mattered because you'd still have to run from an angry piggy.  Funnily, the staff on the grounds said they were unlikely to charge and they seemed to be very used to human activity and people.

And on the second morning we were there, a mother piggy had come by with 4 of her grunting small furry miniatures of herself and we watched them fascinatedly from our porch.

Note on photo: This is one magnificent looking robber fly.  Yes it's ferocious … but doesn't it look so handsome?

In spite of the babirusa, Sarawak was magical.  I couldn't sleep so after tossing and turning and trying to prevent my friend from going to bed so that she'd suffer with me, she got up and dragged me out of the room to go for a night stroll up the trail with only a lousy flash light.

Note on photo above: Some of the mossy green sides of streams are really pretty and come with all sorts of inhabitants.

I expected something horrible like… I don't know… huge predatory nocturnal somethings.  But instead we were greeted by fireflies.  Tiny sparks of fire in the sky.  It was a pretty sight.  I don't remember ever seeing fireflies all my life.  So this was a very exciting first.

Note on photo above: I forgot to mention that while we were busy looking down at tree roots to climb on, very scary looking ants stood motionless sentry on overhanging branches so that besides keeping our eyes on the ground, we were also afraid to lift our heads too high when we passed overhanging vegetation…so we were literally cringing our way past overhanging branches and leaves…

I was so excited I forgot myself and shone my lousy torch at one of the fireflies (cos I wanted to see what it looked like) and it immediately switched its 'light' off.   

Note on photo above and below: I'll probably never find out what these bugs are.

Beautiful Mangrove Forests

Besides the rainforests, there was also a good stretch of very dense and beautiful mangrove forests.  And the ground was scuttling with funny looking crabs.

There was a good sturdy boardwalk across the mangrove unlike the rainforest and you could observe the busy going-ons of the critters below.



The White Sands/Mud

Nearing the plateau where the first ascent ended, the terrain changed.  It was covered with fine white sand or mud and the vegetation was short and there were many pitcher plants growing all around.

We still haven't figured out why the terrain change is so abrupt. 

Read and post comments | Send to a friend

  1. bugima says:

    I took many photos of frogs and butterflies but all of them are new to me。I'd been surfing on the net and found your blog,it's great。Can you pay a visit to my blog and give me some information。Many thanks。

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s