Panti’s Plenty

Posted: June 21, 2010 in butterflies, holidays, macro photography

Just as there are swanky restaurants of shooting sites for the upper-crust photographer connoisseur, complete with grand mountains, difficult adventure terrains and stories to tell the grandchildren, there are also the quick fast food getaways into the nearest rainforest just 90 minutes away from the bustling concrete city to get that much needed Nature’s quick fix.

Panti Forest is no macro photographer’s best kept secret.  The site is famous to bird watchers and bird photographers.  The forest reserve is regarded by many ornithologists and bird enthusiasts as one of Malaysia’s important bird habitats.

The forest is located at the headwaters of Sungai Johor, Linggiu and Ulu Sedili in the southern Johor State.  Although it suffered significant habitat damage in the early 1970s to make way for oil palm plantations leaving only primary forests at the foothills of the forest, Panti continues to support the existence of some 300 species of birds.

There are about 3 main rivers leading off the road which cuts into the lowland forest.  Sunny Chir, one of Butterflycircle’s experienced senior photographers, and a grandfather of three, has been to the site a total of 9 times, making this trip his 10th.  

Coming off Malaysia Federal Highway 91 from the Causeway through Johor Bahru to 1171 Jalan Lombong into what is popularly known as the Old Bunker Trail, the sight you would notice going in at 9:30a.m. in the morning is the sight of birders and bird photographers making their way out.

At least 3 groups of birders were passed along the drive to what Sunny calls the “base camp”.  The main bunker trail had been smoothened beyond recognition but many trails lead off from here into the forests. 

Stepping off excitedly into these trails, it was hard to ignore the huge numbers of Jamides and Arhopalas Both these genera of butterflies are equally difficult to distinguish and accurately identify.  The combination of their numbers, erratic flight and characteristically flighty behaviour resulted in a nasty game of needing to be fast and stealthy enough to snipe a shot at one Arhopala before a Jamides haphazarded into it, sending both off into a drunken uncoordinated dance further into the foliage.

Thanks to the good concentration of birds and their droppings, this Sky Blue Butterfly was fascinated enough to stay put for its mug shot.

A number of what I call unidentifiables:

Photographing butterflies in Panti Forest on this particular day in June turned out to be nothing short of an adult version of child’s play, complete with the luxury of a harmonious orchestra of bird singing in the background and no leeches.   

The concentration of such a large number of species of butterflies and insects in such a small place resulted in every bush yielding a different subject at every interval of the chase.  It was literally the butterfly Paris fashion show in suburban middle class Cologne with none of the budget cuts on show, variety and Lepidotera equivalent of big names in the fashion industry.

Shortly after the elusive Wanderer butterfly landed and graced a few shots, the rare Yellow Bodied Clubtail appeared, looking for a host plant.


Seemingly absorbed in finding a choice home to lay her precious eggs, the Clubtail ignored the frantic shuttering and flashing of 3 photographers as it circled the bush a few times, lilting up and down with unflustered indecision.

The turnover on each “catwalk” was so intense, the fashion photographers had to eat in the field next to their subjects.  I survived on nothing but redbull as I had no appetite for salty noodles in the forest.

There were a good number of Royal Assyrians hopping around all over the place and dodging under leaves.

We shot from 9:30a.m. to 4p.m. and to top off the already great day, Cher Hern spotted a pair of mating Manto hypoleuca which stayed long enough for all of us to get our fill in shots.


Panti Forest truly is choice beef hugged in healthy wheat burger buns slapped into a fast food wrap.  You get everything you could shoot in 2 days in just 1 day and you don’t even need to stay the night.


Just be prepared to dig a hole if you need to do the “big one” and bathe naked with melted ice water from the cooler box under a tree in full view of the laughing monkeys because Panti Forest has only one toilet facility… and it’s all locked up.

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  1. Raymond says:

    Awesome! Beautiful work. Glad there were "…no leeches." Wonderful shot of the Yellow Bodied Clubtail ! Your pictures on flickr rock 🙂

  2. Your pictures are breathtaking and gorgeous. Wow. They need to be matted and framed and hung on the wall!!!

  3. Hi Raymond! How have you been? I haven't heard from you in so long! And I haven't been visiting anyone's blog for an even longer time! Sorry about that! Been travelling, exams and working hard! How are you doing? 🙂

  4. Thanks for the very kind words and continued encouragement Freedom Smith! 🙂

  5. Raymond says:

    Mostly struggling with survival, searching for the motivation to put one foot in front of the other in the dimly remembered behavior of getting somewhere. Other than that tho'…doing okay. Great to hear from you, do well in school my friend 🙂

  6. I can't profess to pretend to know the severity of your situation. From those years until now, I believed it to be very trying. But still after all that time, I still can't think of a solution. It may be very presumptious of me to say this not knowing your situation fully. But I came across a book by Anthony Robbins called "Awaking the Giant". It did help me solve problems with the boss, problems with the family when Dad wanted to sell our home, all the problems I used to rant and rave about in my blog. The solutions weren't so much in the book itself but it helped me to stop believing I was that helpless. Although anyone can say that I wasn't that helpless in the first place as there were already people who had been thrown out of home, who had already lost their jobs and I only thought I was just getting there. I just didn't see it then how to deal with things then.
    I hope there will be a way. And I believe you are a survivor!

  7. Raymond says:

    Thank you Ellen.

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