Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Fishing in Tasik Kenyir; A Malaysia lake adventure

Tasik Kenyir fishing is one activity you would not want to miss in this huge man made lake. It is a Malaysia lake adventure you would not want to miss.

This group is definitely on a fishing trip with all the smaller boats being tugged along

I have done a few fishing trips to Tasik Kenyir. Me and my mates normally hire a boat house and spend about 3 days 2 nights out on the lake fishing and relaxing.

There are plenty of them fishes in the lake

I am not a serious angler myself but the occasional thrill of reeling in the fish is so very satisfying. It makes the 9 hours road drive and few hundred ringgits spent really worth it. I have caught fishes like Lampam (Puntius schwanenfeldii), Baung (Mystus sp), Sunhok or Ketutu, Sebarau (Hampala macrolepidota) and of course the famous Toman (Channa micropeltes). Of many shapes and sizes, some fishes are however very illusive and difficult to catch. Depsite my multiple fishing trips, I have never once caught the famed Kelah or Malaysian Mahseer (Tor tambroides).

Baits used to fish in Tasik Kenyir varies and at times a matter of preference. Different fish prefers different kind of baits of course. You can use artificial lures to attract fishes like Sebarau and Toman but very unlikely for you to land a Lampam or Baung. If you are not sure about which bait to use, ask the locals there. I have used bread, earth worms, insects, fermented palm seeds (Kelah’s favorite), life frogs and even chicken intestines. Catfish loves that kind of stuff.

Since Tasik Kenyir itself is huge, one starts to wonder where to even drop the line. My experience there (and the local guides) tells me that the fishes are normally found around the shallow waters of the lake. Some parts of the lake is 100 feet or more deep. I really wonder if anything can survive in that depth. Most of the good fishing is nearing to the shores or at the river mouths.

Fishing around shallow waters, especially for Tomans

As for myself, I admit that I am not much of an angler. The fishes I caught back when I was a kid seem to be much bigger than even the ones I see at the wet market. Then again, even the wet market seems so much bigger when I was a small 15 year old. And ever notice how the person next to you seems to be reeling in more (and bigger) fishes than you? Well, that is sort of the ‘norm’ when I go fishing. So, my mates know where exactly to position their rods each time.

My good mate Ben beaming with joy with his catch

Then of course there are moments when you just wonder why the other person have such good luck. I witness a guy pulling in a huge Toman once and from that day on, I reckon I am just not born with the ‘fishing luck’.

Look at the size of this Toman compared to my 25 liters Osprey daypack!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Snakes Malaysia; A (too) close encounter with an Ular Kapak Hijau

I recently had a (really) close encounter with one of Malaysian snakes that is super-poisonous it seems. The irony of it all was that I (nor anyone from the group I was with) realize how potent this snake is. After innocently posting a picture of the snake on this blog, my good bush friend Pak Abu manages to identify it as a Pit Viper. Now Pit Viper s doesn’t sound friendly at all do they?

This is the snake I saw during a trek up to Perlus Waterfall with a group of walkers. It was lying all curled up on small tiny branches just about ankle height off the ground in the middle of the walking path. I was the last person walking in the group when I suddenly saw a few walkers stopping in the middle of the trail, squatting and snapping pictures. There were giggles and laughter…that made me really curious.

Turns out to be a small green snake. Unknowingly, yours sincerely too took the opportunity to take some photos. There were some leaves covering it, so I moved them leaves with a stick I found nearby (this is probably the smartest thing I did that day). I manage to get closer, a couple of inches away to take the picture. As I am writing this, scenes of Austin Stevens (of Animal Planet, NOT the wrestling dude) fooling with poisonous snakes flash through my mind. I am just glad I wasn’t dumb enough to follow his ‘actions’ that day.

Could this be Trimeresurus hageni?

Photos I took and to the waterfall I continued on. I have been to some jungle but never really come across a snake like this. During my childhood when I was growing up in the small town of Baling, Kedah, my dad always shared scary stories about a particular snake called Ular Kapak. He told me that some of the locals call it Ular Kapak Bodoh (Ular-Snake, Kapak- Axe, Bodoh- Stupid). They call it so because it choose to curl up in the middle of walkways, paved roads even and will remain there no matter what. Even if someone or something comes along and it decides to puncture the ‘visitor’ with venom filled fangs, it will still stand its ground and continue curled up at the same spot…as if nothing had happened.

This is especially dangerous for local villagers, especially at nights. Riding bicycles or motorbikes, it is common back then to see riders (and pillions) to raise both their legs high up in the air whenever they see a pile of ‘something’ on the road ahead. Even if it turns out to be just a pile of cow dung. But if it is the Ular Kapak Bodoh, there is a probability that it will strike at you. With legs raised up high, passer by will be spared from the snake’s venomous bite. Thanks to it’s ‘bodoh-ness’ of not edging away, locals will then stop their vehicle, find a piece of long stick or bamboo and finish the snake off. End of another ‘road’ menace they say.

Oops…back to this snake. Thanks to Pak Abu, I think I have managed to track down exactly what it is. It is called the Indonesian Pit Viper or Trimeresurus hageni. Local Malaysians call it Ular Kapak Hijau. This (and any other pit vipers for the matter) is not a snake you want to mess around with. All Pit Vipers species in Malaysia it seems injects the hemotoxic venom that degenerates body tissues and destroys blood cells. They have this diamond shaped head and their venom is so potent that they can kill an adult human.

I wondered that day why this particular snake did not move away… not even an inch despite so many people walking by (it was still there when I started walking back from the waterfall). Probably because it is nocturnal. Perhaps it is the ‘way’ of the Trimeresurus hageni or perhaps it is deep in slumber from a good meal. Or perhaps like Pak Abu said… ‘it has nothing to fear coz it knows for a fact that it can bring you down with just one strike’. I rest my case.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Kota Tinggi Waterfall Resort

The Kota Tinggi Waterfall Resort is located in the southern peninsula state of Johor. A mere 16km (north-west) from Kota Tinggi and about 60km from Johor Bahru, it is no wonder that this resort is popular among locals and Singaporeans alike.

While the Kota Tinggi waterfall itself is the main attraction at this resort, one can help but notice the presence of ‘Sunway Lagoon theme park’ here. The waterfall and part of its downstream river has been turned into a water park facility complete with artificial water slides.

This reminds me of Sunway Lagoon theme park!

It is no wonder that this resort is getting around 300 visitors per day on a typical weekend. Holiday makers throng this place. Besides the water activities, there are also other facilities built to cater to visitor’s needs. I saw a squash court, a swimming pool, a big hall, a big canteen, rows of stalls and picnic tables.

As for accommodation, I was informed that the Kota Tinggi resort offers accommodation from the basic camping ground to the cozier hotel type rooms

The camping ground

Different types of accommodation facilities to suit different needs

Ample parking space, nice accommodation blocks, a naturally beautiful waterfall complete with water slides, this Kota Tinggi Waterfall resort looks very well maintained operated. The rivers are clean from rubbish and fishes can be seen in deeper pools, I would say that this place is well run and managed despite its location in the midst of the Malaysian jungle.

Do I think it is worth visiting? I would say yes but not on weekends with 300 people around!
Do I want to stay there overnite? Nope…I will take the bush anytime.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Kota Tinggi waterfall in Johor

Kota Tinggi waterfall is another waterfalls of Malaysia worth visiting. For a place that is so commercialized, the place really isn’t doing all that bad.

Finding the waterfall isn’t difficult. Just head into Kota Tinggi and there are plenty of ‘air terjun’ signboards to guide you all the way. Off the main road towards the falls, the roads becomes narrower and a little bit winding. At one point, I was wondering if we took a wrong turn.

Unlike the Perlus waterfall where one would have to hike for hours to reach the falls, getting to the Kota Tinggi waterfall can be done in the comfort of your motorized vehicle. Upon arrival, visitors are greeted by an arch toll booth. Yup…you need to pay an entrance fee to enjoy this waterfall. I can’t really remember how much (my group got in free this time!) but I don’t think if it’s anything more than RM10 per adult person.

The lower Kota Tinggi waterfalls

There are 2 main falls and several small cascades. The first fall is located just towards the end of the main road. To reach the upper falls, one would have to walk about 10 minutes via a specially built walkway. Visitors ought to be careful walking up the walkway as it is rather slippery.

Most walkway are paved, built with handrails but they can still be very slippery

The upper Kota Tinggi waterfalls is much impressive but if off limits for swimming

The upper Kota Tinggi waterfalls is definitely much more impressive than the first one. The walkway will end closest to the falls for visitors to enjoy the cool breeze and beauty of it all. The pool at the bottom of the waterfall however is off limits. Due to safety and conservation reasons perhaps.

A huge net stretched across the river with signs to warn people

The Kota Tinggi waterfall is really nice despite the fact that it is highly commercialized. Perhaps the entry fee and private company running the place is helping the place to stay clean and attractive.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Perlus Waterfall…Final part

This is the Perlus waterfall. It is a magnificence tropical rainforest rainforest waterfall. For a location that is barely an hour’s drive away from the heart of KL city, I would say that I am impressed…really impressed.

All things come at a price of course. This waterfall takes about 4 hours to walk. For someone who is fit, they can perhaps do it under 3 hours. I would consider this as a moderate trek. Not forgetting the trail was mostly up all the way on bush trail.

The trail’s elevation according to my GPS

The route mapped against GoogleEarth

The above to pictures are put together through the Garmin GPS I have recently invested in. I think they are super cool stuff. Sorry, but at this point, I am still learning how to put the GPS and Google Earth together. For the time being, the above is the best I can manage.

My effort of putting on the leech socks was only partially successful. I still had leech bites but they were all above my waist. Yup...I had one near the waistline, one on the chest and another on my shoulders. I was practically drenched in blood thanks to the blood anticoagulant. As for the leeches, I guess all of us in the group that day had our share of leech bites. They weren’t painful but they do leave a horrible itch that lasts for days.

Everyone enjoyed the waterfall. There were obvious signs of campers on the small flat ground near the waterfall. There’s a fire pit, strung strings and of course rubbish. After some feed, a bit of washing up and dip in the waterfall, we were all refreshed and ready to head back.

I like Perlus waterfall. I don’t really enjoy the waterfall itself but the hike and the amount of things to see is simply awesome. The next time around, I would really like to camp inside there and just to simply enjoy the jungle. In a month of two perhaps?

Click here to read Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 (plants) and Part 4 (animals) of my Perlus rainforest waterfall adventure.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Tropical jungle animals of Perlus Waterfall…Part 4

Compared to the jungle plants of Perlus waterfall, I would have to say that the tropical jungle animals of Perlus waterfall have to be the highlight of this trip. This second visit to Perlus waterfall showcased some of the most amazing tropical animals I have ever seen.

We didn’t have to explore off the trail to see these animals. They were like ‘exposing’ themselves to be seen, wanting to be photographs and appreciated. This is especially true for this particular snake. Not only was it lying low on some small plants but it was also right in the middle of the trail. With so many people walking pass it (some probably had a brush with it), the snake stood its ground and did not move much.

This snake is beautiful!

I was really excited seeing it. A bit scared to get close to it but can’t help it. It is stunningly beautiful. Some of the group did not notice the snake as they headed into the falls. So, I decided to head back first to see if I can find it again. Sure enough, the snake was still there, waiting for its eager audiences.

We saw a predator that day and we also say one of its meals perhaps. This green frog was seen sitting on a leaf, enjoying the peacefulness of the jungle when suddenly there were flashes of bright lights and human chatter around it. Despite all the chaos, the frog didn’t move a bit, allowing everyone a chance to take pictures.

Other usual jungle animals we saw along the way includes some dragonflies, millipedes and ants. Below are some of them pictures.

The giant ants of the jungle

Manage to capture only its ‘rear’ before it flew away

Why do I have this strong feeling that this millipede would stink

Really nice looking dragonfly

Both the frog and the snake especially were a welcome change to my jungle walk experience. It goes to demonstrate how unique and (to a certain extent) how pristine this jungle of Perlus waterfall is. While there is beauty and sign of wildlife abundance in the area, unmistakably there will be certain people who would try to exploit or even hunt them down. Along the trail, I spotted this trap. A ‘enlarged’ version of the common rat trap, this trap looks big enough to fit a small kid.

An animal trap fashioned from the common mouse trap

While the presence of the trap is a sad addition to the jungle, perhaps it is the Orang Asal’s way of life to hunt for jungle animals to feed themselves. Subsistence living through such hunting is perhaps acceptable for as long as the animals are not over hunted and exploited.

Click here to read Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3 of my Perlus rainforest waterfall adventure.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Tropical jungle plants of Perlus Waterfall…Part 3

There are a lot of interesting jungle plants on the trail to Perlus waterfall. A botanist will surely have a good time exploring this jungle for its entire flora splendor. Nature guide John Chan pointed out several types of Senduduk besides a variety of other useful plants.

One part of the trek that really stood out is this particular area with loads of bamboo. It’s like walking into a world of bamboo…like the scene from the movie ‘Crouching Tiger, ‘Hidden dragon ’. Bamboo everywhere you look.

It’s interesting to find out why the high concentration on bamboo in this area. Perhaps it is because of the soil and the terrain. As we walk further we come upon an opening with bamboos criss-crossing the entire trail.

The bamboo version of ‘Entrapment’?

Bamboo is probably another one of the most useful plant one can find in the jungle. In a survival situation, bamboo can be used to obtain drinking water, build shelter, start fire and even provide food. The shoots of young bamboo plant is a popular local food, known locally as Rebung.

A Rebung

The following are some interesting jungle plants I manage to capture during the trek.

Not a clue what plant this flower belong to

The shoots of a bamboo

Nice flower

A close-up of the flower

This flower looks like something from an alien movie

Ouch…not something you’d want to hang on to

Symbiosis or parasite?

Okay…okay…the photos are not the best. Hey…I am learning. In any case, there’s simply too many things to just stop and photograph. I doubt if I will ever be able to arrive at Perlus waterfall that way. I reckon it would be even more interesting if I can be with John at the front of the walking party to learn as much from him. Throughout, I was behind…taking on the ‘sweeper’ role as a cover-up to my lack of stamina catching-up with the rest.

Next...Tropical jungle animals of Perlus Waterfall

Monday, November 10, 2008

Perlus waterfall, PART 2

My leech sock and my boots

This is a continuation to my recent Perlus waterfall trip. After my first trip to Perlus, I realize that I had to take extra gear with me. Leeches are aplenty along the trail to Perlus. They are everywhere. So…leech sock is a must this time. I make do without socks, tucked my pants in and had the leech socks up.

Yup…I have my jungle boots on. It’s the only pair of shoes that will actually give me the support and grip that I need on the trail. The trail is mostly wet, muddy and slippery. Other things I packed extra for this trip was my UHF radio and my GPS. I want to record the route as much as I can.

Cars were parked at local Orang Asal’s house. Sali was not around but his porcupine friend finally decides to show itself. It came out, though I doubt to greet the morning’s visitors, grabbed some fruits and quickly ran back to its hole in the cement walled ‘compound’.

Say cheese Mr Porcupine

Camera shy Mr Porcupine decides to head back into it’s ‘hole’

A bit of briefing to the entire group and a few minutes later, we were already on our way to Perlus waterfall. John, being a nature guide had the whole group interested in plants and the surrounding when he stopped and shared about them.

Nature Guide John Chan sharing some of his knowledge on useful plants

The Senduduk or Melastoma malabathricum is known to be used for the treatment of piles, high blood pressure and diabetes

This useful Senduduk plant also has purplish fruits that can be eaten. A good jungle plant to look for in case of a survival situation.

The fruit of Senduduk can be eaten

The initial part of the trail saw mostly small orchards planted with banana, durians and some local guava. Gradually the trail change it’s look and became more ‘wild’.

The initial part of the trail passes through some orchards

The trail soon became more ‘off road’ and the scenery that surrounds us began to change. The jungle became denser and shouts of ‘leeches!’ began ringing among the group. The terrain too gradually became steeper. All part of a good hike...(to be continued)

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Perlus waterfall, PART 1

Okay…in one of my previous blog entry, I was preparing myself for a hike into Perlus waterfall with Nature Guide John Chan. This is my second time going into Perlus and I am all excited and at the same time a bit scared as we will actually be accompanying a group. My concern weren’t really about safety and group management but more of whether I can catch up with them. My stamina as a 5 days week pencil pusher isn’t exactly something to be proud about.
My ‘first’ experience with Perlus waterfall can be described as exhausting. I remembered upon arriving at the waterfall, I spent at least 20 minutes napping on a rock. Though I am not sure whether it is due to the fatigue of perhaps due to the big packet of nasi lemak I just whacked when I got there. It felt like heaven either way. The rock I choose was in the middle of the river, flat enough for me to lie down comfortably but perhaps a bit short for my height. The sound of cascading water and the cool mist filled breeze is simply awesome. I was in heaven.

I jumped on the opportunity to join John on this trip. Learning from my first experience, I was in a away more prepared this time. I was determined to keep the leeches out this time. I had all my gear packed the night before. As usual, Meun feels that its an overkill but I’d rather bring whatever I need than having to look for alternatives later on. 6 am the following morning, the Vitara is packed up and I am on the way to Hulu Langat.

The landmark and usual meeting point is the mosque of course. We arrived early and straight away dived in for a hearty breakfast (to me at least). At a nearby shop, I manage to buy these fruits. Considered a delicacy, from the same category of Petai and Jering, I give you ‘Buah Kerdas’. In the Klang valley people would refer it to Kerdas but some parts of Kedah would call it ‘Buah Genuak’ (Buah means fruit in Malay language). On wikipedia, seems like the plant has a scientific name of Pithecellobium bubalinu.

Buah Kerdas or Genuak

These ones are fresh. Just harvested from the nearby jungle. The inside ‘nuts’ are still green but after a while, they will turn dark brown, almost black. It there is an ‘ulam’ (eaten raw) that stinks...I would say this is the mother of all ulam. Unlike Petai where the aftermath stinking sensation usually occurs after consumoption through piss, the Kerdas make its presences right from the fruit itself.

Despite their smell, they are really wonderful eating. They are really crunchy and rich. The moment you bite onto them, the aroma will already begin to envelop your mouth. Its not really a bad smell once you get used to it. I like it. The locals believe that this fruit will help to cleanse your kidneys. The result? You will smell it permeating from your piss just a few hours later.

To be continued…

Click here to read Part 2, Part 3 (plants), Part 4 (animals) and the final part of my Perlus rainforest waterfall adventure.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Kelah Sanctuary at Kuala Marong, Endau Rompin

If you ever get the chance to visit Endau Rompin National Park, try to make a detour to the Kuala Marong Kelah sanctuary. This is yet another wonderful place in tropical rainforest Malaysia where you can witness first hand the famed Malaysian Mahseer in its natural habitat.

I visited Kuala Marong during a trip to Endau Rompin organized by the Nature Guide SIG from the Malaysia Nature Society. Kuala Marong was part of the itinerary and its one of the highlights (for me at least) of the whole trip. I rarely miss the chance to see the Kelah, even if they are in fish tanks!

Unlike the Sungai Petang Kelah sanctuary that is rather heavily guarded by park rangers, Kuala Marong seems to be a bit ‘easy’ for people to access to. There were people camping just beside the river when I was there. There were also quite many people trying to ‘swim’ with the fishes.

I get to see them Kelah fishes from a specially built viewing platform. The water was crystal clear and the fishes can be seen gracefully swimming around waiting for food from human visitors. There wasn’t really that many Kelah but they were huge ones. I saw not only the Kelah but also Sebarau, Lampam and Tengas.

The fishes at Kuala Marong

Kuala Marong is a place where two rivers meet. Further down from where the fishes are is a place for visitors to swim. I didn’t hesitate of course. The place was teaming with fishes. No Kelah came near but there were definitely some curios Lampam and Sebarau. Some were even curious enough to nibble my toes! A few of my friends joined me in the water. They had some bread with them, which the fishes gladly ate up. I know it’s not a good thing to be feeding the fishes but sometimes people just can’t help it! Don’t blame them really.

Me and an Orang Asal guide at Kuala Marong

The Kuala Marong Kelah sanctuary is most accessible via the eastern entrance to the park, often referred to as the Kampung Peta way. To enter via this entrance, it is best that you hire 4WD services from the Kahang town nearby. The access road is unpaved and winds through endless oil palm plantations.

Read more about my rainforest adventures in Endau Rompin National Park.