Monday, April 26, 2010

Mawai Eco Camp Part I

Mel first told me about this trip but I wasn’t really interested at that time. It was only when PY asked me again that I decided to just try for it.

This weekend holiday was to Mawai Eco Camp, and it was organised by the Nature Society catered especially for the Plant Group. It was also opened to the public with extra charges, but it turned out that we were the only two non-members in the gang.

We had a short bus trip before arriving at the jetty where we were ferried over to the other end of a river to the campsite. The place was surprising clean and serene, and there was no electricity and everything is made of wood.

Here is our guide, Sutari. A jovial guy who seem to laugh at every moment, he reminds me of Sergant Dollah in the Channel 5 show, Police and Thief. He was showing us how the leaves of the Singapore Rhododendron (Melastoma malabathricum), when chewed can be used for wound healing.

After lunch, we went for a swamp forest walk with an Orang Asli guiding the way. Sutari showed us some the aboriginal people can survive in the forest by using the vegetation in the forest. One example was this Sedge where the edible young stem can be eaten.

He also told us that the rhizomes of the Lygodium fern (on his head) can be eaten to treat many ailments.

Even though I know many rattans can climb,

but this is the first time I see one that grew from the base and all the way to the up a host tree! Interesting that this rattan doesn’t even use spines to climb.

The Orang Asli showed us some survival skills and chopped off a short piece of liana. We were amazed how much water was contained in there and all of us are able to get a sip from this piece. Be careful though, because we have to check to make sure that the water is not milky before drinking it.

An unfortunate lady got sucked by a leech halfway during the trip and Sutari showed us how to counter these creatures, by using saliva! Throwing out a big spit of saliva (which disgusted everyone) on the leech, the annelid became drowsy and weak. 

After the walk, we went for a river cruise along Sungei Mawai.

One of the highlights was the Dusky Leaf Monkeys and there were troops of them hanging around the freshwater swamp. We even get to see a baby monkey which was orange in colour.

In a group of enthusiastic botanists like Angie, Von Bing and Bian Hwee, we were naturally infected to investigate many strange plants along the river. I also got to know that Corner wrote a book about this place in “The Freshwater swamp-forest of South Johore and Singapore”.

One of the common trees we saw was this Tristaniopsis sp. which have flaking bark.

Another common plant is this Rengas, Gluta velutina that has interesting papery fruits.

Just before the day ended, we headed out to the river ahead for a fire fly lighting spectacle, followed by a star gazing guide. And I had a pretty sleepless night because of the hot weather, mossies and some snoring humans who occupied the longhouse catered for the non-snorers =.=”

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