Australia Diaries – North Stradbroke Island

Undoubtedly the highlight of the Brisbane leg of our Australia holiday and probably the best place to visit in Brisbane. North Stradbroke Island is a small little island off Brisbane which is accessible via ferry. We started our journey there by driving to the jetty where we elected to park our car there and take the passenger ferry over rather than drive over. Much cheaper and there is bus service on the island which covers the main highlight areas of the island.

We took the bus to Point Lookout, the main village. There is 2 other areas that are apparently must go but I slipped up in the homework and overlooked that and spent the whole day at Point Lookout. 

We started the day with a wonderful delicious brunch at the Blue Room. For those who wants local fresh bake, this is the go to place. Great food and coffee.

After that we took a stroll along the beach which stretch on and on one bay after another.

Naturally we had to explore some of the trails

And we were lucky to spot some birds like this Butcher Bird.

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Australia Diaries – Australia Zoo

I make it a point to go to a zoo in every major city that I go to,  that is, if they have a zoo of note. And in Australia, none come as famous as the Australian Zoo so that was our first destination straight from the airport to kick off our Australia holiday.

The Australia Zoo is of course most famous not for its animal but for its founder – the late Steve Irwin, the famed Crocodile Hunter. The Australia Zoo is on the outskirt of Brisbane, about 1.5 hours drive away and as a testimony to the fame of Steve Irwin, the road leading to the Zoo has been named after him!

First thing we saw when we went in was this lizard lying in the open. And then we saw more and more of them. These are native Water Dragons and free roaming in the zoo.  Cute little fella ain’t it.

Of course our purpose in coming to the zoo or any foreign zoo is to see any animals that we might not be able to see in the wild or anywhere else and not some common reptiles. So we were looking forward to seeing some native Australian animals like the Playtus; Tasmanian Devil and of course Australia’s famous venomous snakes. But sadly the zoo has no Playtpus and we didn’t see any Tasmanian Devil in its enclosures. We did see the Dingo though.

There were plenty of Koalas and we can even touch them at one of the exhibits.

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Reptopia @ Singapore Zoo

The Singapore Zoo replaced the old Reptile House with a brand new “Reptopia” which opens in late May this year. The old Reptile House which was looking very dated with all the snakes in small glass tank enclosure. The new Reptopia is firstly air conditioned and very much more comfortable for visitors.  The old walk through exhibit which used to have the iguana and tortoises is now divided into 2 smaller areas with one of them featuring the Caiman crocodile and the other the same iguana and the tortoises.

The snakes and other reptiles are now housed in much bigger enclosures with different compatible species kept in same enclosures.Here are some of the snakes that are displayed in the new Reptopia. 

Ball Python

Green Tree Python

Reticulated Python

King Cobra

Keeled Rat Snake

Gabon Viper

Emerald Tree Boa

Western Diamond Backed Rattlesnake

Mangrove Snake

Sadly though, the number of snakes specimen has been reduced drastically. The Singapore snakes area is no more and the popular anaconda has been moved to the River Safari.

There are now a lot more lizards some of which I understand from some sources are confiscated lizards from the public. In addition, there are weird looking lizards like gila monster, beard dragon and skink.

Caiman Lizard

Fuji Banded Iguana

Gila Monstor

Bearded Dragon

Ornate Spiny Tailed Lizard

There are now several species of chameleon. I didn’t know there are so many species and so colorful too.

Parson’s Chameleon

Panther Chameleon

Yemen Chameleon

Last but not least there are a few rare frogs and even a tarantula.

Dyeing Poison Frog

 

All in, despite the reduced number of snakes, I think this new Reptopia is certainly worth a visit especially for those who are into reptiles.

Big Tree @ Gunung Lambak

The first time I went to Gunung Lambak was 2 years ago. Back then I thought it was a fairly easy hike/climb. In fact of all the mountains that I climbed in Malaysia, I rate this the easiest until Saturday’s climb. 2 years ago when I went there, I didn’t go to the Big Tree. I was told it was tough but people tend to exaggerate the toughness so I took that with a pinch of salt. 

Gunung Lambak can be divided into 3 parts – from the foot of the mountain where the waterpark is to the summit with the telecom station and from there to the Big Tree and return to the summit and lastly a relatively easier hike from the summit to the 2nd peak or false summit before descending to the foot of the mountain.

There is 2 ways to go up to the summit at this location where there is a sort of tea house manned by the nearby residents. The last time I came, we took the so called “difficult” route.  This time round, we were a bit lazy and took the easier route which is just next to the board.

Of course, there is always a catch and the easier route was a few hundred metres longer! But true to what they said, it was indeed much easier to tackle this portion notwithstanding 1 small part where we have to clamber up some steep trails.

Once we reached the summit, we decided to head down to the Big Tree. I didn’t go there the last time round so this time I followed the rest. I should have stayed with 2 smart ladies who wisely decided to wait for the rest of the group at the summit. It was a long 1.5 km walk down to the big tree. A very steep walk where thankfully if not for the rope that some kind soul had put up along the trail, I will probably be sliding down  all the way to the Big Tree. It was a long painful 55 minutes of slow walk down with me sliding on my bum twice. And for all the hard work, all we got was this big tree which one can easily find in say our Singapore Botanic Garden!

The worst part of this? The long climb back up. This has gonna be the most torturous 1.5 km I ever did with my calves and quads screaming in agony with every upward flight. Unlike other mountain, this was one continuous climb up with just a sort 20 metres or so of flat trail. But we did surprise ourselves by doing it 10 minutes faster than the descent!

Back at the summit I had my lunch there. There wasn’t much of a view up there though. Blocked by all the trees. Pity.

We descend with one group opting to go to the false summit. Me? I have enough for one day and opted to go down straight. And I am happy we made that decision because we were rewarded with sightings of the Dusky Leaf Langurs and the Pig Tailed Macaque! This is the first time I seen a Pig Tailed Macaque and it was a bittersweet experience between the pair of them were spotted around the water park area and the ice cream vendor was feeding it with ice cream!

Running @ Leisure Farm Resort

Whenever I go away, I try to get in a short run and it was no exception when 2 weeks ago, we stayed over at a friend’s place at the posh Leisure Farm in Malaysia. The place is big – real big. It sits on 1765 acres of land spread over 7 gated compound and 4 strata plots and comes with facilities like club house, swimming pool, orchard and f&b outlets.

Just to get an idea of how big the place is, we stayed in a bungalow in one of the gated compound and managed to do a complete loop of 10 km within that compound alone!

It was a cool morning when we started our run. It fact it was threatening to rain but thank goodness the weather held and we had an enjoyable time exploring the place.

The place was built apparently on an old forest converted to palm tree plantation to now residential and it is very hilly.

Beside the slopes, there are many many empty plot of lands waiting for some rich landowner to built their own bungalow.

We came upon a beautiful little stream and we could run alongside it for a short distance before we went back on the road.

On the road, there were many big bungalows, some typical European design with big driveway, porches and arches. Then there were the modern type with big glass facade. And there is this futuristic house

There is a little canal or creek as they called it.

The highlight was when we came to this place.

A dead end but a very tempting looking place. Good for trail running and birding! But since we were guests, we didn’t enter the area and choose to continue running on the road. That was when we heard some rustling up in the trees. My immediate thought was macaque but it turned out to be this:

A big band of Dusky Leaf Langur! What a nice surprise and a nice way to wrap up the run.

 

Pulau Ubin Night Walk

Went for a guided night hike at Pulau Ubin organised as part of the Pesta Ubin 2017 activities. The walk was conducted by the famous Subaraj Rajathurai, of Strix Wildlife Consultancy. Here he is briefing the group on the type of bats that can be seen on Pulau Ubin. 

It amazing that he can identify the bats flying up and down. And he does a good bird mimic too! But because the group is too big, we split into 2 groups and we followed his son who was just as knowledgeable.

And before long, he spotted the first snake for the night. A Common Bronzeback Snake high up in the tree. It simply amazing how they can spot something so small and indistinguishable in the dark. Can you see it in cropped photo? 

We spotted a lot of Four lined frogs including a mating pair.

Also a few Asian Toad

And apparently a rare Chorus frog which got our 2 guides all excited. 

And of course there were geckos and insect and this weird looking Hammerhead Flat Worm.

And also a moth

And a Huntsmen Spider

And after 2 hours of walking, we ended the night with another snake sighting. In fact 2 of them – both Oriental Whip Snake.

Oriental Whip Snake