Never Stop Exploring Tanjong Tuan, Port Dickson

We reached Tanjung Tuan late and the Raptor flypast had largely gone by for the day. So our group leader decided to bring us for a short “easy” hike through the Tanjong Tuan Nature Reserve.

Tanjong Tuan Nature Reserve is a small area of protected forest in Port Dickson, Negri Sembilan. Like all Malaysian rainforest, it is dense with lots of undergrowth.

We started off somewhere at the top near the light house. Our objective was the beach and a village somewhere below. Going through the trail was not difficult although the trails didn’t appear very well trodden. What made it slightly more challenging for me was that I was still holding on to my 3.5 kg of camera and lens in the hand. I wanted to dismantle them and put them away but the thought that I may spot some birds or animals kept me from doing so. So I trekked slowly and carefully to make sure that I don’t hit the lens against a tree or a rock.

Although the trail was short, there was many side trails and with the group getting separated frequently, there were much back tracking. And at some place, there was short sharp drop which with my hand full I had to negotiate very carefully. In the end I did slipped once and allowed my body to take the impact rather than use my hands to cushion the fall rather than risk dropping the camera!

Eventually we came to a small little beach. Clean water but dirty sands.

Then we made our way up and this time the going was much easier as there were wooden and concrete steps to walk on. That lead us back to the main road where we headed back to our apartment while some of the others hopeful went back to the light house to see whether they can spot any raptor.

Dusky Langur @ Tanjong Tuan, Port Dickson

The first thing we noticed when we alighted from our bus at the PNB Ilham Resort was a monkey on a tree next to the road. Not any monkey but a Dusky Langur! Immediately those with readily available camera started snapping. Unfortunately for me, my gear was still in the bag and not setup and I know by the time I get anything ready, the little creature will be long gone, what with the oooh and haaa that the whole bus was making over it. And true enough, it soon sprung off.

The next with nature photography is that one need to seize every opportunity that comes along because you never know when it will happen again. And I was pretty disappointed that I didn’t manage a shot of it. But with hope eternal, after check in and on our way up to the lighthouse for the raptor watch, I was hopeful that we can spot more of them. But sadly even after doing a unplanned for trek through the reserve, we only saw 2 Long Tailed Macaque. I think M sense my disappointment or she was just as disappointed as me. On our way back to the resort while the rest of the group went back up to the lighthouse or to their room, she suggested going back to the alighting point to see when the langur has returned. And of course no luck.

There was a side road there and we decided to take a walk down to see what was there. Some birds – mainly Oriental Magpie Robin and a couple of Asian Glossy Starlings. And then we saw this tree.

Any by golly, Mother Nature was smiling on us for once! It was crawling with the Dusky Langur. Not one, not two but at least 8 – 9 of them. And I had my photos! Look at them. Aren’t they so so cute!

Further down the road, there were another 3 on a mangrove plant. So we had our fill of the Langur.

The next day some of the others also wanted to come and see the Langur. But sadly the road to the tree was closed and there was a gate. So we were very fortunate that we had stumbled upon them yesterday.

We did spot a couple of the Langur on our way to and from the Light House along the main path. But the lighting there was much poorer and there were too many visitors walking up and down and I didn’t get any usable shots from.

We heard there were 4 types of monkey in this area. The Tailed Macaque; Dusky Langur; Pig Tailed Macaque and Silver Langur. We didn’t get to sight the latter 2 but I happy that at least we got the Dusky Langur.

Raptor Watch @ Tanjong Tuan

My first “birding” trip. Apparently every year thousand of raptors which include the Sea Eagle, Buzzard, Kite, Hawks and Bazza fly over the Strait of Malacca on their way home south after enjoying the warm of Indonesia. Somehow, this little place in Port Dickson, Tanjong Tuan is the main area in West Malaysia where the raptors can be viewed as they fly home.

After getting an invite to see this, we make our way up there in a coach. We reached rather late on Saturday afternoon and was disappointed to learn that the flight for the day was mainly over. Somehow, the raptors mainly flies between the hours of 10 am to 3 pm to catch the thermal hot air that will aid in their flight. 

Early next morning, we made our way up the main path of the Tanjong Tuan forest reserve to this light house at the peak where there is unobstructed view of the migration.

After a long wait which was threatened by the approaching rain cloud from Sumatra, at around 10 +, the raptors finally appeared. It was indeed a fascinating sight to see wave after wave of these  birds flying over the sea.

Here is a short video of them in flight. 

Most of the raptors sighted were the Oriental Honey Buzzard or so I been told although at the distance that we sighted them, I couldn’t even recognise any of them. 

We reluctantly tear ourselves away around noon to prepare for our journey back to Singapore. It had been a really great experience seeing so many of these majestic birds flying over our head, something that will never be possible in Singapore. And in addition to the raptors, there was also the bonus of seeing other birds and the beautiful Dusky Langurs but I leave that for another post.

Birding @ Lamma Island, Hong Kong

Before coming to Lamma Island, i did some quick search on the birds available there and was excited enough to rent a 18 mm – 300 mm lens to cover the whole spectrum from landscape to birds. 300 mm isn’t really good enough for birdings but I guess I have to compromise. The first thing on our approach to the island that we saw was the numerous Black Kite in the sky. That got me all excited and I pull out the camera notwithstanding that we were in a rubber dinghy in the middle of the sea. Silly me. 

On landing, as we walked towards our apartment, the ladies spotted a bird in one of the bush. By the time I turned around it was gone. But that was the sign of more good things to come. After checking in, I got out the camera and walked around. Many bird calls but nothing that I can shoot. And it was getting dark. Blimey! But still I managed to shoot some Chinese Bulbuls on the beach and of course the Black Kites but nothing usable though.

Early next morning before setting off for breakfast, I got my first shot. Again with low light and the birdie so far away, it wasn’t a great shot but it was in birding speak, a lifer for me. A pair of White Wagtail! 

White Wagtail

This was taken from the patio of our apartment and heavily cropped. But this was the first of many lifers to come for the rest of the day.

Another bird on the beach was this black and white bird. Looked like a crow. In fact it was standing next to a crow. Discovered later that it is really a crow but a Collared Crow,  a species that I have not heard anyone mentioned as being sighted in Singapore.

Collared Crow

Walking towards Yung Shun Wan village,  we got our 2nd bird or should I say birds. This was the beautiful Red Whiskered Bulbul.

Red Whiskered Bulbul

This was probably the 2nd most abundant bird on the island beside the Black Kite. They were everywhere and after getting over the initial excitement, I had to tell the ladies that I got enough of this bid and not to point out to me! Sadly it is not the same in Singapore where the birds are now so rare drove to almost extinction by the pet trade.

Next was a more common familiar looking bird which I could positively identify as a Drongo. Another lifer!

Black Drongo

Next we spotted another common bird in Singapore.  The Oriental Magpipe Robin. It always a pleasure to see this beautiful bird.

Oriental Magpie Robin

At Yung Shun Wan village, despite the built up area, there were more birds among which was the most common bird in Hong Kong, the Eurasian Tree Sparrow

Eurasian Tree Sparrow

At the Pier, there was a lone Little Egret

Little Egret

But what got me more excited was another lifer for me a pair of Pacific Reef Egret. 

Pacific Reef Egret

Apparently this piece of rock is its favourite perch for fishing cos there are many photos on the web of the same bird on the same rock!

On the way back from breakfast, and walking along the Family Trail, there was this bird which I managed to later identify as a Black Collared Starling. Another lifer!

Black Collared Starling

And then managed to see another Chinese Bulbul at much closer range compared to those on the beach.

Chinese Bulbul

Did saw another bird in the forest but it was too dark to have a proper shot. I think it is a Grey Backed Thrush though.

Grey Backed Thrush

Thereafter, it was pretty much either the Sparrow or the Red Whiskered Bulbul and of course the Black Kite up in the sky. Until we reached the other pier at Sok Kwu Wan. I was hoping to see a Red Throated Diver which has been reported sighted there but no idea. Instead I saw some myna on the boat. I was rather surprised since my understanding is that myna are mostly land birds. I ws sure they were myna though. They look alike and yet there was something different. Turned out I was right. These are Crested Mynas. 

Crested Myna

That was the last of the Lifers for me. Spotted more Red Whiskered Bulbul, Oriental Magpipe Robin and Spotted Dove and of course the Black Kite. Up to these points, I still haven’t got any decent shot of the Black Kite as they were mostly too high up. But as we climbed higher and higher on our way back, I finally managed to get some decent photos of them!

Black Kite

The 18 – 300 mm performed well enough to make me a happy man. I do not need crisp sharp photos suitable for joining contest or to blow up to A1 or even A3 size photos. Just good enough to take a decent photo and the 18 – 300 mm managed to did just that!

Lamma Island, Hong Kong

Just like in Singapore, getting to the islands of HK is fairly easy. Just go to the Ferry Pier at Central and take a short ferry ride to any of the island, in our case Lamma Island. A short 45 minutes ferry ride and we reached the pier at Sok Kwu Wan on Lamma Island. From there, it was a long 2 hours walk to our guesthouse at Luk Chau Tuen but luckily for us, our host came to pick us up in his rubber dinghy. Did I mention rubber dingy?

The rubber dinghy that took us to and from our apartment to the pier

When I first saw it, I could see ourselves getting totally soaked on our way there. Luckily, our host Christian drove very slowly and not only did we not get soaked, we saw a lot of birds especially the Black Kites. I was all so excited and out came the camera although as expected, none of the photos came out well what with the movement of the boat and the choppy water.

That our apartment at the end.

Our place at Luk Chau Tsuen reminds me of one of those places in those 90s Hong Kong vampire movie where the vampires run amok on the island. Luk Chau Tsuen is more like an abandoned village next to the sea and the buildings look so dilapidated, ours included. But fortunately, our host had turned his place into a nice cosy place despite it being quite run down. 

Next morning we started our exploration of Lamma Island. The island itself is not very big and only 7 km in length. There are 2 villages with 2 pier at each end of the island. Unfortunately we were right smacked somewhere in the centre and had to walk about 2 km to Yung Shun Wan village for our breakfast. The walk was fairly easy as there is a proper concrete path that leads to both village.

Just a short walk up the hill and we got a gorgeous view of Aberdeen across the sea.

And just further up ahead we saw the first landmark of the island, the Lamma Wind Turbines. 

There is another impressive view of the sea and beyong from this high point.

Going closer to Yung Shue Wan, we passed by this apparently famous tau huay (bean curd) place but it was too early and not opened yet. We did stopped to eat on our way to Sok Kwu Wan but I wasn’t terribly impressed by it though. What got us more excited was this place

Yes this is the place where the famous Fatt Kor, actor Chow Yun Fat grew up. The 2nd house in the photo! 

And finally after many stops for photos and almost 1 hour later, we reached Yung Shuw Wan where we had our breakfast and the ladies did some shopping for groceries!

From here, we have to walk the whole 7 km to Sok Kwu Wan. The walk was pleasant enough although it involves many climbs. But the view was fantastic and there was beaches and many many birds to see that it took us longer than expected.

Hung Shing Ye Bay

We stopped for a while to enjoy the breeze at the beach. There were proper toilet facilities here and small eateries. It was all so pleasant. Unfortunately, the view was marred by this power plant which sticks out like a sore thumb!

The power plant is visible from most high ground unfortunately

After this we started going up and up and got more and more great views

We didn’t have to go up this peak but we did, later on our way back to our apartment.

After a long long walk, we finally reached the village of Sok Kwu Wan. The first thing that caught my eye is this graffiti of this pig on one of the houses.

The star tourist attraction of Lamma Island is this Tin Hau Temple. 

We didn’t go in though cos we were real hungry by then and there were seafood restaurants galore here. After lunch, we had to walk all the way back to our apartment. This time, we took a detour and went up the peak.

We had a glorious view of the Lamma Island bay from up high. 

By the time we got back to our apartment, we had walked from 8 am till 6 pm criss-crossing the island and then back tracking to our place covering at least 12 km. But with great weather, beautiful scenery and for me, sighting of many birds, it was a great great adventure, well worth the walk. And there was still the sun rise to look forward to the next morning although we did wake up a bit too late to catch the sun rise in full!

Because we stayed on the island, we had to walk back to our place which took extra time. Generally, it would have been better to just do a day trip – take a ferry over to either one of the pier and walk to the other end and take the ferry from the other pier back to mainland. 

Dragon Back Trail @ Hong Kong

We had 1 day to kill before the marathon and so garang us went for a hike at Dragon Back. Dragon Back is supposed to be a easy hike and near enough for us to reach and complete in half a day so as not to tire out the legs for the race the next day.

We took Uber to the trail head at Shek-O instead of going through the hassle of taking the MTR and then changing bus. It cost us a fair bit more and I think took longer as the driver wasn’t familiar with the way there and didn’t know where to drop us until we came to this place where there was a group of hikers. We reckon this must be it since the GPS said so.

We alight and yes we were at the trail head! Up a short flight of stairs and the rest was dirt track. Like what most people described in social media, it was an easy walk even though the way was up and up and up. But the view of the surrounding was awesome and we stopped many many times to take photos. In fact I think we spent more time taking photos than actual trekking.

Eventually we reach an open area where there were many hikers taking photos.

Some were posing precariously on the rocks. Sighed… One wrong move or a gust of strong wind and this lady would be swept off the mountain top. Stupid gal.

From here, we backtracked a bit to go to the summit which was not very high actually.  Yah that the summit over at the top of the hill!Just 285 metres. We had our lunch break here before descending. We got side tracked by some paragliders launching themselves off the mountain top and spent some time waiting for a couple to get ready and take off. Wow!

Thereafter the walk down was pretty easy over a tree covered trail unlike the earlier open mountain top. Sheltered from the wind and sun! Yeah. This also means no view L though. We reached the bottom which was back at a different part of Shek-O Road. At that point in time I didn’t know that turning right will lead us to a beach. Instead we turned left to the main road at Tai Tam Road and took a bus to Shau Kei Wan where we chanced upon a char chan teng, Sun Kwong Roasted Goose Restaurant serving really great goose meat!

All in, we took about 3 hours + to complete the trek. Longer than expected but not too bad considering that we stopped at least for almost an hour for photos, lunch and watching the paragliders.