Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Brown Anoles - New lizard found at Gardens by the Bay

A female Brown Anole with Canon EOS 7D with Tamron 90mm at f18 1/160 ISO 250

Brown Anole (Norops sagrei) is native to Cuba, the Bahamas, and some adjacent islands in the Caribbean. It was recently discovered in Gardens by the Bay in late 2012. It seemed to be established quite well at Gardens by the Bay.

They can be easily spotted among the ornamental plants along the coast just outside Majestic Bay Seafood Restaurant. I was there on 3 occasions to photograph them and encountered at least 20 individuals during each visit.

 I must say brown anoles are quite entertaining to photograph especially the males as males are territorial and display their dewlaps (reddish throat fans) to show their dominance.
A brown male displaying its dewlap with Nikon D600 with AFS 300mm f2.8 VR  (now replaced by Nikon 300mm f/2.8G AF-S ED VR II )

A dark-colored male with Nikon D600 with AFS- VR 105mm at f16 1/100 ISO 200

A dark male showing its dominance over another male in the background with Canon EOS 7D with EF 100-400mm  @400mm  at f18 1/160 ISO 250

Shedding its skin with Nikon D600 with AFS- VR 105mm at f9 1/100 ISO 200
There were several juvenile on the pavement too. 
A juvenile on the pavement with Nikon D600 with AFS- VR 105mm at f9 1/100 ISO 200

While they can be quite photogenic subjects but their presence could threatened our native wildlife.  Brown anoles are largely insectivorous, feeding on flies, grasshoppers, caterpillars and moths. It is also known to feed on the young of smaller lizards. 

Let's hope the brown anoles will not be spread to other parts of Singapore!


Sunday, 21 July 2013

Pulau Ubin Wilderness

One of the best place to see wildlife in Singapore is Pulau Ubin!  Pulau Ubin is an off-shore island about 10 minutes boat ride from Singapore.  It is situated in the north east of Singapore. It is probably one of the last place to experience rural life living in Singapore.  There are still a few villages left on the island.

Map of Pulau Ubin 

It is easier to see some species of animals at Pulau Ubin compared to mainland Singapore. These animals include the Common Palm Civet, Wild Boar. It is also where Greater Mousedeer can be found.  If you are lucky, you may come across a pangolin too.  

Wild Boar along the beach
Common Palm Civet can be quite common at Pulau Ubin.  But they are active by night.
Pulau Ubin is the one place in Singapore where Greater Mousedeer is found

Pouched Tomb Bat can be found roosting in roof attics.

Pangolin hiding behind a tree.

Oriental Whip Snake - One of the common snakes found at Pulau Ubin 

How to get there?

Hire a taxi to Changi Village Jetty and get on to a bumboat to get to Pulau Ubin. Each bumboat can carry 12 passengers and typically the boatman will wait till there are 12 passengers before he set off. Each ride is SGD 2.50.  The last bumboat back to mainland Singapore is around dusk time.  

Where to Stay?

Celestial Resort is the only accommodation available at Pulau Ubin.  It is a resort targeted more for the local people who wants a break from the city life.  As Pulau Ubin is a rural area, there is nothing much you can do after dusk. If you are a tourist, I would not encourage staying over at the island unless you are serious about spotting wildlife at night.

You may also be interested in the following links:

Gardens By the Bay

Supertrees and OCBC Skyway with Marina Bay Sands at the background
One of the highlights of Gardens by the Bay is the Supertree. Supertrees are tree-like structures with heights in the range of 25-50 metres. They are actually vertical gardens! More than 200 species and varieties of bromeliads, orchids, ferns and tropical flowering climbers are planted on the Supertrees.

In addition, the 11 Supertrees are fitted with photovoltaic cells to harvest solar energy. When night falls, watch the Supertrees come alive with dazzling light displays!

Supertrees at night with light display

Close-up of Supertrees
A view of Marina Bay Sands from Gardens By the Bay at night

There is an elevated walkway called the OCBC Skyway that link the Supertrees. Visitors can enjoy a breathtaking view of the gardens. There's also a dining place up there! Visit this link for details.

A view of Marina Bay Sands from Gardens By the Bay in the day
Supertrees with 2 domes and Singapore Flyer
One of the attractions is the Cloud Forest. The Cloud Forest is built in one of the dome, featuring a 35-metre tall mountain covered in vegetation shrouding the world's tallest indoor waterfall. It showcases plants found in tropical highlands up to 2000 metres above sea level.

Inside Cloud Forest Dome
Bridge view in Cloud Forest

For more information, please visit this link.

How to get there?

Hop on to the MRT Circle Line and get off at Bayfront MRT Station (CE1), take Exit B and follow the directions.

Where to stay?

  1. Marina Bay Sands - The most spectacular hotel in Singapore with world-class entertainment, shopping, restaurants and casino. Walking distance to Gardens by the Bay! How about hotels near Marina Bay Sands? Hotels around F1 Singapore Grand Prix?
  2. Swissotel The Stamford Hotel - One of the tallest hotels in Southeast Asia, located at the heart of the city with a shopping mall, restaurants and it is near City Hall MRT! Check out hotels near City Hall
  3. Marriott Hotel - A Five-star hotel in the Orchard Road shopping belt. 
  4. Hotels along Orchard Road shopping belt.

You may also be interested in the following links:

HSBC TreeTop Walk

Starting point of the TreeTop Walk

TreeTop Walk Suspension Bridge
Some facts about TreeTop Walk

The HSBC TreeTop Walk is the first of its kind in Singapore. It is a free-standing suspension bridge that connects to two hills, namely Bukit Peirce and Bukt Kalang in MacRitchie forest. It is about 250m long at highest height of 25m. You will get to experience a bird's eye view of the plants and animals that live in the forest canopy. You can start your walk from Venus Drive Carpark. See map below.

Map of TreeTop Walk
Some animals encountered along the trail.

Slow Loris 
Colugo with young
Common Tree Shrew
Wagler's Pit-viper
Dwarf Gecko

Opening Hours

Tuesday to Friday from 9am-5pm
Saturday, Sunday and Public Holidays: 830am-5pm.
Close on Monday except Public Holidays for research and maintenance.

How to get there?

Getting around in Singapore can be done by taxi. Hire a taxi to get to a car park along Venus Drive.
There will be directions from the carpark. You will be walking on a trail along side to a stream before reaching secondary forest fringe beside Island Country Club.  From there, directions will bring you to a NParks Ranger Sation. Visit the toilets, top up your water bottle if you need to.  Then climb up along the slope of Bukit Kalang and you will reach the starting point of TreeTop Walk. 

You may want to visit the Jelutong Tower too.

Where to stay?

  1. Swissotel The Standard Hotel - A Five-stars hotel with shopping mall. Very accessible with City Hall MRT station nearby. Check out hotels near City HallHotels around F1 Singapore Grand Prix?
  2. Marina Bay Sands - A landmark Five-stars Hotel with shopping mall, casino, close vicinity to Bayfront MRT station and easy access to Gardens By the Bay. Other hotels nearby?
  3. Marriott Hotel -  A Five-stars Hotel right in the shopping belt of Orchard Road. 
  4. Hotels along Orchard Road shopping belt.

You may also be interested in the following links:

Sunday, 7 July 2013

Gir National Park - The only place to see Asiatic Lion

If you think that the only place to see Lions in the wild are in Africa. Then you are wrong! Asia has lions too - Asiatic Lions! 

Asiatic lions used to exist from Middle East to India. Today, most has disappeared and India's Gir National Park is the last place to see Asiatic Lions now. They are only about 200-300 asiatic lions left in the wild. So see them before they go extinct! 

 I stayed in Gir Birding Lodge in Sasan Gir for 3 nights. The lodge is just a stone throw from one of the entrance to Gir National Park. Safari rides to Gir National Park can be arranged with the lodge. Gir National Park comprises of 1412 sq km of dry deciduous forest, acacia scrub with semi-evergreen flora and grasslands. Common fauna in the park consists of sambar deers, spotted deers, nilgai, indian gazelle, wild boar and jackal.


How to get there?

The nearest international airport to Gir is Ahmedabad International Airport.  It is about 390km from Gir, about 8 hours drive.

Ahmedabad can be reached from New York/New Jersey (Air India), Kuwait (Kuwait Airways), Dubai (Emirates), Qatar (Qatar Airways) and Singapore (Singapore Airlines).

Where to stay?

There are some lodges near the park.

Sunday, 30 June 2013

Ranthambore National Park - Tracking the tigers

I made a visit to India National Parks with a few friends in late 2011. Out of the 4 parks we visitied, Ranthambore National Park was the most memorable experience. We were chasing tigers everyday in Ranthambore. Well, not exactly chasing but following the pug marks left on the tracks in hope that we will get  to see the tiger.

It was an experience I will never forget. 

Everyday, we woke up 5am and a gypsy will bring us to the National Park. There are 2 rides to the park each day, morning and afternoon.

Tourist waiting in the gypsy while guide getting permit to enter the national park

The Park lies at the edge of a plateau. It consists of mainly dry deciduous forests. ,Ranthambore Fort is located in the Park. It was built in the 10th century.
Ranthambore Fort surrounded by dry deciduous forest

There are 2 kinds of Safari Rides available, namely 20 seater open top canter or 6 seater open top gypsy. Rides are operated in the morning 630am and afternoon 2:30pm. 

Each vehicle comes with a driver and a guide. The guides are well-trained to look for foot prints on the tracks. 

Apart from looking for foot-prints, we also listened for alarm calls made by deers, peacocks and monkeys. Spotted deers and sambar deers were commonly seen in the park. 

Nilgai can be quite shy.

There were gazelles too!

Mongoose too!

We did encountered several species of birds. My camera setup was not really long enough for bird photography so I did not really focus in birds. But still I did took some bird images.

We finally got to see the tiger on our 5th safari ride. It was a tigeress. It went pass our gypsy just 2m away!

When to visit?

Due to monsoon season, the Park is open from October to June. It is easier to spot the tiger in the summer season as the park is hot and dry, animals reach to the lake for a drink.  However, day temperature  can soar over 40 degree celsius.  While you get to see the tiger, you may not be able to tolerate the heat.  

If you visit during the Winter season, it can be freezing cool during the morning safari especially when the vehicle move and the wind still blowing. So put on a sweater and wear gloves.  But be prepare to remove your sweater in the late afternoon.  Encountering the tigers depend more on luck.  We visited the park in december, thus we were less lucky and only got to see the tigers on our 5th ride.

How to get there?

Ranthambore National Park is near Sawai Madhopur town. The easiest way to get there is: 

  1. Fly to Delhi
  2. Take Delhi-Mumbai railway and alight at Sawai Madhopur Town.
  3. Arrange for transport pick-up to your hotel.
Sawai Madhopur is also accessible for rail from Jaipur or Agra. 

Where to stay?

There are many hotels available all at the outskirts of the Park. 

Some popular hotels include:

  1. the luxurious Oberoi Vanyavilas
  2. Nahargrah Hotel, another luxurious hotel built like a fortress
  3. Sherbagh Resort if you like to tent-style
  4. Tiger Moon Resort - Affordable jungle lodge
  5. Castle Jhoomar Baori - Government-run situated in a forest sanctuary

What to bring?

I would suggest to have 2 camera bodies. Dust is a problem. It is not advisable to change lens on the go. 

List of things to bring:
  • Camera with long telephoto zoom in the range of 100-400mm. Zoom is preferred. As animals can be quite close. 
  • 2nd Camera with wide angle lens or zoom to capture the beautiful scenery and animals in the environment.
  • Monopod. I don't find bean bag very useful due to the design of the gypsy.
  • Something to cover your gear from the dust as the vehicle is moving. 
  • Sweater and gloves in winter months for morning rides
  • Cap or beanie if you do not want todust covered hairs.
  • Lens cleaning kit to get rid of dust.