Endau Rompin, stands between the boundary of Johore and Pahang, is the second National Park, after Taman Negara. It covers an area of approximately 80,000 hectares of rich and exotic flora and fauna, encompassing the watershed of the rivers Endau and Rompin, from which it derives its name. It remains one of the least disturbed lowland tropical rainforest in Malaysia.
The northern part of the Endau Rompin National Park is located in the state of Pahang and has its own entry point from Johore Baharu via Mersing. It is known as Taman Negeri Endau Rompin or Endau Rompin State Park (ERSP).
My first visit to ERSP was almost 4 years ago in August 2010. This was my fourth visit and together with Tony, Foong and Allan, 4 of us were on a 2-day-1-night recce mission to assess the suitability of organizing a formal macro cum landscape outing for Nature Photographic Society, Singapore (NPSS).
I was the last people to be picked up and we left my house at 6.55 am. The Customs clearance at Tuas & Malaysia were smooth sailing and by 7.30 am, we proceeded to Tota Tinggi, about an hour drive, for the well-known Kiang Kee Bak Kut Tea breakfast. This reminded me of a group photo taken with NPSS members in October 2010 while on our way to ERSP.
After a 45 minutes breakfast, we headed towards Mersing which took us 1 hour and 20 minutes. We had a 30 minutes coffee break before moving on and reached Endau at 12.00 pm. There is a big signboard with beautiful pictures of ERSP at the main roadside. From here, we drove on a tar road for another 30 km (45 minutes) to the entrance of the park. There was no one manning the registration area, so we drove directly into the park office which is about 5 km away.
There are 4 (2-room) bungalows, 2 (2-room) treetop dwellings, 2 dormitories, a kitchen/dining area, a hall, toilets, etc. We were disappointed that the whole complex was dilapidated with no proper maintenance. It has been in this condition for more than a year. We were told that a new management under the Forestry Department has taken over and the place is being renovated and to be completed in 2 months time. Based on our observation, we are not optimistic that it can be done in such a short period.
Anyway, after getting all the information that we needed to know, we started to shoot at the nearby forested area. It was already 2.30 pm.
The first subject spotted was a gigantic Tropical Swallowtail Moth. This is the 2nd biggest moth, after the Atlas Moth, that I have seen so far, easily about 15 cm wingspan.
I didn’t spent a lot of time on this moth as I was more interested to shoot a dragonfly nearby as I have never seen this species before. My research suggests that it could be a female Lined Forest-skimmer (Cratilla lineata) classified as rare in Singapore.
Not too far away, Allan found a Gasteracantha arcuata. It is commonly known as Curve Spiny spider, a small orb weaver with a spiny abdomen. This should be a juvenile as the adult has 2 prominent giant horns. It is thought that the horns make them less palatable to predators.
The weather was unpredictable. It started to rain at 2.50 pm and we quickly ran to the nearby shelter. It continued raining quite heavily for the next one and a half hour. When it finally stopped at 4.20 pm, we were pleasantly surprised to find a tree full of different species of moths.
The most pretty and elegant of them all, in my opinion, is this long tailed silk moth commonly known as Malaysian Moon moth (Actias maenas). It has two distinct crescent moon markings on the left and right top wings. This should be a adult male as it is bright yellow and have purplish-brown markings.
As there were so many different moths to shoot, we chose those that are special such as this Arguda vinata, which resembles a dried leaf.
Here is an attractive moth with nice texture on its wings but I could not find its ID.
Antheraea helferi is a large beautiful moth. The males are dull reddish orange in colour while the females have bright orange-yellow wings.
Let us take a closer look at its face.
It was not difficult to find 2 different moths on a single leave. These should be a Plutodes Malaysian & Cyana effracta.
As the complex was fully booked, our original plan was to leave ERSP by 5 pm and to stay the night at a hotel in Endau. However, looking at the numerous moths that were waiting for us to photograph, we discussed and agreed that we should try our luck to see whether there was any possibility to stay inside the park. We were fortunate that the staff-in-charge managed to get a Treetop house with 2 bedrooms for us and arrangement for dinner and the next morning’s breakfast were also made.
With our accommodation and meals settled, we continued with our shooting of moths. A park ranger told us that if we wished to shoot the elusive lantern bugs, we can find them at the river about 100 metres from where we were. Foong went to check it out and happily returned that he found a lantern bug. While on our way to the river, two lizards were spotted. Here is a slim one with blue eyes known as Earless Agamid (Aphaniotis fusca).
Lantern bug is one of the most sought-after insects by macro photographers. We were blessed to find this lovely lantern bug which has a brightly red coloured snout. The main purpose of its snout is to scare away predators.
Dinner was served at 7.30 pm with 4 simple dishes of chickens, fishes & vegetables with oranges and drink. It was quite delicious, much better that the one we had 4 years ago.
Even though we were not adequately prepared for night photography, we went to search for subjects with only 2 relatively stronger torch lights from Tony & Allan. We found a hairy Tarantulas high up on a tree. It was the biggest spider that I have seen!
We also found a few Malaysian forest scorpions all hiding under holes near tree roots. Being black in colour, they were more wicked looking than those brown colour scorpions that I saw in Singapore. Black forest scorpions are highly aggressive and would sting in defense if it feels threatened or in danger. While not deadly, the sting can cause a great deal of discomfort such as pain, swelling, redness and numbness in the extremities that can last several days. These scorpions were extremely shy and shooting them required patience as they would disappear deep into the hole when they detected the slightest movement. Although we tried to keep our movement to a minimum, none of the scorpions refused to come out in the open. After 20 minutes or so, we gave up and called it a night!
We were all very tired with sweaty bodies and we needed a refreshing bath badly. Unlike the bungalow that we stayed previously, the Treetop house doesn’t come with attached bathroom. We had to walk a short distance to the common toilets. The condition here were pretty bad and most of the taps were not working. Luckily, there was one in the bathing area that was functioning. We felt good after bathing but when I returned to our room, I found a 15mm long leech sucking blood from my thigh! Tony used his insect repellent to help me removed it. After removal, I had to bandage the affected area as bleeding continued! My guess is that the leech got hold onto my clothing where I hung them on the wooden hander in the toilet.
The two rooms were fairly spacious and can easily sleep 3 person each. Each room is equipped with 2 thick mattresses and a few smaller ones but without bed sheets and blankets. As usual, Tony knocked out quickly and slept like a baby! I didn’t sleep well. It was pretty cold from 2 am onwards and I had to use the smaller mattresses as cover. Surprisingly, it helped.
We woke up at 7.00 am and proceeded near the dinning area to continue our moths shooting.
At 8.30 am, we had nasi lemak as breakfast served with hot coffee, tea and oranges. It was good!
Thereafter, we went to check out the river not too far away.
It is a popular place for the local people especially children who come here during weekend to have a fresh deep into the water.
I was expecting to find some damselflies here but there were none. Disappointed, I left and joined the rest hoping to get some improvement shots of the lantern bug.
This time we spotted 8 lantern bugs on the same tree!
Most of them were high up on the tree. I spotted two which appeared to be engaging in some kinds of foreplay.
I reckon they were going to mate soon but time was running out as we wanted to check out the condition of Mahkota Falls and Wetland.
We bid farewell to our friendly and helpful host and headed to Sri Mahkota Fall which is a 5 minutes drive from here.
The trail to the waterfall is not difficult. After going down a staircase, there is a hanging bridge. It didn’t look safe as we could see broken wooden planks here and there.
The path keeps going down because this is one of the few waterfalls where you start higher than the fall.
Soon, we could hear loud sound of falling waters and then the waterfall became visible.
Mahkota Fall is a cascading 50-metre fall, easily one of the most prettiest in Malaysia, at least for me! It was bright sunny and there were about 20 local people swimming and playing here.
Tony, Foong & I took some photos of the waterfall but Allan, being here 3 times before, chose to relax and slept on the rocks.
I was not brave enough to do that as this place is highly infested with leeches! Foong & Tony nearly got bitted by them. Strangely, dark clouds came very fast and we quickly took a few last shots and left. Here is a unique dead-leaf mantis to end this outing.