Gunung Belumut Recreational Forest, Malaysia (5 July 2014)

Malaysia is estimated to contain 20% of the world’s animal species, and includes some of the most biodiverse areas on the planet. It has a number of attractive national parks (eg. Taman Negara National Park, Endau-Rompin National Park), state parks (eg. Endau Rompin State Park) & recreational forests (eg. Gunung Pulai, Gunang Belumut), many of which have beautiful waterfalls and exciting forest streams. It is a pity that little have been written on them especially in the area of the exotic flora and fauna which they are rich for.

So, whenever I visit these places, I would try my best to share my experience on how to get there and what can be photograph from these exotic places.

Gunung Belumut Recreational Forest (Belumut) is a protected forest in central Johor. It is located about 30 km north-east of the town of Kluang. Belumut has a forest stream of clear water, strewn with rocks and a sandy bottom. There are plenty of subjects but damselflies are the main stars that most macro shooters come for. Some of us call this place a damselflies heaven!

I have been to Belumut many times. The most recent one was on 5 July 2014 organised by Nature Photographic Society, Singapore (NPSS) led by my good friend, Tony Png.

I set my alarm clock to sound at 5 am but I was awaken by thunder and lightning instead! It was raining cats and dogs at 4 plus and I feared that we might not have good weather at Belumut, about 150 km drive from Tuas Second Link.

Image 01 - belumut map

When all of us reached the meeting point at Petronas Linkedua North Bound Patrol Kiosk, the rain subsided a little. Tony gave a short briefing to the 7 drivers. Our original plan was to drive 100 km to Machap R & R for breakfast and drive another 50 km to our final destination at Belumut. However, due to the fasting month of Ramadan, Machap R & R was unlikely to be opened. Tony felt that it was safer to visit Kulai for breakfast, just half an hour drive from Tuas Second Link.

Image 02 - Breakfast restaurant

We arrived at Kulai’s Restoran Yon Lai at 7.40 am. It served a wide variety of familiar Singapore dishes such as chee cheong fang, wan tang mee, fishball noodle, nasi lemak, big pau, etc. We had a good breakfast and packaged food here for our lunch at Belumut.

(Photo credit : Allan Lee, Tony Png)

(Photo credit : Allan Lee, Tony Png)

From here to Belumut, it would take at least another 100 km drive. I was in Foong’s car together with Yan Leong. We were probably too engrossed in chit-chatting that we missed an important turn. In fact, we overshot by more than 20 km! It was already 10.45 am when we reached Belumut. The rest had arrived 20 minutes earlier and were waiting for us to take a group photo.

(Photo credit : Ming Ong)

(Photo credit : Ming Ong)

Fortunately, the rain had stopped completely. Without further delay, we proceeded to the stream where we had to descend a steep slope.

Image 05 - slope

Belumut is a popular recreational forest where the locals love to spend their weekends camping, picnicking and mountain climbing. However, due to the fasting month of Ramadan, all the stalls which were selling food, tit bits, drinks, etc., were nowhere to be seen. It was good for us that there were no other visitors; we had the whole place by ourselves.

streams

Most members came prepared with shorts and appropriate shoes. They were not afraid to dip into the cooling water to get good lower angle shots. Here are some candid shots showing them in action.

(Photo credit : Allan Lee, Tony Png)

(Photo credit : Allan Lee, Tony Png)

There were many Green Metalwing damselflies, a beautiful species that is already extinct in Singapore. Most of them were perching on rocks just above the flowing water.

(Green Metalwing)

(Green Metalwing)

The next most common damselfly species was Heliocypha perforata. It is a small elegant damselfly species with distinctive blue markings on its thorax and abdomen. Similarly to Green Metalwing, it likes to perch on logs and rocks along the fast flowing stream. Here is a wide angle view showing a little of its environment.

(Heliocypha perforata, male)

(Heliocypha perforata, male)

Sometimes, when there were not enough nice perches to rest on, a damselfly would take risk of sharing with another damselfly as shown below, which often results in territorial fight.

IMG_4196

There wasn’t a fixed timing for lunch. Most were already hungry by 12 noon but a few took their lunch much later. It was a pleasant experience eating our lunch sitting on rocks surrounded by flowing waters and shady trees in the forest.

(Photo credit : Allan Lee)

(Photo credit : Allan Lee)

After lunch, we continued with our shooting and managed to photograph quite a no. of other damselfly species such as Dysphaea dimidiata, Euphaea ochracea, Rhinagrion macrocephalum, Argiocnemis rubescens, etc.

Other damselflies

Apart from damselflies, there were some spiders spotted along the side of the stream.

Image 16 - Spiders

It was not easy chasing damselflies in a fast flowing streams especially in areas where the water was at knee-deep high. By 3.00 pm, we were all tired and decided to call it a day. After washing up and changed into our dry clothing, it was still too early for dinner. Michael led us to Kluang RailCoffee, a popular eating place at the railway station serving very good coffee and charcoal toast bread.

(Photo credit : Tony Png, Allan Lee)

(Photo credit : Tony Png, Allan Lee)

Thereafter, we proceeded to our familiar Cathay Restaurant at Kulai for a cheap but appetizing 8-course dinner.

(Photo credit : Tony Png)

(Photo credit : Tony Png)

All arrived home safely. It was another memorable and enjoyable overseas trip.

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