My stay at SEATRU project at Redang was shortened because Ecoteer planned to join MYCAT to sight for wildlife’s tracks and markings and traps at Taman Negara. I had been to Taman Negara but I gotta say I’m not entirely a forest person. Even so, I was really looking forward for this trip as the whole Ecoteer island team would be going together! Most of the time, I think it’s the people and not the place that makes the day!
The travel from Perhentian to Taman Negara was quite a journey! A boat ride to Kuala Besut, a hell of time getting a cab to Tanah Merah railway station, a long and warm train journey and we finally reached Merapoh after 8 hours. Ash, Muna and Harrison picked us up from the station. Daniel, Charmaine, Pav and his team arrived at about 4am in the morning. The dormitory was huge!! I was excited to have such a spacious room and so many beds to choose from!
Our first CAT walk started early in the morning. We trekked in the jungle and along logging trails. I am not physically fit and hiking uphill sometimes scares me. However, the walk was not extreme jungle trekking at all. The only hardcore thing was to deal with the leeches! Gosh, they were everywhere! Ash gave us a helpful tip of spinning the head around as eventually the leech would feel dizzy and it made it easier to get them off the skin. Continue to roll them into a ball with the fingers, then ‘stick’ them away! In the beginning, it was gross to even touch and feel them but after a while, fear became fun!
It wasn’t easy to look out for tracks and at the same time looking ahead of me so that I don’t hit any branches. Besides my vision was narrowed to just a few steps ahead of me so that I could see where I set my foot on! Not really keen on doing the everyday-I’m-shuffling moves repeatedly. Everything comes with experience. I actually enjoyed learning to sigh for tracks and recognizing the wildlife tracks. The soil was muddy and tracks were easier to spot. We spotted tracks of wild boars, tigers and elephants! We also found scratch marks of tigers and sun bears on tree barks. There were also marks of elephants rubbing their trunks against the tree. I didn’t realised it was more than 5 hours of the trek that we did. Time just seemed to fly by. It was fun when all of us cooled ourselves down at the waterfalls. There were a lot of logs beneath but everyone had a great time. As usual, everyone started plashing and tossing others in the water!
Dinner was late as they had to grab food from Gua Musang, which was 20km away. It wasn’t past 9pm that we started eating…and drinking. We had a cake for Pavin’s birthday but he messed the icing and it became the birthday cake for Dan! Nevertheless, it was tasty! The craving for cake began when cake is not available anytime, anywhere on the island! Half way to getting drunk, we ran out of alcohol. A few of us took the long drive to grab more. Only Dan and Cam were awake, thus the party went on!
The CAT walk the next day was more tiring. Lack of sleep and post-alcohol effects made it worse. We wanted to go to a waterfall. We walked along the streams. Initially I still tried to step from rock to rock across the stream. After a few times having my feet dipped in the water, the thought of having a dry feet was out of question! We didn’t make it to the waterfall as it might be slippery due to the rain. However, we did have a picnic by the stream. On the way back, we walked pass Gua Lagi Panjang. We also found a tree with scratches of sun bears and tigers.
We also learned how to set up camera traps and transfer the photos to the laptop. Everyone got really excited when we browse through the pictures. The camera captures picture of tigers, wild boars, leopards, elephants, tigers, etc. Most of the time, it is uncommon to see wildlife in the jungle but to be able to see them in pictures and know that they are still roaming around in the wild brings a smile on my face!
I learned a lot through this trip. If I have the opportunity in the future, I would definitely volunteer myself! Anyone who is interested can check on their calendar of events for any upcoming activities.