Updated: Dec 1, 2020
Date: 27th November 2020 (Friday)
I was in Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve a week before — for the first time in more than 5 years — and saw 4 wild estuarine crocodiles. Intrigued by the shocking discovery that crocodile sightings in Sungei Buloh was probably not chance encounters, I decided to return with my telezoom camera a week later.
Apart from wanting to take better photos of the wild crocodiles that had settled down in Sungei Buloh, I wanted to confirm if it really was a “luck” thing to spot them. And also to see if there were more of them using my telezoom camera as a binocular.
For this second trip to the wetland, I planned it on a Friday and during a low tide where more things could be exposed by the retreating water level. It should be quieter too without the weekend crowds to scare away the crocodiles and other rare-to-spot animals like mud lobsters or otters. But my primary objective was still the wild crocodiles.
I started the day's adventure with a short one-hour visit to Kranji Marshes and followed by Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve using the Kranji Countryside shuttle bus.
At 12:45pm, I arrived at the reserve's Wetland Centre, about 3 hours before reversal of the low tide at 4pm for the day (NEA Tide Timings).
After combing the Mangrove Boardwalk near the centre without spotting any crocodiles, I headed to the newly opened bridge across Buloh Besar River — the old Main Bridge was closed for renovation into a viewing platform from 26 November 2020 till end 2021. There were some excitements on the bridge and I knew right away my first crocodile for the day was already sighted for me.
There were two of them lying about 20 metres apart.
The closer one was at least 3 metres in length and much larger than any crocodiles that I had seen in the wild so far — let's call it Croc-01 or the "Great White One".
A common pose of crocodiles to keep their mouths opened to avoid overheating.
About 7 minutes later, it turned around and started to swim towards the new bridge in my direction and I was able to get a splendid shot of a swimming crocodile before it fully submerged itself under the bridge.
About 80 metres away, it resurfaced and I took another shot at it. It was swimming out to the Straits of Johor. These dangerous creatures had became the new "deterrence" against illegal immigrants trying to swim across the straits.
Back to Croc-02 that just laid lazily on the river bank, ignoring the heron nearby.
After spending 10 minutes on the bridge, I continued to the wetland and turned left, keeping to the side of the river where I spotted 3 of the crocodiles previously. I believed they would prefer calmer and shallower water further from the river mouth. And sure enough, I spotted my third croc barely 6 minutes from the bridge.
Croc-03 was the smallest croc that I had seen in Sungei Buloh so far. It was the hardest to spot if it was not for some ripples on the water surface that gave it away. The baby croc would go underwater for several seconds, broke the surface for couple of seconds and disappeared again — as though learning how to hold its breath under water.
21 minutes later, I found Croc-04 submerged in water under a fallen tree. It would have looked like a dead log if I did not use my camera to zoom in to verify.
Another group of 3 crocodile-hunters that were behind me spotted Croc-05 about 100m away on a small island. They were using binoculars. They pointed the croc to me and I showed them where Croc-04 was. We were not able to see the head of Croc-05.
The group then spotted Croc-06 lying about 5 metres from Croc-04 in clear view. I was able to get several beautiful shots of it.
Then, it was my turn to spot Croc-07 in the water just 2 metres away from Croc-06. Wow! 3 crocs in a row about 20 metres from us! Whoever were to walk in on them would be torn to pieces.
I took my time to take photos of the crocs and the other group moved on. It was still COVID-19 period and would not be a good idea to band together although we had common interests.
8 minutes later on the trail, I spotted another crocodile with only its eyes and nostril above the water. I could not make out the size of Croc-08 until its tail broke above water for a brief moment before it swam away. It should be around the same size as Croc-06 and was a black one.
Then, the trail veered away from the river. I tried searching the inner lake and the area where I saw a large crocodile the week before but unable to pick up any movements. The water level was also higher than before but I decided against waiting for the water to go lower.
I continued on the trail to Aerie Tower, took a short break, and then back on the trail. There was no more sightings of crocodile near the river mouth until I was back at the new bridge. The time was 4pm, when the tide was at the lowest. Again, excited noises from visitors on the bridge told me there was yet another sighting. Was Croc-01 or Croc-02 still around the area?
Surprised! It turned out to be the legendary huge black tail-less crocodile that made headlines of several news media in 2018. Mr Big Black Tailless (Croc-09) really made my day. I could not believe that I actually got to see this large guy after reading about it the night before.
Mr Big Black Tailless lost its tail after a fight with a bigger crocodile some years back and had survived till today. It was hard to ascertain its true size without its tail. I spent about 20 minutes on the bridge waiting for this big guy to turn around but it just kept floating on or in the water pretending to be a dead log. Unable to get better photos, I decided to let go.
That was 9 crocodiles so far. And there was one more spot that I would like to check out before calling it a day — the Kingfisher Pod where I saw my first Sungei Buloh crocodile the week before. It was not very far from Wetland Centre.
There was no excited crowds when I reached the pod. No crocodiles were in sight but several herons and storks fishing in the water about 60 metres away. After 5 minutes of no miracle, I was about to walk away when a sudden splash in the water was heard and there it was! Croc-10 had appeared out of nowhere amidst the birds and ate a fish (probably). None of the birds flew away.
I took several shots at the spot and managed to get one photo which revealed a small crocodile before it moved to deeper water to fully submerge itself. It seemed uninterested in herons and storks, same as Croc-02 — crocodiles probably don't eat these birds or they were too large for it.
The unexpected appearance of Croc-10 had turned my crocodile count for the day into two digits. What a great day for crocodile hunting! This was probably a record of 10 sightings in a day. I was right to choose a low tide.
I did not spot any of the "rare-to-spot" mud lobsters nor otters. Crocodile was definitely not in that category.