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  • Writer's pictureRick

A Crocodile-ful Day at Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve

Date: 21st November 2020 (Saturday)

It was a last-minute decision to visit Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve in Kranji. I wanted to do some light walking but not hiking as I was still recovering from a right foot injury that worsened after completing the 36Km Singapore Coast-to-Coast Trail two weeks ago. Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve popped up as an option since I visited some farms in Kranji a week back.

I took Bus Service 925 from Kranji MRT Station and alighted at Kranji Reservoir Park B (carpark) where the bus made a three-point turn. The carpark was opposite the entrance to Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve near the Visitor Centre. It was already 10:20am when I walked into the reserve.

It had been more than 6 years since I last visited the wetland and I was pretty sure a lot had changed. At least, the Visitor Centre and the Coastal Trail to the Wetland Centre were new — yes, there were two centres in the reserve.

Although Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve was hailed as a better place to observe migratory birds and wetland creatures, beautiful scenery was also created from both old and new structures. The photo below was taken at Eagle Point. Across the sea was the skyline of Johor.

One of the amazing sights along the coast was this "swamp" of little fishes. There could be tens or maybe hundreds of thousands of them. They moved around like a swamp of bees attacking a bear that stole their honey.

"Watch out for Crocodiles". This sign was not put up for show — it means a crocodile was seen in the vicinity before. I wished that a crocodile was resting under the sign and saved me the trouble to search for one.

I had failed to spot any crocodiles in the wetland the several times that I was here before so I thought I would not be so lucky this time to see any of them. And the last published news about crocodile sightings in Sungei Buloh was in September 2020.

30 minutes into the Coastal Trail, near to Kingfisher Pod, I saw a sparse line of visitors hugging the railings of the boardwalk, cameras poised. It was not difficult to spot what they were looking at — a crocodile approaching a group of herons. What a lucky day! I actually got to see an estuarine crocodile in the wild. I joined the frenzy.

The saltwater crocodile (Crocodylus porosus) was too far for me to take a photo with my phone — I had decided not to bring along my DSLR camera with telephoto zoom lens, thinking that I would not need it. Regreted. Anyway, I moved to the front of the line and took a shot. The crocodile could be seen clearly (after cropping the photo) but not very sharp.

The resting shelters along the Coastal Trail, called pods, were pretty artistic and looked nice against the blue sky. This was a shot of Kingfisher Pod and the line of visitors still waiting for the croc to snatch one of the birds. I would rather have a grilled croc on my table than to meet one across my path.

With not much things to interest me for the rest of the Coastal Trail, I came to the Wetland Centre and visited the Nature Gallery, which was renovated too. After about 5 minutes, I continued through the centre to Sungei Buloh Bridge. And old memories returned, the bridge looked familiar.

But what caught my attention, and all other visitors' attention, was not the scenery along the river but another crocodile stretched on the rock on the opposite shore. It opened its mouth as though yawning and closed it before I could take a photo.

I was luckier than just lucky to see two of the wild reptiles on one visit. No one had reported more than one crocodile sighting in one day before.

I continued on the familiar trail in the wetland, which had not changed much, except for barricades that were put up to fence off crocodiles. The little four-legged monitor lizards that visitors often mistaken for little crocodiles still roamed this part of the trail.

Unlike in the past where the whole wetland could be explored, only a smaller part of the reserve was opened to visitors now. So it was a rather short looping trail in the wetland. I climbed up Aerie Tower to take a look also, but there was not much to see at close to noon time under a hot sun.

Just as I thought I would finish the loop in the wetland without further interesting encounters, a little commotion from a group of visitors ahead unravelled yet another crocodile.

Unlike the previous two sightings where visitors were far away from the wild reptiles and high up on boardwalks and bridge, this crocodile was about 10 metres away from the trail. Attracted by something in the group of visitors, it swam towards them but stopped 5 metres away — probably seeing that there were more of us (I already joined the group). If the water level was a little higher, it might get even closer.

A couple of kids threw stones at it and their mother did not stop them. I decided to leave the scene before the reptile got mad — no way I would want to exchange one of my legs for some ignorant kids (or their mother) who could not understand why the crocodile was heading towards them and the wooden barricade does not look like it can stop it if it decided to leap on its "prey".

Anyone ever wondered why the crocodiles were so near to the trail? Did something attracted them? Or was it us, the humans (especially the little ones) walking on the trail?

It was not long before a fourth crocodile was spotted. This time it was on the other side of the trail and even closer. This one was larger and fatter and glared at me in the eyes. The trees and plants served as barricades between us so it was not easy for the croc to attack us if it wanted to.

I saw 4 wild crocodiles myself in a day and was told by a lady that there was a fifth black one that had stayed submerged. I did not asked for its location. There could be more of them that were not spotted. It was no longer a "lucky" chance encounter to see one crocodile in Sungei Buloh, but more "scary" to see 4 crocs within a span of one hour. The river could have been infested with them over the years — after being driven over from Johor's coastal swamps due to development.

Back on Sungei Buloh Bridge, I saw Croc No. 2 took a dive into the river and swam away, not out to the sea but further inland. The tide had risen and it was probably hunting time again.

At the Wetland Centre, some visitors were busy taking photo of something at the ceiling and I looked up to see some little bats. It was a rare sight to see these nocturnal mammals during daytime. Again, I wished I had my telephoto camera with me. Sigh...

Leaving the wetland reserve, I followed the road back to the bus stop at Kranji Reservoir Park B for Bus Service 925 back to Kranji MRT Station. And that completed one loop in Sungei Buloh, which was about 6.2Km.

The map below shows part of the trail that I took and the locations of where the estuarine crocodiles were spotted. Surprisingly, how did Croc No. 3 get into the inner lake?

I will be back very soon with my camera with telephoto lens. And the best time to be back will be during a low tide (see NEA's tidal information).

Yup! I went back on 27th November 2020:

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