So I read somewhere that the Giant Water Monitor Lizard is harmless to humans. I really need to stop reading these sort of things.
On my day off, here in Singapore, after a nice swim in the morning, I decided to go check out the Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve. It’s way up on the North-West end of the Island near Malaysia, so getting there is a trek on it’s own. After thirty minutes on the MRT, twenty minutes on the bus, and then a twenty minute 1.5km walk to the entrance of the reserve, I finally made it. Did you know Singapore had a Crocodile farm? I didn’t. At least if I was murdered out there, I felt comfort knowing someone could always follow the long trail of sweat to my dead, naked body (don’t worry, I wasn’t taken advantage of, I just walk the streets of Singapore in the nude because it’s the only way I can handle the heat.)
Near the start of the trails there were several groups of school children screaming like someone had just been…well, murdered. Naturally I pushed them out of the way to see what the hullabaloo was all about. There it was, the first of many Giant Water Monitor Lizards I would see. I thought it was pretty big, being about three feet long, but a girl was quick to to take the opportunity to prove they were much smarter than a stupid white American, and informed me they get “much bigger”.
I quickly escaped the overly happy cries of children who have at last escaped the daily monotony of “maths”, science, & inappropriate staring, and made my way into the wetlands. For Singapore standards, it was quite nice. A break away from the urban uprising and slow walking robot people who approach escalators like its the first time they’ve ever seen a set of stairs move.
I did, however, expect to see more birds. For the little bit of wetland Singapore has remaining, you’d think every creature with wings would crowd from near and far to get a piece of this sweet wetland action. There were a handful of white egrets and a few other tiny brown shore birds, but they were all too far away to identify. I caught a glimpse of a bright blue King Fisher, and some other hipster bird that looked like it was wearing a bright red scarf, but they were snotty little pretentious birds and quickly flitted off into the dense jungle growth. Probably to cackle about which migratory route has the best bird baths.
The wetland is quite large. Much larger than I first anticipated. After coming across a sign that read “WATCH IT!” with a little graphic of a crocodile, I told myself that if I didn’t cover every square inch of this place, I could potentially miss out on seeing one of these rare beasties (which has probably never been actually seen since the 1950s.) Sadly, I never found a crocodile, but after getting stung by about a thousand mosquitoes (I didn’t have my friend Autumn’s sweet blood around to distract them), I did stumble across a giant aquatic lizard of another kind.
This Giant Water Monitor Lizard was, in technical terms, “much bigger” than the one found by the school children; around five feet in length it looked like it had a nasty habit for cheese burgers. He was just sprawled out, relaxing next to his little pond, and minding his own no-good lizardy business; probably trying to come up with even more adjectives to tack on in front its name.
I took a few pictures from afar, but that wasn’t good enough. I remembered reading somewhere that they were pretty much harmless to humans, so I got a bit closer. And by “a bit”, I mean close enough to see a tiny ant cruising around making a jungle gym of its face. It didn’t care about the ant, and for the most part it didn’t care about me. For the most part…
You see, when I decided that we needed a photo together for our profile pics, so I got out the remote for my camera and all of a sudden he got all pissy. He started grumbling, flicking his tongue around, hissed at me a few times, so like any normal person wouldn’t do, I got closer. They’re harmless right? And I figured we were pretty much besties by now, so it was all good. IT WAS NOT ALL GOOD. Whipping his tail around he outright threw our minutes of friendship in the trash and tried to slap me! He slung his huge tail over and if it wasn’t for my cat-like reflexes, I would have gotten a face full of scales. Needless to say, I got the hint. After a couple more pictures I bid him and the reserve farewell.
If you have an afternoon free in Singapore, check Sungei Buloh out. Sure beats battling the masses on Orchard road, and it’ll leave your wallet (as well as your waist size) much happier. You might even make friends with a lizard or two, and you’ll probably see more birds than I did. At the very least you’ll discover one of the few natural places Singapore has left. As I neared the bus stop to return home I looked back at the sun setting over the mangroves. For a split moment I forgot I was in Singapore… I escaped the island of durian and digital devices to a place I always imagined Southeast Asia to be… And then it was gone. With the clanging of metal on rock, I was sprung back to reality as a back hoe ripped up the earth to make way for a new parking lot.
A few more photos from the day
In other words, Saturday is the worst day to go. More info can be found on the Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve website.
I’m not sure where to start here, since I’ve been slacking quite hard here on the updates. One overarching constant however has been the shocking absolute disrespect from the monkeys here.
Within the last week, I’ve basically done the two hikes possible here in Singapore. Both times, my good friend Autumn and I have encountered some cute looking monkeys. All we wanted, was to take a few innocent pictures and stare deep past their hazel monkey eyes in to their monkey souls, but every time we tried to get close they get all whiney about it and try to attack us. Well, by us I mean mainly Autumn.
You see, Autumn has this amazing long blonde hair, which apparently has never been seen in this land of jet black hair and brown eyes. My only guess is that to Asians, her hair looks like liquid gold, birthing baby phoenix babies which fly around her head singing the songs of sirens. While a piercing stare is an every day occurrence in Autumn’s Singaporean residence, the call of the baby phoenix siren is just too powerful for the monkeys (and some creepy men) to merely gaze; they just can’t help but try to get a piece of her golden locks. And like a spoiled child that has his favorite pet pony taken away, anger ensues from the withholding.
If anything, Singapore needs to step up it’s game and really invest some money into this epidemic of unruly tree-beasts with opposable toes. While I’m no expert, I’m sure there’s someone out there who could figure out whether it’s a couple sessions of anger management, social interaction classes, or just a few basic lessons in modeling poses that the monkeys need to really fit into the modern Singapore. The forests are coming down, monkeys. It’s your choice whether you are going to stay in that high tree of yours as it topples to the concrete, or brush up your social skills and make a few coins on the street posing with a few idiotic tourists (and a couple insane expats).
If I get put down by a couple of hit-monkeys in the middle of the night, you know who to blame.