Safari to Endau Rompin National Park

Posted by on Jul 17, 2009 in All Categories, Travel | 0 comments

Safari to Endau Rompin National Park

Together with Khim and Simon of South Island Aquarium and Jason, a mate of Khim’s, I went on a plant spotting expedition into Malaysia. It was an extremely enjoyable trip. Got up at 0500 local time, set off at 0545 and returned to the Hotel at 0010. We first stopped off at a small stream which had almost fallen dry to see some Cryptocoryne schulzei.

It was still quite dark so my camera flashed all the takes. (I bought a NIKON D60 for this trip and I am still learning how to use it.) C. schulzei is endemic to the Kota Tinggi region of southern Malaysia, meaning it only grows here.

Cryptocoryne schulzei Habitat

Cryptocoryne schulzei Habitat

According to Simon, who manages the plant propagation at South Island Aquarium, it is kind of hard to cultivate because it takes a long time to get used to new soil conditions. It is possibly due to some geologic characteristics in Kota Tinggi that its occurrence is limited to this region.

Unfortunately I didn’t have my test kit with me so I could not determine what may be the unique features of the soil here but Hildebrand suggests that it is soft and acidic and very nutrient rich. Here is a a soil sample for visual examination :)

Cryptocoryne schulzei Soil

Cryptocoryne schulzei Soil

The plant looks very similar to C. cordata which we discovered later. We carefully took some sample specimens, bagged them and transferred them to a polystyrene box. Khim is going to pot them for me so I can take them back to Germany and try them out in the aquarium.

It goes without saying that we didn’t take more than we needed and did not destroy any habitat.

Note, that the plants grow semi-emersed. They were also shaded by large trees. Obviously, this is the only habitat I saw so I cannot say if this Crypt will grow in more exposed conditions also.

Cryptocoryne schulzei habitat

Cryptocoryne schulzei habitat

Here’s a close-up of one of the samples. Most of the plants at this location were startin to dvelop flowers and so is this specimen. Note the spirally twisted spathe. Once it is fully developed, the spatha wil open up ad the twisting will straighten out. The black, elongated stippling of the leaves is also very characteristic for this species.
Cryptocoryne schulzei flower

Cryptocoryne schulzei flower

Next was breakfast. Chinese.

As soon as I got out of the car, I was tapped by mozzies. When I noticed that none of my chinese companions were bitten, Jason aptly remarked that maybe the mosquitoes were after some western food today… right.

Hot broth with pieces of meat in it. Some liver, intestines and kidneys with chinese spices. “Spare parts”. Very nice. Since I had tried the intestines part before (in Porto/Portugal, where they call it Tripas), and I didn’t like it too much then, I gave that a miss. The rest was delicious.

Breakfast

Breakfast

After breakfast, it was another two hours until we got to the turnoff to the Endau Rompin. After that it was all off road. I had never before done real off road. It is actually physically exhausting to do this. Simon’s Toyota took a real beating. It is absolutely beyond me how Jason could be sleeping through this.

We stopped halfway to the national park on a bridge with a nice view of the river.

Off-Road

Off-Road

We didn’t know at the time that the worst stretch was yet to come…. But here’s the view out the passenger side. Postcard.
Malaysia

Malaysia

Maybe some inspiration for an upcoming aquascape called “Malaysia”. Who knows…

Not far from here, underneath another bridge we found a stand of Utricularia graminifolia and individual plants of Blyxa aubertii. The location seemed to be just recovering from recent disturbance. Maybe a clue to the somewhat ruderal strategy of these two plants but that’s just a guess, if an educated one.

Here’s Utricularia growing in shallow, flowing water in direct sunlight. The leaves gave a silvery appearance and seemed almost bleached but upon closer examination, It looked more like the leaves were reflecting the sun light at certain angles.

Uricularia graminifolia

Uricularia graminifolia

Right opposite, in deeper water at about 60cm we found individual specimens of Blyxa aubertii. The Blyxa plants were also spaced widely apart, making this location appear to be recovering from recent disturbance.
Blyxa aubertii

Blyxa aubertii

Further along, we found a still pond with large stands of Cryptocoryne cordata.

When I waded into the water to take the photos, I immediately sunk in knee deep and the bubbles that emerged from underneath the thick mat of Crypts sent up wafts of methane-laden gases. My foot felt warm in the swampy soil and I thought, well here’s the justification for the gravel heater in my aquarium.

The methane and the even distribution contradict the argument put forward by the industry though, that concentrated hot spots around the heater cable will further circulation in the aquarium gravel and thus counteract anaerobic decomposition. Hm…. maybe plants just like hot feet.

Cryprocoryne cordata

Cryprocoryne cordata

Note also that the plants are growing in full sun. There is only some partial shading offered near the water’s edge.The plants were covered in algae and, as many holes and missing portions of leaves proved clearly, obviously served as part of the diet of some creature living in these waters. Probably the very one which in turn feeds the many frogs residing in this pond. Not that we saw any but they were certainly making themselves noticed. Verbally.

Unlike the C. schulzei, these crypts were not flowering. We did not take any specimens back as this is a commonly available aquarium plant.

Just before we actually reached the access to the park proper, we came by some orang-asli stilt houses. I assume that this one was not erected for tourists as no tourists ever come here. So I claim this photo to show a truly Malaysian dwelling just as genuine as the red bricks out of which we build whole villages in Westfalia. (Which are equally genuine and puzzle tourists).

Orang Asli Stilt House

Orang Asli Stilt House

Inside Endau Rompin, we had to apply for a visitor’s permit. We were also instructed that we were not allowed to take any plants. Damn. That was our safari cactused. Never mind. The trip was still worth it because we were rewarded with some great scenery and primary rainforest. Actually this forest is the oldest in the world and predates the Amazon. The power of nature is overwhelming and standing knee deep in the water with fish swimming around your feet is a great experience.Our guide took us to the beginning of a trail through the forest. It meant we had to take a 45 minute boat ride along the Sungai Andao with some more inspiration for aquascapes.

Endau Rompin

Endau Rompin

Along the trail, Simon thought he saw some plants in one of the tributaries of the Andao and him and I climbed down the steep river bank. I was still figuring out how to hold my camera out of the water safely when Simon dashed past me into the water and started swimming towards the patch of green we had spotted. Unfortunately, all he discovered were algae so I postponed the dip for later. Here’s Simon playing Swamp Thing:

Only algae

Only Algae!

Albeit we didn’t find any more higher plants for the aquarium, Khim was lucky in spotting some species of moss growing on a decaying branch. It turned out later to be unable to grow submerged.

Moss

Moss

There were actually a few species of moss growing here. I wonder if any of them are suitable to grow submerged…

I walked bare footed most of the time because my boots were completely soaked from wading the numerous streams we had to cross. I was lucky all that bit me was a leech. I put my boots back on after we met this little fellow. Maybe some herpetologist can enlighten me as to which species this is. According to our guide, it is venomous.

Snake

Snake

We finally reached the waterfall and had a short rest. Here’s a view of the scenery:

Waterfall

Waterfall

That was it, mainly. I will take back some Cryptocoryne schulzei to Germany to try it under aquarium conditions. I’ll surely post my findings here.

Oh, and one last thing: Here’s a tour map showing the locations of our trip. Thank you, Google earth.

Tour-Map

Tour-Map

 


Copyright of Images

Images 1-16 : Stephan Mönninghoff
Image 17: Google Earth

Highslide for Wordpress Plugin