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West Malaysia                                        Next >>
May 2009
A non-profit small group trip organised and led by Adrian Hoskins

 

From the massive Petronas twin towers of sophisticated Kuala Lumpur to the wooden huts-on-stilts of the Orang Asli aboriginal villages, Malaysia is a country of great contrast and amazing variety. Much of it is dominated by an unrelenting panorama of oil palm, rubber and tea plantations, yet here also is the vast primeval rainforest of Taman Negara, which was unaffected by the Ice Ages, and has remained virtually unchanged for 130 million years. More tree species can be found in a single hectare of the Taman Negara than in the entire United States. It is one of the few lowland areas of Malaysia that has so far escaped the ravages of logging.

In the dry season the days are sunny and sweltering, but by late afternoon there are often torrential downpours, accompanied by incredibly loud cracks of thunder that have you jumping out of your skin. In the wet season the rains can continue for weeks at a time, and river levels can rise by 20 feet.

At all times the forest is alive with sound - melodious birds, chirping frogs, and the all pervading wail of huge cicadas. Wild pigs scuffle through the undergrowth, snakes and lizards slither from the sides of the trails as you approach. Leeches attach themselves to your arms and legs, gorging themselves on your blood. Mosquito bites have you itching like crazy, and you constantly trip over tree roots as you negotiate the steep slippery trails.

Finding butterflies can be difficult, but visiting Taman Negara is all about challenge, and the rewards are great for those willing to make the effort. Along the dark trails, elusive glittering blue Caeruleans zip acrobatically through the undergrowth. Every now and then you glimpse a huge black and golden-yellow Birdwing high in the trees. Dazzling orange multi-tailed Lycaenids appear out of nowhere only to disappear just as quickly. The sheer variety of the butterflies is nothing short of incredible - you can expect to see everything from tiny Grass Blues to the huge dazzling 8" Rajah Brooke, and just about every shape, colour and pattern imaginable.

Sungai Woh river, Bukit Tapah  Adrian Hoskins

On the first week of our tour we visited several sites at various altitudes on the western slopes of the hills in Perak. The second week was spent entirely at Taman Negara. You could easily spend a lifetime in Malaysia and still only scratch the surface, but we had just 2 weeks to sample the fauna. We began by visiting Tapah. Cloudy conditions reduced butterfly sightings on the first day but we were thrilled to see the stunning orange and white multi-tailed Branded Imperial Eooxylides tharis, the Great Orange tip Hebomoia glaucippe, and the magnificent Common Birdwing Troides helena - a huge species with jet black forewings and vivid metallic yellow hindwings. By the end of the day our species list had hit the 50 mark, and rose by an additional 10-15 species per day as we explored nearby Bukit Tapah on the following 2 days.

Orang Asli village, Bukit Tapah  Adrian Hoskins

Close to the Orang Asli settlements we encountered several groups of mud-puddling Eurema Grass Yellows, amidst which were usually a couple of Red-spot Sawtooths Prioneris philonome and various other Pierids. Swallowtails also gathered to drink at damp patches of ground, and included several Graphium species and the gorgeous Red Helen Papilio helena. Other species we found included the pretty orange Yamfly Loxura atymnus, the intricately patterned Mapwing Cyrestis maenalis, and the Autumn Leaf Doleschallia bisaltide, which as it's name suggests has an underside which bears a remarkable resemblance to a fallen dead leaf.

Although butterflies were our primary interest there was much else to see, including many brightly coloured dragonflies, beetles and bees. We also found a huge metallic green jewel bug, several pink-winged stick insects, and impressive reptiles which included large bright green lizards and a heavily armoured 18" iguana.

Sungai Woh river, Bukit Tapah  Adrian Hoskins

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