Monday, February 8, 2010

First Day At Punang

5th Feb 2010
Participants: Norzie, Sara, Clare, Nazeri, Ali, Aisya and Musa (writer)

I was anxious to go on this trip. Of all the places in Sarawak, Lawas has always been at the back of my mind. It was mentioned in many a conversations by my great grandfather. I was only 10 years old then, but was always excited to hear him talk about Lawas. I loved listening to great grandfather's stories about Lawas, till the day he passed on.

There's just something special about Lawas. People visiting Lawas or Kpg Awat-awat would always bring back smoked fish, all kinds of fish is smoked there. I really love them. As the years go by, I have travelled all over Sarawak. The closest I've ever gotten to Lawas was Limbang, another locality separated by Brunei.

This trip to Lawas is like any other MNS Miri bird watching trip, we've always managed to turn it into something special. It begins at Miri airport, this is my first time in a twin otter, a small 16 seater twin engine. Even the check-in is a little different, there was a flight safety briefing before the flight and everyone had to be weighed in at check-in. We have to walk along marked pathway on the tarmac to get to the little plane.

There were a few other twin otters on the tarmac that day, one was flying to Marudi. The plane looks so small and dainty, I was actually wondering whether it'd be at all stable up in the air.

By the time we boarded, two pilots were already waiting for us. No stewardess in sight.

They primed the engine and later started to taxi into the runway. The plane captain introduces himself as Captain Rahmat. He told us that the flight to Lawas will takes 45 minutes. The plane runs along the runway from zero to 160km/hr and lifted off within seconds. The sensation you get during take-off is not the same as that of a larger plane; this is the best lift off I have experienced.

Within 10 mnutes, we were at 2100 meters. There was no strong winds that day, and it was a smooth ride to Lawas. The landing was very smooth, I dare say it felt like warm butter sliding off a warm pancake.

We were treated with seldom seen aereal views of northern Sarawak while making our way to Lawas. We were there within the estimated fly time.

Kpg Punang from the air, photo by Nazeri Abghani.

Norzie and our driver, Awang Shahrizan came to pick us up at Lawas airport. We straight away headed to Leeya Cafe for breakfast. I went for a nasi lemak and a plate of nasi goreng with prawns. Everyone's seemed to harbour a healthy appetite after looking at the food on display, so did I.

Awang Shahrizan brought us straight to Kampong Punang. We unpacked our binos and cameras and headed to the sheltered part of the jetty. The tide was low, from the jetty we noticed several waders on the sand bar. We saw many terns flying around the area and some egrets hunting not far away. We saw a couple of Malaysian Plover and Terek Sandpiper on the sand bar.

A local fisherman with his barramundi.

After close to two hours whiling our time at the jetty, our driver took us to En Awang Marajeh's house, our host for the weekend.

A group of terns resting on the jetty.

Awang Marajeh's house is in Kpg Punang Jaya, a new housing area situated about 5 minutes from the old Kpg Punang. After a short introductions and small talk, we divided ourselves into three groups to be hosted by three families in the village.

Nazeri, Clare and their two children stayed at Awang Marajeh's house, Sara and Norzie stayed with Cikgu Rusdi's house and I stayed at Encik Shaban's.

We regrouped at Punang jetty for our first boatride for the weekend. We went out in two boats. All the while the sky wa slooking ominous and heavy with rainclouds.

The air temperature read 29.4 ° Centigrade. The tide was on it's way in. The sky was covered with dark clouds. We saw two green pigeon flying fast.

The cruise was very quiet other than the sounds of the two engines. There were a few Common Sandpipers now and again as well as a couple of Drongo sp. making a dash across Punang River. We did not see any monkeys, we were expecting Proboscis Monkey, a species oft seen by villagers in the mangroves.

Tern sp., we saw Common Tern, Gull-billed Tern and Black-naped Tern from the Punang Jetty.

We got out of a small tributary of Sg Punang and headed for the barramundi cages.

Aqua-culture, baramundi cages along the the Punang River, photo by Nazeri Abghani.

On one of fish pen we saw a fairly large heron. The bird also known as “Ulun Tekuyong” in local dialect, meaning "the slave of the snail", was hunting on the cage platform. A few Common Sandpiper were seen bobbing around the barramundi cages along the riverbank.

A juvenile Rufous Night Heron (Thanks Dave for the id!)

It rained as we reached the jetty.

At the baramundi cages.

That nite, in spite of the rain earlier, we decided to go looking for fire-flies. We found a small tree having fireflies right by the jetty. We located two trees each with 10-20 individuals. We noticed a few display trees across the river. The estimated count was about 50 individuals.

We decided to call it a day not long after. We reached home around 9:30pm.

Musa Musbah/Feb 2010

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