After a morning of rest from my exhausting trek to Taman Negara rainforest, I spent the afternoon in Kuala Lumpur (KL) being a tourist. Of course there is never a vacation from taking photos and the camera was predictably in tow. One of my last images of the day was made at an attraction known as the “Eye on Malaysia.” Part of the national governments program to promote tourism in 2007, this site made a great subject for an evening click.
As an armchair biologist – sitting at home watching Discovery Channel or National Geographic – it was easy for me to watch the aerial, helicopter views of sweeping rainforests shrouded in mist and a dense, green canopy. What I didn’t realize is that the rainforest is so much more than a panoramic place, but an evolutionary microcosm masterpiece. It is a world of the miniature taking place in individual ecosystems as a cohesive whole. For me, my favorite time to enter the rainforest is at night, long after the last light of the sun has set. At this hour, the real action takes place. Leaves literally come alive, the sounds magnify to an almost deafening level and everywhere your narrow beam of light shines, a pair of eyes glimmer back at you. It’s at this moment you realize that a great army of life is at work and that come morning, after a long night of labor, the trees and forest sighs and a great plume of mist floats up out of the canopy and becomes the air that makes life here, on Earth, possible. What they exhale, we inhale.These photos were taken over the last few days in Taman Negara Rainforest in North Central Malaysia. This jungle is considered the oldest jungle in the world at nearly 130 million years old – more than the Congo or Amazon.
The underside of Mushrooms growing on a fallen tree.
A different species than above, some mushrooms – a rare breed – have a bioluminescence that makes them glow a brilliant green at night and is a sign to predatory worms that they are poisonous. Tiny – nearly the size of a pencil eraser – I laid on the ground in the forest (in total darkness) for nearly the longest 70 seconds of my life while this exposure was made.
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Arriving back on the mainland, a spur of the moment daytrip opportunity came up and was seized. Carpe diem right? In truth, the “day trip” became a 2-day trip but was well worth it. An avid tea drinker (iced and hot) it was pretty cool to visit two of the largest tea producing plantations in the world. Located in the Cameron Highlands of Northern Malaysia, I did a quick visit and found them to be relative ghost towns with exception of a worker here and there. Occupying an entire valley as far as the eye can see, it makes you wonder how this stuff ever reaches the store shelf since it is all picked by hand. The air was a blend of sweet camomile leaves and green tea blossoms that, as I stopped to take photos, I kept having to take in a deep breath.
Not far from the Malaysian-Thailand border lies an island approximately 35 miles off the west coast in the Andaman Sea. The island is Langkawi and while popular with the locals for a quick getaway, as a visitor from the US, I feel like I’m as far away from everything as humanly possible. I suppose that makes it a good place for a birthday, as this is where I spent my 29th.
Also known as Silvered Langurs, I found this species to be very mellow and fun to watch. As I was waiting for the sun to go down so that I could photograph the fireflies, I spent some time watching these guys hang around the trees.
As the last light of the sun disappeared from the sky replaced by a crescent moon, the wooden row boats were prepared by a Muslim woman who would be taking me out to witness one of the greatest – and rarest – spectacles on earth. Just after dark, along the banks of the Selangor River in Central Malaysia, at a remote edge of dense jungles, I prepared for a pitch black journey up a slow moving river in the hopes to witness the kelip-kelip or fireflies. One of only two colonies of fireflies in the world, these threatened creatures put on a display of flashing lights that are only comparable to an overly decorated Christmas tree. Unlike anything I have ever seen, they are worthy of designation as one of the wonders of the world. Entire trees are illuminated by these little beetles and only for a couple hours just after dark and only on this stretch of remote river. Surrounded by howling monkeys and a 300-million year old rainforest with the only light to guide us being that of a crescent moon…the experience was nothing short of surreal. Below are just a few photos I am able to load up at this late hour.
As the sun set this evening, the air was cooler than usual but still thick with humidity that bordered on almost raining. With little time to spare, the gray clouds hanging overhead all day broke just soon enough to let a little ambient light in and giving me a just enough juice to compose a late evening photo of a mosque in Putrajaya, Malaysia. It was a perfect scene as evening prayers echoed across the landscape broken only by the click of my shutter.