The HSS went on its first overseas herping trip to Bintan from 10-12 April 2015.
As far as reptiles and amphibians are concerned, Bintan is a fantastic place to go. From a previous trip, Ing Sind reported seeing a Kuhl’s Flying Gecko (Ptychozoon kuhli), which is very rare in Singapore. Besides herps, we were really hoping to see the Pale-thighed Surili (Presbytis siamensis rhionis), a subspecies which is endemic to Bintan Island.
DAY 1 (10TH APRIL)
We arrived in Bintan in the afternoon and took some time to rest, before we got to herping proper. After sundown, the three of us trekked into a wooded area beside the hotel. We started at 10pm (Bintan Time) by walking down to the golf course. We were greeted by this sight.
Okay, it doesn’t look that impressive in the photo, but the picture does NO justice to the sight we beheld. Without any light pollution in the area, the inky black Bintan sky was dotted with tiny white lights. It’s something that you literally never get in Singapore; a sight which, in itself, is worth a million dollars. Reluctantly tearing our eyes off the star-studded sky, we walked into the forest.
Barely a hundred meters in, Ing Sind gasped, “Gonyosoma!” At first, I thought he was kidding. I’ve been looking for this snake for 2 years. A quick glance confirmed that he was telling the truth. It really was the Red-Tailed Racer (Gonyosoma oxycephalum). It’s distinguished from other snakes by its reddish tail, which contrasts spectacularly with its bright green body. And to make it even cooler, it has a blue tongue! As is expected of this species, he was coiled into a tight ball almost 4m up on the tree. After taking some shots, we left him in peace and continued.
As we walked along, several interesting insects turned up, including this hawk-moth. Hawk-moths are also known as Sphinx moths. It’s a reference to how their caterpillars tuck their head under their legs when resting or threatened, resembling a Sphinx!
After a while, we stopped to look at a small pond in the forest. Noel glanced up at the tree and found a bronzeback on an overhanging branch! Closer inspection revealed it to be an Elegant Bronzeback (Dendrelaphis formosus). It is distinguished from other bronzebacks by its short snout and greenish iris. A beautiful snake from every angle.
We walked to the end and turned around, happy to have seen the two snakes. On the way back, Noel spotted an Oriental Whip Snake (Ahaetulla prasina) that looked like it had just eaten something. It was a great way to round off the night.
DAY 2 (11TH APRIL)
We grabbed a golf cart in the morning and drove around the golf course, in search of some herps. Sadly, we only saw some Changeable Lizards (Calotes versicolor) and this Clouded Monitor Lizard (Varanus nebulosus). The monitor lizard was basking in the sun and got away just as we got close to it.
We then went over to Gunung Bintan, the twin-peaked mountain, by car. On the way, Ing Sind’s mum spotted some monkeys in the distant trees. We stopped the car, grabbed our equipment and ran out of the car. Sure enough, it was the Pale-thighed Surili! The shy monkeys quickly sensed our presence and moved away.
We reached Gunung Bintan, where we met our guide. He took us a short distance into the forest. A few hundred meters in, Noel spotted another Elegant Bronzeback (Dendralaphis formosus) rapidly climbing up the tree. About 20 meters away, a Beautiful Flying Lizard (Draco formusus) was resting on a tree trunk. What a coincidence to find two D. formosus right next to each other…
When we got back to the hotel that day, we were amused to find a Green Crested Lizard (Bronchocela cristatella) sitting on top of the roof of the hut.
All in all, the trip was a great experience for all of us. We saw several things that we went there to see and several things that we never even expected to see! We definitely recommend Bintan for people who are interested to herp in South East Asia. Just remember to be responsible and ethical in your herping!
To end off, here’s a picture of Ing Sind and Noel trying to photograph a Common Flying Lizard (Draco sumatranus) on a tree on the last day. Also, a great picture of the Lizard by Ing Sind!