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Thursday, August 30, 2018

Macaques Are Jerks!

I am not a big fan of monkeys, macaques in particular. I am cool with orangutans and chimpanzees and could even love King Kong. But macaques? They’re evil. Pure, pure evil.

When I was in primary school, we had a teacher who wore a glass eye. Word had it that a macaque scratched out her eye.

And thus began my aversion for macaques.

A terrifying encounter with these nasty little buggers when I was little kicked my dislike for them a notch higher.

We were on a road trip to Penang to visit my aunt when Dad decided to stop at the Botanic Gardens for a break.
Inside the car was a big bunch of rambutans we had brought along for our aunt.
We got out of the car to explore the gardens, leaving the fruit behind.

Upon our return to the car park, we were shocked to see a gang of marauding macaques inside and atop our car! Rambutan shells and seeds were scattered everywhere! Evidently, the monkeys were having a party, chattering loudly and feasting on their loot!  Dad must have inadvertently left one of the doors unlocked. Those sneaky little devils managed to open the car door and nick our rambutans!

When Dad tried to shoo them away, they started shrieking loudly, baring their fangs and thumping their chests! One even threw *poo at us! JERKS! They really scared the crap out of me!

*I've read somewhere that monkeys use their feces as weapons!

My dislike for these obnoxious critters upped another level when I was at the Uluwatu Temple in Bali with my cousin. A macaque sneaked up behind me and my unsuspecting cousin, snatched the sunglasses off  my cousin's face and skittered up a tree! We were both traumatized by the incident and my cousin has since developed a phobia for monkeys.

Interestingly, did you know that the macaques in the Uluwatu Temple are a monkey mafia of sorts?!! These nefarious monkeys steal stuff, then barter for food!

A video to share



I had yet another run-in with these thieving little buggers during our recent vacation at Club Med.

Returning to our hotel after a walk on the beach, we opened the door to find two macaques inside the room and they were going through our luggage!

The hubs scared them off but one of them had already grabbed a tube of Pringles before fleeing!

I was (still am) certain that I had closed the sliding door to the balcony before leaving the room, very well aware of the presence of  these accomplished burglars in the resort. Somehow, they got in.



This one hissed and flashed his willy at me when I nervously tried to chase it away! What a charmer!
A long-tailed grey macaque
I have been cautioned  that macaques are vindictive and you seriously don't want to mess with these vicious, conniving imps. A friend of mine  told me a macaque hopped onto his shoulders from a statue behind him and peed on him when he was in a temple in Thailand!

Yep, I  hate, hate, hate macaques!

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Fred

Rodney and I were chilling at a cabana in Club Med when a ginormous lizard that looked like it had just crawled out of Jurassic Park approached us.
On any ordinary day, I would have freaked out big time and out-sprinted Usain Bolt to safety! But I had earlier read about the presence of these friendly monitor lizards in the resort and was actually looking forward to meeting one.
The stuff horror movies are made of

These critters are everywhere at the village resort. They don't look too friendly, do they? Apparently, they are not interested in humans as meals despite their scary appearance.

Rodney named it Fred because it looked like a Fred!
Fred seemed to enjoy our company and hung out with us the whole morning. He even snuggled up to Rodney's feet!

While I was reading a book and Rodney was messing with his phone, Fred dug holes around our cabana, presumably looking for food.  Now I know why there were curious holes all over the resort grounds!
Fred allowed me to touch him! His skin felt kinda scaly and hard; not my idea of a warm and cuddly pet though!

When it was time to say goodbye, we were kinda sad to leave our newly acquainted friend.

Fred's buddy. This one had a huge belly and was chowing on pancakes!
Fun Facts

Monitor lizards (Varanus Indicus) are carnivores. They use their venom to kill their prey. Fortunately, the venom has a relatively mild effect on humans.
These lizards are naturally shy and would rather stay away from humans. Like most wild animals, they do not attack unless provoked. As long as you keep your distance and leave them alone, you will be fine.

On the rare occasion that you are bitten, seek medical attention immediately. Although their venom is not fatal, the main cause for concern would be bacterial infection from the bite.

Another one of Fred's buddies
Some of these lizards can grow up to 3 metres (9.8 ft) long!

The above photos taken by my crummy phone don't do justice to how a real monitor lizard looks like.

Below is a photo I snagged from the internet just to give you an idea how formidable it really is.

In Chinese, we call it "four-legged snake". It kinda looks like a cross between a snake and an alligator.

Often, these monitor lizards are mistaken for Komodo Dragons, their more aggressive cousins. Those, you don't want to mess with. Trust me! Their saliva is extremely venomous
image credit - Smithsonian.com
That forked tongue! 


Thursday, August 16, 2018

Turtle Release

Today, I checked an item off my bucket list!

I adopted a turtle hatchling and released it into the sea!

My son Josh and I went on a turtle release excursion at the Rimbun Dahan Hatchery, Pahang.

Pak Su (Uncle Su in Malay) and a couple of  marine biology students run the place.

The hatchery
Eggs from the mama turtles' nests are reburied in artificial nests like these. Each 'nest' is marked with the date, number of eggs, and anticipated hatching date. Chicken wire is used to protect the eggs from poachers and predators.

The incubation period of a Green Turtle lasts 45 - 60 days.

Lending nature a helping hand
Tree roots and soil compaction (caused by rain on sand that's too fine) hamper the hatchlings from digging themselves out.
Green Turtle hatchlings
These little guys  can live up to 100 years! But sadly,  only 1 in 1,000  will survive to adulthood. 
The sex of a Green Turtle is determined after fertilization. The incubation temperature of the developing eggs defines the sex of the offsprings. This is called temperature-dependent sex determination, or TSD.

As Ben Guarino of The Washington Post reports, at roughly 85 degrees Fahrenheit, turtle nests produce equal amounts of males and females. A tad cooler and the clutch leans male. A little warmer and embryos develop as females.

You can't tell the sex of a hatchling. Until the turtle is fully grown, it's hard to sex a turtle.

I named my baby Penyu (turtle in Malay) and prayed on it before releasing it.


Although a short distance to the sea,  it is a long, perilous journey for the vulnerable hatchlings and they have to get into the water as soon as possible. This is a very important step. As they navigate towards the sea, they imprint where their natal beach is and will return back to the very same beach as their mamas did before them to lay their eggs. This is the reason why you just can't pick them up and plonk them into the water. Crawling towards the sea is part of the imprinting process.
We were told that a tagged hatchling traveled as far as Japan and returned  15 years later to the same beach to nest! What brilliant navigators!
Crabs and birds see these little fellas heading towards the sea as easy meals.
Almost there, little buddy!

Yayyy!  Penyu made it! Suddenly, an eagle swooped down and snatched one of the hatchlings that was already far out in the water. I saw the little guy's itty bitty flippers dangling from the bird's talons as it soared back into the sky. Poor baby! Nature is cruel. Such is the circle of life.

Josh's hatchling appeared to have a deformed flipper. We watched sadly as the little fella staggered slowly towards the sea, far behind the others. With a survival rate of less than 1%, sending a handicapped hatchling to the open sea is like giving it a death sentence. Mother Nature is a bitch.

Goodbye, little one!

Being a part of Penyu's journey from the moment it struggled out of the nest and ensuring that it made its way safely to the water was, unquestionably, one of the most profound and emotional experiences of my life.

It breaks my heart to learn that the battle for survival has only just begun. Many will drown in the pounding waves. Hungry fish are ready to strike. And a myriad of other threats await them in the ocean. 

The emotional send-off
With hearts full of hopes, we watched our babies disappear from the shoreline and into the sea 
When I lie awake at night, I think of Penyu. I pray that God watches over my little buddy. If it's female, I hope she will be back on this very beach where I was standing to lay her eggs.
A juvenile Green Turtle

Remember Crush from Finding Nemo?  He is a Green Turtle.



Sunday, August 12, 2018

Club Med

Family vacations create long lasting memories, don't you agree?

Over the years, vacations with the boys have become less frequent since they became teens. The mere mention of a family vacation induces a lot of moaning and complaining!

But I want to create memories. I want to enjoy my boys for as long as I can before they fly the nest. I want to create tons of happy memories together as a family.

So this year, I insisted on a family vacation. There were a lot of protests but I enticed them with a vacation I knew they couldn't pass up, a weekend getaway at Club Med Cherating!

Yep! We were there in a heartbeat and are now back: rejuvenated, de-stressed and ready to take on the world again.

Jungle meets beach

The South China Sea is on one side and a lush tropical jungle on the other. Don't be surprised if you find  monitor lizards, macaques, squirrels...  among the guests!

Club Med Cherating is one of the 80+ holiday villages worldwide and is Asia's first Club Med.
The wooden structure, built from teak, and standing on stilts is designed to resemble a traditional Malay sultanate palace.
Club Med Cherating is in the Guinness Book Of World Records for the longest building on stilts with a 850m long corridor.

Catching a little R&R
Cabanas are everywhere
Oh, did I mention it's an all-inclusive package? Think buffet meals, bottomless drinks and unlimited sport activities!

It's free flow at the bar!
The main bar. There are 3 in the resort
Buffet meals at either the Rembulan or Mutiara. There is also a noodle bar for small appetites. 
Japanese? Chinese? Korean? Indian or Italian?
The dessert corner

The main pool


Soaking up those wonderful, blissful moments when a gentle breeze caresses your face.
Sitting  here, listening to the sounds of leaves rustling and waves lapping on the shore is balm to my soul.


Great bonding time for the boys.
The hubs and Rodney (center)


Josh and Rodney playing volleyball with a family from Korea.


Archery


Ping-pong
While hubby and the boys participated in the various sports, I took a buggy ride to another part of the beach to find my zen

The Zen Zone
Shhhhh! The Zen Pool is an adults-only quiet zone. There is also a bottomless bar near the pool. The silence is surreal. It is so peaceful you can almost hear a pin drop! I've never felt more tranquil. 
This is what zen looks like!
No loud music or chatter - just a sense of absolute peace and quiet.

My favorite spot at the Zen Zone - a wooden island with rattan lounges. A wading pool surrounds the platform.
It's good to just get away from the day to day drudgery
Getting my Vitamin Sea

Me and Josh. The Hubs and Rodney are camera-shy.

I went on a turtle release expedition. More in my upcoming post.
Batik painting classes are available


Club Med 2001
Josh and Rodney
Vacations end. But memories last forever.