Checking out from the Hotel early on 14th March, I proceeded via the old federal road after Juru. I passed Taman Markisah, where I spent a night in it's surau during my Road to 55 solo ride back in 2005. Proceeded on towards Nibong Tebal and Parit Buntar until I saw a sign to Kuala Kurau. I passed through the small fishing town of Kuala Kurau and a new bridge across Sungai Kerian cut the journey tremendously. I had wanted to spend some times in Kuala Kurau itself, to capture the local happenings. I didn't. So it will be another day, another time.
Kuala Gula certainly can't boast of any "gula". However, an old sugar factory now converted to an oil palm processing plant provide indication what it probably was before. Where have all the "gula" gone to? I guess, that's again another day and another time!
Upon arriving at the Kuala Gula complex, I was greeted by 2 Milky Stork. Local name is Botak Upeh...hmmm.... As they stood still spreading their wings, I thought these were replicas of the birds welcoming visitors to the complex. They were real allright!
If one expect to see birds here, one will be in for a disappointment. I made my way to the Chalet Peranginan to ask for info. The complex is privatised. To enter the office, one must remove one's shoes. I had prefered a friendlier receptionist too, a young male. I did capture one bird in the mudflat just by the restaurant. Without the telephoto, this shot will have been another disappointment.
You need to rent a boat to go out to where the birds could be seen. Rate ranges from RM60 -RM250 for 10 adults for trips lasting between half-hour to 3 hours. There were only 2 of us and the rate is inflexible. Fair enough, as fuel will be about the same and the boat operator still got to spend the same time for one or ten people!
We decided against boating out but settled for an informative visit to the information centre. We were in luck as a group of students were there, briefed by Encik Ishak, one of the staff of the Centre. As we say it, we "tumpang sekaki". A well documented VCD presentation was very informative. Unfortunately, it wasn't available for sale. I have made a jotting to make some suggestions later.
QUICK INFO ON KUALA GULA BIRD SANCTUARY
Kuala Gula forms part of the Matang mangrove forest reserve, comprising vast stretches of tidal mudflats. The mudflats are important sites for feeding, nesting and roosting of waterbirds. 166 species of birds including migrant birds had been recorded here. Mammals such as monkeys, rats, bats, otters, silver-leaf monkeys, long-tailed macaques, dolphins (yes dolphins!) had also been recorded, along with monitor lizards, python and mangrove snakes.
What about birds! Plentiful of-course...at the right time. I saw ALL, in the brochure. For armchair travellers, here they are! Enjoy them.
The birds are abundant between late August till late April every year. The peak will be between October and December when thousand of these shorebirds can be seen. Another day, another time in October perhaps.
Accomodation can be arranged at Chalet Peranginan Kuala Gula. Contact No: 05-8905481.
To get here fast, take the PLUS highway exiting at Bukit Merah (from North) and at Taiping (from South).
THE FISHERMEN OF KUALA GULA
Just outside the perimetres of the chalet complex was a small fishing jetty. I befriended a fisherman, Encik Don. If we had arrived an hour earlier, we could have photographed some large sting rays, said he. Sounds like a fisherman story, you know...about the fish that got away! So I took his mobile number. I would like to witness another stingray - another day, another time.
Several ladies were fitting hooks onto a pole. The hooks were attached to the net. The net is especially designed to catch stingrays that dwells at the sea bottom. For the effort, they were paid RM1.00 per pole. On a day, the effort can reap them about RM30.00. Encik Don narratted stories of fishermen pierced by stingrays while lifting them out of the water. During my scuba-diving days, I made a point to maintain comfortable distances with poisonous sea creatures, i.e. a distance comfortable to the creature. In their habitat, we must pay great respect as we are the intruders.
Ikan duri and crabs freshly caught were waiting for pick-up. I was never an ikan duri fan, and the crab causes an allergy. Giving reasons for not buying was therefore easy.
And where there are fish, there are cats. I couldn't resist taking them away but they were well protected by the angry mother. So instead, I took their pictures and everybody were happy, including the mother cat!
It's also great to know that efforts are made to replant and replace the bakau trees. After all, what's the mangrove without the bakau trees.
All in, it was an exploratory visit. I plan to revisit, on my faithful 2-wheels when I will spend several more days touring the area.
ANOTHER DAY.........ANOTHER TIME