by Anthony Quek
Gunung Belumut Recreational Forest (Belumut) is a protected forest in central Johor. It is located about 30 km north-east of the town of Kluang. Belumut has a forest stream of clear water, strewn with rocks and a sandy bottom. There are plenty of subjects but damselflies are the main stars that most macro shooters come for. Some of us call this place a damselflies heaven!
Our first NPSS’s official macro outing here was on 17 Sep 2011 led by Tony Png. It was such a huge success that we organised another outing a year later on 22 Sep 2012 attended by 24 participants, the biggest overseas outing ever organised by NPSS! After a 2-year break, we thought it would be good to check out this place again. A recce was conducted on 24 May 2014 and we found Belumut to be as good as in our previous visits. 5 July 2014 was set as our 3rd NPSS’s official outing here. A total of 20 NPSS paid members signed up for this trip.
I had set my alarm clock to sound at 5 am but I was awaken by thunder and lightning instead! It was raining cats and dogs at 4 plus and I feared that we might not have good weather at Belumut, about 150 km drive from Tuas Second Link.
When all of us reached the meeting point at Petronas Linkedua North Bound Patrol Kiosk, the rain subsided a little. Tony gave a short briefing to the 7 drivers. Our original plan was to drive 100 km to Machap R & R for breakfast and drive another 50 km to our final destination at Belumut. However, due to the fasting month of Ramadan, Machap R & R was unlikely to be opened. Tony felt that it was safer to visit Kulai for breakfast, just half an hour drive from Tuas Second Link.
We arrived at Kulai’s Restoran Yon Lai at 7.40 am. It served a wide variety of familiar Singapore dishes such as chee cheong fang, wan tang mee, fishball noodle, nasi lemak, big pau, etc. We had a good breakfast and packaged food here for our lunch at Belumut.
From here to Belumut, it would take at least another 100 km drive. I was in Foong’s car together with Yan Leong. We were probably too engrossed in chit-chatting that we missed an important turn. In fact, we overshot by more than 20 km! It was already 10.45 am when we reached Belumut. The rest had arrived 20 minutes earlier and were waiting for us to take a group photo.
Fortunately, the rain had stopped completely. Without further delay, we proceeded to the stream where we had to descend a steep slope.
Belumut is a popular recreational forest where the locals love to spend their weekends camping, picnicking and mountain climbing. However, due to the fasting month of Ramadan, all the stalls which were selling food, tit bits, drinks, etc., were nowhere to be seen. It was good for us that there were no other visitors; we had the whole place by ourselves. Timothy was able to take a nice forest streamscape picture without any Hand-of-man in it!
Most members came prepared with shorts and appropriate shoes. They were not afraid to dip into the cooling water to get good lower angle shots. Here are some candid shots showing them in action.
There were many Green Metalwing damselflies, a beautiful species that is already extinct in Singapore. Most of them were perching on rocks just above the flowing water. Let us take a good look at the classic side view shots of a male and a female beautifully photographed by Yan Leong.
Chuan Kwee and Allan preferred to get some close-up frontal shots:
When there were so many males and females of this stunning-looking damselfly, it was not too difficult to spot them mating. Here is a pair well captured by Chuan Kwee.
The next most common damselfly species was Heliocypha perforata. It is a small elegant damselfly species with distinctive blue markings on its thorax and abdomen. Similarly to Green Metalwing, it likes to perch on logs and rocks along the fast flowing stream. Here is a wide angle view showing a little of its environment.
Sometimes, when there were not enough nice perches to rest on, a damselfly would take risk of sharing with another damselfly as shown below, which often results in territorial fight.
There wasn’t a fixed timing for lunch. Most were already hungry by 12 noon but a few took their lunch much later. It was a pleasant experience eating our lunch sitting on rocks surrounded by flowing waters and shady trees in the forest.
After lunch, we continued with our shooting and managed to photograph quite a no. of other damselfly species such as Dysphaea dimidiata, Euphaea ochracea, Rhinagrion macrocephalum, Argiocnemis rubescens, Prodasineura humeralis, etc.
Foong was happy that a newly moulted damselfly landed on his finger.
Apart from damselflies, here are some other interesting subjects that were captured.
It was not easy chasing damselflies in a fast flowing streams especially in areas where the water was at knee-deep high. By 3.00 pm, we were all tired and decided to call it a day. After washing up and changed into our dry clothing, it was still too early for dinner. Michael led us to Kluang RailCoffee, a popular eating place at the railway station serving very good coffee and charcoal toast bread.
Thereafter, we proceeded to our familiar Cathay Restaurant at Kulai for a cheap but appetizing 8-course dinner.
All arrived home safely. It was another memorable and enjoyable trip led by NPSS’s very reliable overseas outing officer, Tony Png!