Exploring Mount Singai at night
by Mary Margaret. Posted on August 5, 2012, Sunday
NIGHT changes everything. The known becomes unknown. Diurnal creatures take cover; nocturnal creatures embrace the darkness. A small group of Malaysian Nature Society (MNS) members, who walked to the Catholic Memorial Pilgrimage Retreat Centre in Mount Singai one recent evening, experienced the peaceful calmness of the mountain and the night.
The 333-metre Mount Singai is the homeland of the Bisingai Bidayuh. It is their cultural heart.
Most visitors traverse the wooden stairway to the Catholic Memorial Pilgrimage Retreat Centre in daylight, but a small group of MNS members chose to embrace the darkness and climb to the retreat centre in the early evening.
The mountain’s residents (besides people) include 93 species of birds, 22 species of mammals – including bats and western tarsier, reptiles, amphibians, insects and other creatures. We dreamed of seeing a western tarsier, but this remained an unfulfilled ambition.
A total of 19 fruit trees – langsat, durian, tampoi and enkabang – have been identified along the trail that leads up to the retreat centre. At night these and the giant tapang (sometimes referred to as the bee tree), merge with the darkness. We were only allowed occasional glimpses into and through the canopy. Then we saw the starlight of the distant suns.
In daylight it takes about 30 minutes to walk up, but we moved slowly scanning the planks, the streams and the plants edging the path for creatures. Occasionally the still darkness was broken as some sort of animal – bat or moth or stick insect perhaps – was disturbed by the light fluttering across the path.
A well-camouflaged small light brown frog, probably waiting for unsuspecting insects, was caught in our light. Large night hunting spiders lurked along the plank walk. In the darkness they would be almost invisible.
A beautiful forest green spider was caught unaware. Its forest green body was decorated with a series on concentric red lines. The same muted red encircled its eight legs at irregular intervals.
A small alien-like insect with angel wings flitted along the moss covered railing of the plank walk. It almost glowed in the dark.
The walkers continued on in their search for creatures of the night. A brown forest snail was taking the easy way along the wooden plank walk. With a conical shell on its back the snail inched its way forward.
Crabs are generally considered water creatures, but we were fortunate to catch glimpses of two orangey brown forest crabs nestled in the fold of leaves. One eight-legged creature stayed put as the flashing lights interrupted its hunt.
Most night-creatures froze in the light, but a blackish purple millipede with psychedelic purple legs and yellow feet made a speedy retreat from the light as it raced away.
As the trail levelled, we realised that we had arrived. We were greeted by a flying stick insect that clung to a couple of the members of the group. We wandered in quiet awe through the centre until we finally came to rest near the grotto. The silence and the peace of the evening and the place washed over us as we meditated …
In silent consensus we returned from whence we came but we were much enriched.