Carol has a cousin living in Singapore and, when we first began thinking of a visit, it was a couple of years ago in the context of a stopover en route to Australia and New Zealand. Unfortunately, any embryonic plans were torn up when medical issues took centre stage. However, with the medical issues behind us and looking for a way to relieve the monotony of this year’s northern European winter, the idea of Singapore as a destination in its own right resurfaced. Singapore has a reputation as being a good haunt for Odonata, dragonflies and damselflies, and England has a distressingly long winter without them. Singapore is also a good base from which to visit other interesting SE Asian destinations, such as Cambodia, which interested Carol. The area seemed to have something for everyone.
Given Singapore’s location a mere 1.3°N of the equator, I suspected that it might have active populations of my favourite insects all year round but it was only a suspicion. Before fixing any Odo-hunting trip involving 13-hour flights in both directions, I needed confirmation. Enter the Internet. Carol found a blog, Dragonflies & Damselflies of Singapore, published by Anthony Quek. Not only does Anthony’s site have some truly stunning dragonfly portraits, but it also provided a contact form, so I sent him my question about Singapore flight seasons. Anthony was more helpful than I could have hoped; not only did he confirm my suspicion that in Singapore Odos were active year round, he offered, if our plans came to fruition, to meet us and take us to one of his favourite locations. He gave us his mobile phone number so we could contact him when/if we got there.
Sure enough our plans did come to fruition and we booked our trip to Singapore between 17th February and 3rd March, including a long weekend in Cambodia to get cultured out with a load of Cambodian temples, chief among which was, of course, Angkor Wat. Once back in Singapore for our second uninterrupted week, I messaged Anthony and, true to his word, he arranged to meet us at an entrance to Singapore’s Central Catchment Nature Reserve. [That link does look a bit confusing being called the Bukit Timah NR. The whole area is really one that got divided by a large road to the west of which is Bukit Timah NR and to the east, the much bigger Central Catchment NR. I think!] Anthony was referring to his favourite spot as the Lornie Trail. He sent a map and even a photo of the entrance he wanted us to meet at. Great stuff!
With considerable help from our host, Carol’s cousin, in getting us through the rush hour when Singapore taxis seemed to be as rare as rocking horse shit/hens’ teeth [or insert your own preferred witty analogy], we made it to our meeting point in time. A few minutes later, Anthony arrived and greeted us. The power of modern communications methods – two sets of hitherto complete strangers living 8,000 miles apart had managed to make arrangements and meet.
I’d seen the Lornie Trail on a map; it seemed to be mainly a boardwalk route skirting the southern side of the MacRitchie Reservoir. Where Anthony actually led us was along a rough track between a golf course and the western end of the MacRitchie Reservoir. He even snapped a few well-constructed pictures of us at work as we were being captivated by a dazzling array of new additions to our catalogue. No, it’s not the sandal that I’m photographing, I think it was this relatively uncommon Black-tipped Percher (Diplacodes nebulosa).
I was already very satisfied with our haul beside the golf course but then Anthony offered to take us into the forest section along Sime Track, if we wanted to go. In this climate that constantly varies between warm and hot, there are forest species of dragonfly the like of which we don’t get in Europe’s climate. You’re darn right we wanted to go. Once in the forest, Carol snapped Anthony and me at work on an unusually coloured Variable Sentinel (Orchithemis pulcherrima). Carol’s shot of the dragonfly was better than anything I got, too, so here it is. The Variable Sentinel gets its vernacular name from the array of colour forms in which it occurs. We added even more new species to our catalogue.
Eventually we had to part but we’d had a great day finding 22 species at this, Anthony’s favourite Singapore location for dragonflies. Without his guidance, I’d certianly have visited the Lornie Trail but would probably have stuck to the boardwalk and missed so much. I suspect I’d have come way disappointed and wondered what all the fuss had been about. As it was, thanks to Anthony’s help, we were more than delighted. Here’s a great memory of the day taken, we think, on Anthony’s mobile phone:
Clearly Anthony’s good photographic eye is not limited to dragonflies.