Monday, December 01, 2014

Raja Stories


One day we arrived at the dining hall to find everyone looking up at the roof. It turned out there was a snake up there. It took me forever to see it. People kept trying to explain where it was. Eventually I spotted it. You couldn’t see the whole snake so it was hard to know how long it was, but judging by what we could see it was a good size - maybe 6 feet long. Soon after I managed to spot it it slowly moved out of sight. It looked like it went up on the roof so I ran outside, but it must have gone inside the roof since there was no sign of it.

The next day we returned to our bungalow after supper. Shelley went into the open air bathroom and a few minutes later she was calling loudly for me. A snake had dropped to the floor right beside her. (Luckily it didn’t fall on her.) I got there in time to see it slither away. It was quite small, maybe two feet long and slender. Shelley asked indignantly why it fell down like that. I told her she probably scared it :-)

The other snake incident was when we were diving. At the end of one dive two of the guides were together and from a distance I saw them both “jump" and then turn and swim furiously. I thought they must have be chasing something interesting so I swam towards them to see what it was. I came around the corner and almost ran into a sea snake. It turned out that it had swum up right between them and scared them. Apparently the locals have a phobia about snakes. We kidded them about it afterwards and had a good laugh.


In the mornings we would go out for two dives. Between the dives, during the required surface time, we would land on a beach and get served cappuccino (instant). At one of the beaches we were greeted by a cloud of blue spotted brown butterflies, fluttering all around, landing in the trees and on driftwood on the beach. It almost seemed like the dry land version of the colourful schools of fish we had been seeing under water.


Monitor Lizards

On another beach lunch break I got out of the boat and spotted a monitor lizard in the bushes. I called for Shelley to come see before it disappeared. I needn’t have worried. A few minutes later it was back, coming quite close. The reason was soon revealed as the staff threw food to it. Soon another one appeared and at one point there were four in sight and more in the bushes. They were about three feet long, although much of that was their long tail. I said “big monitor lizards” to Arif (our dive guide) and he replied, “no, small monitor lizards”. The locals called them “komodos”. They are related, but actual komodo dragons aren’t found here. We had boiled eggs for lunch and several were thrown to the monitors. It was a bit of a struggle for them to swallow the eggs whole, you could see the lump going down their throats. I swear one of them was noticeably fatter by the time we left! One of the staff was sitting quietly looking out to sea and one of the monitors snuck up behind him silently. We pointed behind him and he turned to look, jumping a little when he found himself eye to eye with the lizard!


Parting Gifts

Coming out of our bungalow one day I found a small juvenile monitor lizard on our wall but it disappeared before I could get my camera. I spotted it several more times in the same area but something always scared it away before I could take photographs. As we left the bungalow for the last time, out of habit, I looked for it in it’s usual spot and there it was. Maybe it knew this was my last chance because it sat there cooperatively while I took off my pack, dug out my camera, and took several shots of it.


We often heard a variety of bird calls around the island but almost never spotted any actual birds. One of the ones I really wanted to see was a Papua hornbill. On the boat trip back to Sorong when we were passing through the narrow “Passage” one flew out from the trees right in front of us and then landed on a branch. We were moving too fast to get much of a picture but at least I saw one!

Also in the passage, I was sitting on top of the boat roof looking around when I spotted a shape just under the surface of the water. As it went by I could see it was a large (four feet long?) sea turtle swimming along. Again, there was no time for photographs, but I was glad to have one last sighting of one of my favourite sea creatures.

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