Date: 5th July 2014
There were times when Toni and I woke up on a Saturday and stayed in bed thinking hard what to do for the next two days. Our routine would be NTU library, but sometimes it got a bit too boring that we would rather cross the crowded causeway and go to the other side of the strait. It was on such a morning that we looked hard on the map and spotted a small island covered in green. After some quick packing, we boarded a bus from Boon Lay to Bukit Indah, from where we hired a taxi to our destination.
The entire village at Kukup was built on mudflats. After the main road ended, a few narrow lanes wide enough for scooters and passengers stretched out over the muddy water with rows of densely packed houses lined up on both sides. There were signs of abandonment at some distant corners, as well as burgeoning modern constructions (concrete mansions with tinted windows) at the more accessible locations. Almost every household seemed to have one or more fishing boats, brightly painted and silently parked underneath, where wildlife such as mudskippers, rats and monkeys thrived. As we walked past numerous Taoist temples, piles of rubbish casually dumped amongst protruded mangrove roots, swollen dragonfruits hanging heavily from the flower pots, local stores selling sweet desserts made from rice and coconuts, and listened to the impassioned sopranos emanating from vacation villas, we couldn’t help but wonder at the apparent diversity at such a small village on the tip of Johor.
After exploring the village, we took a ferry in the afternoon to Kukup island, which was located right opposite to the village. The wooden trails were well maintained and educational signboards were set up, some of them with a poetic touch such as:
The mangrove forest was dense and thriving with mosquitoes. A watch tower marked the end of the tantalising trail, where a vast span of the canopy could be viewed from a distance. Toni was a bit disappointed that we could not advance further with a canoe or kayak, but we later agreed that it might be too risky to paddle in a tropical stream with man eating fish and crocodiles.
Toni and I saw some of the most colorful and interesting creatures at Kukup:
Figure 14: constant fighting between mudskippers
Figure 15: green eyed yellow bee
Figure 16: cute baby monkeys hugging each other
Figure 17: a dead snake
Figure 18: tiny crabs
Figure 19: drying up after swimming
On our way back to the village the ferry captain brought us to a fish farm. A chubby boy showed us around, and explained every species to us in a peculiar accent. He had a calm face and did not show any disappointment even though none of the passengers bought anything from the farm.
After the fishing farm, we found a simple accommodation at one villager’s home and enjoyed a sumptuous seafood dinner during the orange sunset. When darkness fell, we listened to deep croaks of the frogs before the sound of fire crackers pierced through the sky.