Komodo – Borneo 2019

It was obviously a must for the association… The Komodo Islands are simply mythical for any reptile lover … Who did not grow up looking in the books or in front of the TV the incredible Komodo dragons?

Indonésie, Lézards, Reptiles, Rinca, Trips, Varanidae

So it’s gone for 15 days of pure naturalistic happiness, on the Komodo islands first, then on Borneo, home to no less than 6 species of viperidae …

Komodo Islands

Flores

The visit of the Komodo Islands need a stop on Flores, the main island of the sector which hosts the airport. We take this opportunity for a first night session. And here are our first observations: Cerberus schneiderii, Gekko gecko, Lycodon capucinus, Kaloula baleata … And our first Trimeresurus insularis! It is a green one (mainly green on this island, it is the most classic form), but it is a first beautiful find!

 

 

Komodo Island

The next morning, we take the boat to reach the island of Komodo. Here we are, finally! The sea trip allows us to enjoy exceptional landscapes, turtles, dolphins, and more. And after a few hours, the shores of Komodo Island appear before us! We are already watching, on the beaches, the presence of a potential first dragon …

 

Because Komodo Island is mainly known for its dragons, Varanus komodoensis, last survivor of ancestral era where dinosaurs dominated the world. These dragons are estimated at about 3000 individuals in total, including 1500 on this single island.
As soon as we arrive, we quickly see the first specimens. To see this animals in their natural state, so close to us, gives a strange impression. They are huge, imposing, calm … Respect!

Our surveys on the island also allow us to observe other species of reptiles, less imposing for sure: Hemidactylus platyurus and Boiga hoeselli for example. Above all, the night out allows the observation of the second target species that made us come to Komodo. Blue morph of Trimeresurus insularis, an intense and extraordinary blue color! This form is known almost exclusively from the island of Komodo. To see with our own eyes this beast is amazing, and the photo shooting is unforgettable …

 

 

 Rinca Island

We continue our boat trip to Rinca Island. Although not well-known, this island is home to a population of dragons equal in size to that of Komodo Island. Less touristy, more natural, it is very interesting for the naturalist photographers that we are.

This is where we will make our most beautiful shots of dragons. In the middle of nature, at the end of the evening, a young male appears at the top of a meadow. We take this opportunity for a series of shots. Finally, we have the pictures of dragons that we all imagined!
 

The visit of this island also allows us some aquatic research. We are looking for two marine snakes, Laticauda colubrina and Acrochordus granulatus. Only the second, not the beautiful, but the most … particular, will be find.

Back on land for a few night outings, mainly looking for Daboia siamensis, the local Russel Viper. No Daboia unfortunately, but some interesting species however: Dendrelaphis inornatus, Psammodynastes pulverulentus, Indotyphlops braminus

 

It is definitely time to return to the city, to join another paradise of Reptiles (and Amphibians!): Borneo!

 

Borneo – Kuching

We land in Kuching, Borneo, for a big week of new adventures. Our undisclosed purpose is simply to photograph the wildest species on the island … and they are in number!
The change of scenery is total, the landscapes are now only dense and wet forests, and the heights of canopy seem limitless.

First night and lot of observations: Bronchocela cristatella, Ahaetulla prasina, or Gonocephalus liogaster, the famous Blue-eyed Angle-headed Lizard! Several adults of Tropidolaemus subannulatus will also be present. The first viper of the island … but not the last!

In the following days, we continue our search in the Kuching area. Our efforts are useful, since we are going to observe many new species, Staurois guttatus, Alcalus baluensis, Ansonia leptopus, Microhyla borneensis, Leptobrachium abbotti, Pulchrana picturata, Metaphrynella sundana, Gonocephalus bornensis, Gonocephalus doriae, Polypedates otilophus, Rhacophorus pardalis (a large “flying” tree frog), Hebius flavifrons and Xenochrophis trianguligerus (two water snakes), Boiga drapiezii and Boiga cynodon, and several individuals of Megophrys nasuta, the incredible horned frog with perfect mimicry! A couple of very respectable Calliophis bivirgatus (what spectacular colors!) will conclude two of our nights. Above all, we manage to observe two new species of viperids, Trimeresurus sumatranus, and Trimeresurus borneensis, amazing!

 

 

Borneo – Secteur de Kinabalu

Then we drive to the north of Borneo, where Mount Kinabalu rises to 4095 m. This particular relief has allowed the emergence of a high rate of endemism, and Amphibians and Reptiles are not left behind. Here we are again immersed in the heart of the rainforests. Insects are always more numerous, the forms always more varied. The discoveries continue: Aplopeltura boa (a snake specialized in the predation … of snails!), Megophrys baluensis (a horned frog endemic to Kinabalu), Calamaria schmidti, Nyctixalus pictus, Metaphrynella sundanaGonyosoma oxycephala

And finally, the last three vipers of the island, all endemic to Borneo (or even Kinabalu) are also here: Trimeresurus sabahi, relatively common, but especially Trimesurus malcolmi (only a juvenile unfortunately) and Garthius chaseni ( a terrestrial viper with remarkable morphology)! We managed to observe the six vipers of Borneo in a few days … The success was with us obviously!

 

In conclusion

This 15 days in Southeast Asia have been intense, but largely profitable! The variety of landscapes, environments, species are simply amazing. The people have always been lovely and welcoming, and we will definitely be back in the near future for new discoveries. To photograph an adult malcolmi for example, or to observe, in the natural state, a king cobra …

 BorneoKomodo-337

Pictures : Fabrice Bernard, Matthieu Berroneau, Maud Berroneau, Frank Deschandol, Jean Muratet.

Thanks to the many people who welcomed us on site (thanks Agus, thanks for the meal Arie!), Thanks to who gave us tips for organizing the trip (Jaroslav, Quentin, Bobby, Peter and all the others!), and thanks to the new friends that we met on spots (big up Frederic!)!

 

About the author: Matthieu Berroneau

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