Victor Valley College Tropical Research Initiative
Herpetofauna of Timor-Leste
From Kuala Lumpur we travelled on to Bali in Indonesia, via a Malaysian Airline flight. The journey to the airport seemed to take an eternity but eventually we all arrived in two minibuses, unloaded, checked in and waited for our flight.
Bali is an interesting place from both historical and zoogeographic standpoints. A Hindu island in an Islamic nation, it was originally the centre of a large Hindu civilisation which was subsequently conquered by neighboring kingdoms. It has retained a unique Balinese identity and has now become probably the most popular cultural and leisure island in Indonesia. To biologists it holds even more importance as it is the last island on the Oriental side of the famous but invisible Wallace's Line, named for the Father of Biogeography Alfred Russel Wallace, who spent six years in the Dutch East Indies and also nudged Charles Darwin into publishing his On the Origin of Species by independently arriving at similar conclusions to his older mentor. This line divides the Asian and Australopapuan faunal realms. Lombok, 20kms to the east, is on the other side of Wallace's Line, with noticeable differences in its fauna.
The flight to Denpasar, Bali took 3.5 hours, the journey to our hotel, the Best Western Kuta Beach, seemed to take almost as long due to the incredible congestion of Bali's narrow streets.
We ate in the roof-top restaurant, where a very good group from Manila were entertaining, then headed for our rooms, another action packed cultural and biological day beckoning tomorrow.
Hinrich had planned a grand tour for the day, but the original tour vehicles didn't arrive, and when the replacements got stuck in Bali traffic we had to replan our day. We first visited the Bali Snake Park. I have been through Bali on half a dozen occasions in the past and never visited the place. In all honesty it did not match up to our hopes.
Bali Snake Park - disappointing
Savu python, Liasis mackloti savuensis,
a relative of the Macklot's python from Timor
Next we drove out to the Gunung Batur volcano where we had lunch overlooking the extensive larva flows and a giant caldera lake.
Gunung Batur volcano
Stephanie, Aaren, Gloria & Melissa dine
Then we visited the Pura Desa Batuan temple where everyone had to wear sarongs.
At the temple: back row (l-r) Gloria, Sven, Caitlin, Hinrich, Scott, Stephanie, Melissa, front row Aaren, David, Justin & Zach (photo by Mark)
Finally, the Balinese cooking class in Ubud. The entire team participated, except myself since I was due to meet with Volker Kess, whom I knew from filming O'Shea's Big Adventure on Komodo in 2002. The cookery class was excellent, the students all learned very well and the meal was superb, eating on a covered verandah as tropical rains lashed down, a fitting end to the 'touristy' part of the trip.
The Balinese Cookery Class
Our teacher Puspa
The next day we departed for Dili on a Merpati flight, nice and early and ready for fieldwork.