‘Welcome to the jungle,’ said a petite, dark haired girl with a friendly smile and a warm, giddy personality. ‘What animals do you really hope to see?’
‘Flying lemurs,’ was my reply.
The tour leaflet had stated that seeing these nocturnal creatures was 100% guaranteed, a high claim to make, so I was holding them to their promise. Seeing animals in their natural environment fills me with joy, but there is never any guarantee that you will find what you are looking for on wildlife expeditions. Yet in Langkawi there apparently was. Our young guide giggled. ‘Whoever made that promise is not a guide,’ she said, with a mischievous twinkle in her eyes. She was another example of the people I had come across in Malaysia, wonderfully friendly with a fantastic sense of humour.
We started our walk into the thick forested jungle. Our heads were bent so far back, looking up to the top of the trees trying to spot animals, that anyone approaching us from the front would have thought they were being greeted by a bunch of headless corpses. It wasn’t long before I heard a rustling sound from the bush to my right, at ground level, pointing out to us novices that animals don’t always stray so far up towards the sky. I tiptoed as quietly as possible over to the noise to investigate. The creature in the bush, however, was more aware of my presence than I had anticipated and it crawled away and up onto the first branch of the tree. I peered through the cloud of leaves and managed to get a good look at my observer. It was a monkey, and not just any monkey, but the cutest little monkey I had ever seen.
‘Wow,’ I exclaimed – probably too loudly – but I was over excited, my typical reaction when I see animals. ‘What sort of monkey is that?’
It was small, black, with grey tufts of fur on its head and stomach and little white patches covering its eyes and mouth that gave the impression he was wearing goggles and white lipstick.
‘That’s a dusky leaf monkey,’ our guide replied, the joy audible in her voice. She was of course happy with my reaction, and also relieved that we had encountered an animal at the beginning of our trek, a lucky sign for the rest of our mission, she believed.
We ventured on, the climb getting steeper and the humidity getting higher. However, we were soon stopped in our tracks when berries came hurtling down from the sky like giant rain drops. We looked up towards the canopy and found a great hornbill, perched majestically on a branch, trying and failing to flick berries into its beak, its lost dinner narrowly escaping our heads. On and on we marched, the siren of the cicadas piercing our eardrums until we finally found what the leaflet guaranteed we would see, the flying lemur. Only they weren’t flying. They were clinging to the trees, sleeping peacefully, waiting for darkness to descend, and probably the tourists to disappear. We zigzagged underneath the canopy, past trees hundreds of years old and cobwebs, empty of their owners, glistening like diamonds as the last remaining rays of light pierced through the leaves. Our wildlife spotting had appeared to come to an end as we made our way back to civilisation, the moon providing just enough light to guide our way. The jungle was silent, even the cicadas had ended their wailing. But then, right at the last moments, we heard the call that brought us all back to life after hours spent drowning in jungle dampness. ‘Look, flying lemurs, they’re flying…’
So we looked. And we saw. The flying lemurs were sleeping no more; they were gliding through the air, from tree to tree, like small furry base jumpers. We huddled together, a bunch of damp and weary trekkers, revived at the acrobatic performance these impressive creatures were displaying for us. Slowly the show dwindled to a halt, yet we stood glued to our spot, unable to avert our eyes just in case another performer decided to fly. Our reluctance to leave was not in vain, from the darkness of the tree tops the outstretched wings of a mother appeared, with her tiny baby clinging on to her, fully visible for us all to see. The smile on our guides face was the same size as the island. ‘Wow, I have never seen a baby before,’ she said, ecstatic. ‘You guys are my lucky charm.’
‘I guess we will have to come back tomorrow then,’ I replied.