Pulau Seduku

Seduku Island Trip

As promised this post is about the official trip to Pulau Seduku which we made with the Ministry of Rural & Regional Development, Malaysia from Kuala Lumpur together with the FELCRA top management from Kuching and West Malaysia. I hope those readers who anticipated that I would be featuring some 'croc' photos in the post, I have to say I dare not because the villagers here have told me that if anyone can get up close and personal with these 'crocs' I think it will be the last photo that person will be able to take if he is unlucky. So I don't really feel lucky at this point in time so I guess I will be showing pictures of the settlement there a bit. I am not ready to do 'Crikey stunt' like the late Steve Erwin cover on the Seduku Island or better known as the 'Crocodile Island'. In CSI Miami one can notice that Horatio Caine has respect for the wildlife and he leaves those alligators in the Miami swamps alone. Furthermore our office is doing all it can to assist those who are trapped in a life of poverty on the island.

The journey started off in the we hours of the morning - reason being we have to reach Pulau Seduku by 7:00 a.m as it is only accessible during high tides. The window of access is about 2 hours failing which you will not be able to go to the island and have to wait for another nine to ten hours or so for the water level to go up again.

Seduku Island aka 'Crocodile Island' is located almost at the mouth of the vast Batang Lupar River. Our journey began from the Department of Drainage and Irrigration Office jetty. The trip will take about 40 minutes at 60 knots speed. We are set to pick up the 'Kuala Lumpur officers ' (as we refer them) at Bakong as they will begin their journey a bit later from Sri Aman via road. We really do not want to wake them up too early as we need them to be in tip top condition when they are at the island. But they can't be too late either as they will miss the water level window to the Island.

Navigating the river in the early morning darkness requires skill. The boatman with us had an assistant next to him to function as a second pair of eyes. One really wonders when they designed this boat earlier, shouldn't they have designed a chair that can be raised when required - the boatman's chair had a whole load of items to help him get a better line of sight. The driver was quite hyperactive, sitting and standing a couple of times. Our group in the boat did not mind this as we know that having an 'excited' boat driver is a good sign and it means he is alert. We do not really want to fall into the Batang Lupar river at this point in time due to an inexperienced or sleepy driver.

Anyway, we kept ourselves busy along the way- toying around with the GPS System to locate our positions on the river, stopping at some scenic spots along the river for an early 'Boat' breakfast'.

We managed to educate ourselves by picking up fruits on the trees that are reachable by the river bank. Here is a 'pedada fruit' which they say makes an excellent appetizer for any meals (I have yet to try it) and sometimes are used as fish bait. Some did suggest scooping the water for prawns as the area we stopped over was famous for it, but we never got to do it as our breakfast session took longer than expected.

We reached Bakong closed to 7:15 a.m - and the 'KL People' have not arrived yet so we hopped on the Bakong jetty and chatted with the local folks. There were extra smaller boats on standby at the jetty just in case the DID boat was not enough. Topics of our discussions were related to the subject of 'crocodile sightings' and 'history of crocodile attacks'. There has been a few attacks in this area in the last few decades - one in 1982 and another in 1992 and some more between 2002 and 2005. One scary event related to us was that a crocodile followed a villager quietly from behind his boat as he journeyed towards the river bank and approached the jetty to tie his boat. as he was about to tie his boat, the large croc caught him by his upper right leg and dragged him into the waters. Nearby villagers who saw what had happened sounded the alarm and a few villagers brought out their gongs and shotgun, making loud noises and shooting in the air to scare the reptile. Surrounding the river area with boats a few rounds of shots were fired at the reptile when it surfaced with the lifeless victim in its mouth - trying to find an exit along the river which had been blocked by the villagers, but the bullets were no match for the reptile's thick skin. The stand off took 4 hours before the crocodile released its victim and silently slipped into the darkness of the night.

After a few stories, the 'KL group' arrived and we quickly invited them into the boat before proceeding to the Island which is just across Bakong. I guess they rushed to the safest looking boat as we understood that during their journey in the car they too had been talking about the 'gentle creatures' of Seduku Island. I think all of them jumped into the boat and filled it up within 5 minutes.

So I skipped into a smaller boat and we continued our journey to Pulau Seduku. Its just a 10 minutes ride across the river from Bakong. The boatman whom I was speaking to as we approached the island explained to me that there was a clear border between the human settlement and wildlife there. The Seduku village occupied the western side of the island while those the wildlife occupied the other three quarter. So one really does need an experienced boatman when cruising to the island as the water tends to get shallow in some areas and you may just hit a sandbar or 'something' - just pray its a floating wood because there was a time when a boat was capsized by the creature and the survivors had to swin to shore - luckily there were no casualties. One policeman lost his M16 at that time but I believe no one dares to conduct a dive in the area to recover the weapon. So far there is only one victim on the wildlife area side and it was of a timber worker who was taking his bath in the area (the Wildlife Area side of the photo above). When the search party led by the Police and Forestry Department went to recover what is left of the person, the sonar detector they used in that area detected hundreds of crocodiles of all sizes within a square kilometer area of the river.

The arriving guests were given a warm welcoming reception at the Seduku village jetty.

Our group had a short tour of this village which comprises of 145 families - concentrated on the South western corner of the Island. The villagers had been identified as those in the 'hard core poverty' category - most of them make a living as fishermen and farmers. They had lived in this area since the Brooke era (in the late 1890s) and most had title to the surrounding land. However the Island is set to be taken by the State Government as part of its effort to convert it into a Wildlife area/sanctuary. Once it is converted and gazetted into that, the human population will have to vacate the island. However a specified area across the island has been identified for the Seduku villagers' new resettlement.

There was also a school at Pulau Seduku which catered for the villagers' children but the numbers are not many as we were about to see

Here the ratio of student to teacher is 1:1 (one to one) and this is replicated in the other classes as the most I saw in one of the class was just 6 students

Meeting with the Pulau Seduku folks: discussions were held with the Seduku villagers and they have expressed their willingness to be resettled across the island on the mainland as they had been waiting for more than 5 years for it to materialise since the proposal was mooted out.

And so that's when the real work starts as we went back across Bakong to view the proposed resettlement site for the Seduku folks. The process of negotiations, procedural adherence are thrown on the table and the limitations of the State - Federal agencies' might are brought together to ensure that everything that can possibly be done for the Seduku folks are not hindered by red tapes. Of course we discovered that most of the hurdle that prevents us from progressing was that some administrative elements do not meet eye to eye but that is a learning opportunity for us. Listing out all the 'red tapes' that can make this proposal to fail, - like the funds are controlled by the Federal Government but the land issues are purely State matters, it can be pretty dicey and we hope to present it to the higher authorities so that they may thrash it out at their level without further delay. We would have done our part in ensuring that the implementation aspect will be smooth and executable.

And so, its all in a day's work - though we would not consider the matter to end there as more paperwork needs to be done as we return to our office. Our mission to make life better for the Pulau Seduku villagers is an ongoing effort (which cannot be done in a few days) and if this does not happen in my time, I hope the next person coming in will pursue it further. This effort is replicated across the State Administrative machinery as my other colleagues and comrades in arms are also identifying the villages and people who are trapped in poverty due to locality and try our best to ensure efficient delivery, giving the the people of Sarawak a better quality of life - irregardless of race or religion. God speed!


Khairul Onggon said…
jgn lupak gambar kelak mr desmond.. cant wait la.. kmk akan ke sana juak hehe..
headsteadi said…
Enjoy! but safety first :)
Uchu Keling said…
Pn Hamidah said…
You know I like some bits of suspense here and there. Just like at the cinema, there are adverts and trailers for the next upcoming movies hehe..Is it safe to assume that the synopsis here has something to do with the Croc? hehe..
PPS said…
I've been there few times. Nice place and this is where the Sri Aman icon, Benak start to roll!! Enjoy it but watch your step down there.
nicksuneo said…
nice blogpage... i tot u quit from blogging since i cannot access to your previous blog add.
cyrildason said…
I'm weird.. but I love this photo...

So many interesting updates, I've missed.. and I was only offline (sort off) for a week!!
Ruis Jugah said…
tumu amat ngambi gambar :)
I think to start off the economy, you could get these folks to do ecotourism. I know it will be detrimental to environment but with proper planning and conservation, it will work.

Gong Xi Fa Chai my friend. It is freezing cold here in London. Snowed heavily in 20 years.
Joe Nyuin said…
Nice article Desmond. It is great to see the new-coming development in that area. Although I stayed in Sri Aman for almost 2 decades but I have not been downstream of Batang Lupar. I used to travel upstream up to Engkilili using speedboat or 'express boat'. Maybe someday you will go to my old place, Ijok, where I used to swim after school. That time, I felt braver than Steve (not fear the crocs).
Ruis Jugah said…
manah amat speedboat nya yuu
Tia said…
my father thought there before as a temporary teacher before he joined the police force. i was not born yet at that time....

thanks for sharing ur experience..
jingpengboy said…
adventurous and educational. stories of the Crocodiles of Batang Lupar are legendary. sadly Steve Irwin missed it and perhaps some other guy can come to do a documentary on it.