Crocodile Spotting (And other reptiles)

Very often you wouldn’t think of Singapore and crocodiles being together, given that Singapore is a cosmopolitan city of almost 6 million people, filled with skyscrapers, shopping malls, and high rise apartments. But yes, crocodiles are native to Singapore and you can usually spot them lurking in the northern nature reserve of Sungei Buloh.

The crocodiles found in Singapore are the estuarine or saltwater crocodile which can grow up to 5 meters and weigh more than 1,000 kg. That said, they are the largest predator on the island and can easily chomp down on any unfortunate animal, or human that gets in it’s way. Well, I’ve never heard of anyone getting bitten, killed or eaten by a crocodile in Singapore before.

I’ve tried to spot these crocodiles before at Sungei Buloh but without luck. But this trip would prove to be my lucky day, as I managed to spot at least 4 crocodiles in one morning.

One of the many tracks that crisscross the Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve with tidal mangrove swamps on either side. A crocodile or some other animal could be hiding just touching distance from you.
Not the usual ‘fine’ signs that you will see in Singapore. But if you don’t heed the warning, you could end up being a crocodile’s lunch.

Wild crocodiles aren’t going to be just lying there waiting for you to take their photos. So you have to try to spot them in their usual hangout which is usually in the water’s edge near the shore, where they lie in wait to ambush their prey.

The first croc that I spotted looked like a piece of driftwood floating in the water. But then it started bobbing up and down, as the crocodile would submerge itself periodically to hide from being spotted by potential prey. This was a small one, maybe 1 meter or slightly larger.
Another crocodile with a much clearer shot as it was not backlit from the morning sun.
Another croc which was getting plenty of attention from visitors as it was staying still just under the bridge where everyone could get a look at it. This one looked like it had some straps wrapped around it’s mouth, and I was not sure if it someone had tried to trap it, or it had got entangled with trash in the water.
Finally, the largest croc spotted that day was this 3 meter long monster that was lurking in the swampy water just meters from the walking track.

While I had satisfied my search to spot crocodiles that morning, I managed to run into other reptilian relatives of the crocs.

The water monitor lizard is probably the next largest predator in Singapore after the crocodile. They are relatively more common and can be seen even in housing estates. It can grow up to 2 meters long. This one was a juvenile at just 2 feet long. I never knew their tongues were blue in colour.
On the way out of the park, I encountered this adult monitor lizard which was easily 2 meters long. I managed to get this shot of it’s blue tongue as it flicked out. Adult monitor lizards have few predators except the saltwater crocodile.
Finally, a mangrove pit viper which was perched on a branch just beside the walking path. I wouldn’t have spotted it but for other photographers who pointed it out. This is an extremely venomous snake whose poison can kill a adult human.

All these photos were taken with my 100-400mm telephoto lens which allowed me to be further away from the animals. Being wild animals, it’s best to keep your distance from them, especially if they feel threatened by your presence and can attack suddenly.

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