On assignment for BBC Wildlife Magazine, Bill Oddie gives blood to the rainforest, meets some familiar feathered friends, experiences the ‘Rainforest Rainbow’ and has four game drives in which to find a leopard…
I am alone, it is dawn and I’m in the lodge’s dining area.
We arrived last night in the dark, and all I know is that I’m in the middle of a forest called Sinharaja. It is slowly getting lighter and I can now see some trees. Nothing but trees, in fact. To the left, to the right, below, above and beyond.
It’s as if the land is enveloped in a gigantic leafy duvet, and it’s steaming like an England scrum on a chilly day at Twickenham. I can see no sign of active life. Typical rainforest!
Rain or cloud?
Or maybe it’s not rainforest. Maybe that’s not steam, maybe it’s cloud. Just as I realise that I don’t know the difference between rainforest and cloud forest, a male voice says, “We call this Forest View.” Can’t argue with that.
“Is it rainforest or cloud forest?” I ask. For a moment the man is perplexed, and then he explains, very slowly, as if to a child, “First, the cloud, then the rain.”
“Aaah!” I exclaim as if enlightened. My mentor then utters the words he knows every tourist wants to hear. “Later, maybe sun.”
My host shuffles off, and I listen to the calls that are typical of jungly habitats the world over. There is always a bird that sounds like a Clanger, and another that sounds as if it is laughing. I can hear both but see neither.
The truth is that first light in this forest – rain or cloud – can’t hold a candle to a British dawn chorus. My mind wanders to the New Forest in May, as somewhere a bird chortles mockingly.
Name that tune
I find it frustrating to hear calls and songs and not have the faintest idea which birds are responsible. I scan the vista of trees and mist, and, suddenly, the first winged creature of the day flaps slowly across the valley.
A butterfly. Not one of those huge, luminous blue butterflies that you are supposed to see in tropical places, but something small and yellowish, rather like a brimstone, only – well – duller. It disappears into a treetop. So far, I’m not overly impressed.