I hypothesized that those harshly sunlit
spots must be their dining rooms. The
boulders were quite slippery due to algal
growth, and I almost fell a couple of times.
There was hardly any open area to find
substrate, gravel, or sand, and no submerged
vegetation, which is common with higher-elevation streams.
The water was very cool and flowing
swiftly. At that location, we found and
caught several specimens from the G.
ocellatus species group with superb red
caudal fins and nice patterns all over the
top body portion. While looking for them
in the shallower parts of the streams, we
accidentally caught a single mouthbrooding
wild betta species, Betta ibanorum, named
after the local Iban tribes.
Adventures in Lundu
That evening, I witnessed a beautiful
opening celebration of the Chinese
mooncake festival just behind the bed-and-breakfast where I was staying. The
next morning, we went to explore another
location in Southern Sarawak a bit further
away and at a lower elevation, near the
town of Lundu. It was completely different
from the earlier one, more of a typical
lowland stream with a sandy substrate and
small- to medium-sized rocks everywhere.
As this was Sarawak, known for its man-eating crocodiles that often venture into
connected freshwater streams, we had to
be very careful exploring that waterbody.
To make things worse, it started raining
mildly after we had already started our
trek into the stream. A bit worried both
about the reptiles and a possible flash
flood, which is very common in this part
of the world, we started with the shallows
by the nearest bank, in water only a little
more than ankle-deep.
I rapidly took the submerged river rocks
one by one out of the water while Naseer
held the net underneath with the hope of
catching any fish detaching themselves
from the rocks in an attempt to slip away.
We saw hundreds of greenstripe barbs
(Puntius vittatus) grazing and swimming
crazily among the rocks, and it was in
following those little beauties that we
subconsciously, and fortunately, arrived
in the deeper—yet still only knee-deep—
water where we finally caught our first G.
The habitat near Lundu where the collecting party spent the second day exploring.
G. ocellatus, a specimen collected
in the Matang area.