Tanjung Tuan (Cape Rachado) - Malacca Malaysia
Peninsular Malaysia's oldest functional lighthouses sits on a knoll, overlooking the watery grave of many ancient schooners and battleships dating back to Portuguese and Dutch colonisation in South East Asia. The lighthouse was first built by the Portuguese in the 15 th Century and later rebuilt by the Dutch. The Battle of Cape Rachado in 1606 was a very important naval engagement between the Portuguese and the Dutch VOC. 11 Dutch battleships and 20 Portuguese ships engaged in a fierce battle. Although victorious that time, with the Johor Sultanate's involvement on the side of the Dutch, the Portuguese loss their supremacy over the Straits of Malacca just 30years after the battle at Cape Rachado .
A sunken ship named Nassau of the Dutch fleet was found 8 nautical miles out in an excavation expedition in 1995. It contained 15 cannons, cannonballs, ropes, coins, barrels etc of which a collection of artefacts are displayed at the Lukut Musuem (MC_lukut.htm) in Lukut.
The head of the cape is a dangerous place to go swimming. The underwater eddy currents have dragged a number of unsuspecting youngsters out for a frolic. Perhaps this is also a reason why the coral and marine life below the surface is supposedly still intact and kept safely away from the touch of recreational divers and the flash of unfamiliar amateur underwater photographers.
Cape Rachado or Tanjung Tuan as it is called now was first gazetted as a Permanent Forest Reserve in 1921, covering some 93hectares of virgin coastal rainforest and refuge for coastal inhabitants and migratory birds. However, as time went by, parts of the reserve were degazetted for development and by 1951, it had shrunk to only 60hectares.
In 1998, once again an attempt to degazette the area (regazetted a Wildlife Conservation Area and Bird Sanctuary in 1971) by developer Dataran Baiduri proposing to build 1,231 dwellings/mixed development on 43.2ha of the remaining 60ha reserve but was quelled by conservationists and bird lovers. This was a surprising victory. But the area is far from being out of reach of greedy developers and assemblymen. It is only by power of the people that the area is still intact but encroachment is still imminent.Today we rejoice for a small piece of solitude and peace that this green promontory, this historical site, this refuge contributes to a part of our diminishing heritage
There are walking trails off the main tar road and for nature lovers, this can be a joy. Residents and migratory bird species find food and refuge in the jungle foliage as the little creatures such as macaques, shrews, squirrels, and reptiles.
One of the trails take trekkers down the hill to a small beach, passing the remains of an old well believed to have been dug by the Dutch.
Mid February till Mid April and October are the best months to make your way to Cape Rachado. Avid birdwatchers normally flock to the lighthouse for this bi-annual occasion. The lighthouse is closed off to the public on normal days but during the raptor watch weekends organised by MNS (Malaysian Nature Society), the lighthouse is opened for birdwatchers and the general public.
This is the time when raptors (birds of prey such as hawks, buzzards, vultures, falcons, harriers, eagles are raptors) migrate from one region to another for the purpose of breeding and feeding. Spring is the time when raptors leave the warmer weather down in Indonesia and return to their breeding grounds in Eastern Asia . The main raptor species that make Cape Rachado a rest point before making their last leg to Indonesia are the Oriental Honey Buzzards, Chinese Goshawks, Black Bazas, Grey-Faced Buzzard and Japanese Sparrowhawk.
There are also other non-raptor species that migrate too such as the blue-throated bee eater, blue-tailed bee eaters, swallows and swifts. And all use this peace of jungle as a rest stop. During the peak month in early 1960s, it was estimated there were about 120,000 Crested Honey-Buzzard making their way on their migratory route, stopping by at Cape Rachado along the way. Today, we would be seeing about 1,000 passing by on a really good day. But on the other hand, Malaysia 's population was a mere 10million in the 1960s and now we're 26million and counting.
Large birds need thermals to lift them high. Due to their size, they require a little boost to fly. Thermals are created by the sun heating the earth that in turn churns hot air which rises and buoys the birds, helping them glide further and longer. The birds fly through the Straits of Malacca, and slowly they lose altitude as the thermals cool. These large birds then find themselves flapping fiercely to keep above water and before long they find their way to the cape. They rest and feed until the thermals are regenerated, and then slip into the flow again that will eventually take them closer to their breeding grounds.
For more on this year's raptor migration, please go to https://mnsraptorwatch.wordpress.com/