BOOK REVIEW BY MS CHOO M E
With five nature books to his name, nature photographer-writer Dr Chua Ee Kiam’s latest coffee-table book, done in collaboration with National Parks Singapore (NParks), highlights the mangrove ecosystem of SBWR; documenting the Reserve with a descriptive text and 360 evocative photographs that highlight the many creatures and plants, aside from its standing as an important gateway for migratory birds. These photographs are a compendium of images contributed by the author himself and fellow passionate nature photographers. Archival photos are included in the chapter ‘Roots-Early Beginnings’ to trace the trying years of developing ‘spartan’ Sungei Buloh into its present state. Aerial views of the Reserve taken from the helicopter and images of the water channels taken from boats and kayak give the reader a rare and less accessible perspective of Sungei Buloh. The captions that accompany the images are both engrossing and informative.
The artistic design of the book deserves a mention. The author has daringly and creatively adopted a black, grey and white interplay of colours – most of the images are set against a black background to draw out the dramatic effect of the photos, while the white text is set against a silver background. This overall black, grey and white theme flows to the book’s last image of a black-and-white aerial view of the Reserve.
The prologue opens with ‘Endless Summer’, a poem co-penned by the author and Prof Woo Keng Thye, which summed up the fate of migratory birds searching for a temporary haven, and echoed the need to preserve the habitats for these birds to survive another winter.
The Reserve have more than birds to offer and one can expect to stumble upon the unexpected. Throughout the book, the reader is brought to a heightened sense of the surroundings in a mangrove ecosystem. The chapters will bring one along the trails, to the bridge and main spectacle to savour the different creatures and plants coexisting in the mangrove. While one cannot expect to see all these rare gems in one outing, the author hopes that the reader will be able to appreciate the wilderness through the book and be aware of the challenges that NParks faces in inculcating awareness among visitors of the importance of preserving the Reserve.
This latest instalment from Dr Chua makes a delightful read and offers a easy reference for the general reader.