Friday, June 22, 2007

Naked Guestbook

Here's some of the heartwarming thoughts penned in our Naked Guestbook by the wonderful families and friends who joined in our recent adventures ...

Not just naked, but also HAIRY...

Thank you dear visitors for sharing your thoughts!

For more entries, see the full Naked Guestbook on flickr.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Sentosa Walk on 19 Jun 2007

The Naked Hermit Crabs were out on the shores at Sentosa again today!

I had a group of Temasek Poly students with me on the adventure trail, and we wasted no time (ok ok, except that they were a little late and we had a quick toilet break) in getting to the wild shores.

And one of the first few things that caught my eyes was this lump of sand.

This was the cast made by an acorn worm. In fact, you can still see part of the worm! Look at the yellowish thing in the middle. That's the tail-end of the worm.

The acorn worm has a front-end shaped like an acorn, with gives it its common name. It feeds by swallowing the sand which contains organic particles. At low tide, it will stick out its rear end and push out the processed sand.

At the edge of the water, we saw this pretty sea anemone.

But higher up on the sandy shores, we found 2 of these bigger-than-your-face carpet anemone.

These anemones have sticky tentacles with stinging cells to paralyse animals that blundered into them. The tentacles will then move the prey into the mouth at the centre.

There was also a huge patch of branching corals.

Branching corals are colonial animals. Each "branch" above has lots of tiny holes, and each hole has a tiny little coral animal!

The adventure trail also brought us to the rocky shores, and on the rocks were many little animals, including this cute little onch slug.

The onch slugs looked just like the rocks they were on, and thus we had to be very careful when we walked around, so as not to step onto them.

Other than slugs, we have their close relatives - the snails too.

The snail above is a turban snail, which has a very pretty and thick trap door, which protects the snail from predators and dehydration.

On one side of the rocky shore was a spectacular cliff with lots of interesting rock formations. Here's a rock with a beautiful quartz vein embedded in it.

And everytime I walked past the beacon, I would wonder when it will collapse.

And here's a group shot taken with the lovely pink cliffs.

The reddish tint on the cliff came from oxidised iron in the rocks.

There are also many tidal pools on the rocky shore, and here's two of my participants looking into one of them.

In one of the tidal pools, we actually found 2 black sea cucumbers.

While it appeared soft and weak, this sea cucumber was not totally defenceless. It can actually eject sticky threads to confuse its predators.

And apart from animals, we have many interesting plants too, including this Raffles pitcher plant.

Pitcher plants have leaves that form containers. The sweet liquid in the container attracts insects and other little animals, which often end up as alternative sources of nutrients for the plant then they dropped into the plant's pitchers.

We soon reached the lagoon area, which had more intertidal life waiting for us, including this beautiful fanworm.

These worms live in flexible, leathery tubes, and feathery fan that we see is stuck on the top of the worm's head. The worm uses the "fan" to create a little current to collect tiny edible particles from the water.

At the lagoon, we also managed to take a closer look at the tiny coral polyps of the omelette leathery soft coral.

Unlike the branching hard corals we saw earlier, soft corals do not have hard skeletons, but instead, the polyps are connected by a soft tissue mass.

We soon reached the hunter-seekers stations, and Ria's group ws already there.

The seekers have found lots of interesting things, including this beautiful nudibranch.

It is a marginated glossodoris nudibranch.

Some of the people also spotted a monitor lizard.

And here's another group shot in front of a natural cave before we left this lovely shore.

Indeed, it's been a great day - lovely weather, and fun participants. I'm certainly looking forward to guide more people to our wonderful shores!

And thanks to all the NHCS who helped out - Ria, Marcus, LK, July, Ivan, Andy and Robert!

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Naked Hermit Crabs & Friends @ Sentosa

Naked Hermit Crabs and friends went on a beach outing at Sentosa today!

But if the beach below is the type of beach you think we headed to...

You are wrong! We went to the beach below instead.

And why did we chose to go to an untidy-looking shore instead of a nice artifical beach with imported sand? Read on to find out! :)

It was still not very bright when our advance party reached the beach, and some brownish haze cold be seen hanging over the Singapore mainland. Our advance party were what we called the hunter-seekers, who would help to find interesting things for the rest to see later.

It was tough finding things under the hot sun, so our hunter-seekers did find time to take a short break sometimes, like when a strikingly-coloured kingfisher stopped by and presented great photo opportunities for November :)

Meanwhile, the rest of us were on the Adventure Trail!

And above was Robert explaining to the gang about the sea poison, which was named as such because all parts of the tree contained a poison, and fishermen used to pound the seeds or other parts of the tree to release the poison and used it to stun fish in freshwater streams.

Near the sea poison tree were a few kapok trees, with exploded seed pods. The white and fluffy seed coverings were in mattresses and pillows.

When we got down to the beach, we found several carpet anemones too! Carpet anemones are animals, not plants, though they looked like huge flowers.

And nearby, a moon snail was sliding just under the sand, probably hunting for little snails or clams.

There were lots of onch slugs at the rocky shores too! They were so well-camouflaged that many of our friends could not spot them until we point it out to them! This is one reason why we should avoid stepping on rocks along the shores, but try as much as possible to step on the more sandy parts instead. You could be stepping on these masters of camouflage!

We saw lots of nerites too, and one of them was on top of another... Are they doing something naugthy? :P

And scrampering all over the rocks were these sea slaters. While they looked like insects, they are not! They are in fact crustaceans, related to crabs and shrimps.

There were many sea lettuce trees along the cliff. Note that this tree shares the common name with a seaweed. While the former is a terrestrial flowering tree, the latter is a marine green algae.

As we walked passed the Tanjong Rimau Beacon, we noticed that it seemed to be breaking apart. Did any boat or ship crash into it? Or was it just wear and tear?

Anyway, it was a really lovely day, and the cliff looked really spectacular against the sky.

As we reached the Fort Siloso Gun Emplacement area, we found a little branched anemone eating a swimming crab, which got a number of use quite excited. You don't get to see wildlife feeding in action, you know?

And finally, we raeched the lagoon area!

The hunter-seekers have already laid out the route for us, and they have also found lots of interesting things, which I'll just highlight some of them here.

There was a beautiful plate coral, which comprised a colony of tiny animals called coral polyps, and a hard skeleton they built from calcium carbonate, and symbiotic algae which lived in the polyps.

There was a huge colony of dead man's finger, or what we called the finger leathery soft coral. Unlike the plate corals which have hard skeletons, the polyps in soft corals are connected by a soft tissue mass.

The tape seagrasses were also fruiting, but the seeds were somehow bigger and fatter than the ones we saw on one of our previous trips. If you look closely at seed on the right, there were even shoots coming out of it. In fact, due to the difference in size, shape and the shoots, I didn't realise they are tape seagrass seeds until Ria told me. But why the differences? Was it due to the hotter weather these days, I wonder.

The hunter-seekers also found this pretty nudibranch, which is probably a Phyllodesmium briareum.

They also found one of the most poisonous crab ever known - the mosaic crab.

And of course, everyone was excited to see the tonkgat ali, which supposedly, like what Helen said, can make a man more man. Hahahhaha...

Time passes quickly and soon we had to end our walk. The weather was really fine, and we could even see the southern islands! But sadly, instead of little islands of greeneries, we saw lots of chimneys puffing into the air.

For more stories on today's trip, you may want to check out this entry by my fellow hermit crab:
- Naked Hermit Crabs goes on an adventure on 7 June 2007

Thanks to Ria, LK and Siyang for contributing your photos for this blog entry :)

And thanks to all the other NHCs who helped out - Marcus, July, Ivan, Andy, November, Helen, Robert and May!

Sentosa Walk Day 2

Dark clouds were looming over us when we reached the meeting point to get ready for our second walk at Sentosa.

But even the gloomy weather could not dampen our spirits as the guides gathered for a group shot!

And fortunately, the cool weather persisted, with a bit of strong wind every now and then, but never changed into a downpour :)

We had 3 groups today - the Hairy Crabs and the Egg Crabs went on the Family Trail, while the Swimming Crabs (initially I wanted to call my group Thunder Crab, but it's not exactly very auspicious name with dark clouds all over. Hahahahhaa...) went on the Adventure Trail.

Both trails require the participants to get down a low sea wall.

The above shows Marcus helping some of the Family Trail participants to get down to the beach area.

After everyone got down to the beach, we took a nice group photo of all the Family Trail participants.

And immediately after that, it's exploration time!

Sentosa is one of those few places in Singapore that you can still find natural caves. These caves were created when the waves hit against the cliff, which was made up of rocks with different hardness. The softer rocks will be eroded faster than the harder rocks, thus forming the caves.

And soon, they were down in the lagoon checking out the rich intertidal life.

In the meantime, the Swimming Crabs had also made their way down the sea wall. Robert, the hunter-seeker, found something unusual, and shouted to me immediately. From afar, it looked like some circle on the sand made by some animal. But what animal made circles like this? I've never seen this before!

But as I walked closer, I noticed 2 holes at the edge of the circle. They looked like ghost crab burrows. And indeed, as I looked closer, I saw a ghost crab in one of the holes.

It's unusual enough to see ghost crabs in the day time, since they normally come out when it's dark. But why did it make the circle on the sand? Looking at the centre of the circle, we found the answer.

One of its pincers got entangled with a fishing line! And that called for a rescue mission!

I was there trying to cut the fishing line with my Swiss knife, while Robert and Andy were trying to stop the ghost crab from running around. And this proved to be really difficult, as the ghost crab was a really fast runner! We eventually managed to pin it down and cut the line.

And as we walked on, we reached the huge patch of branching corals and zoanthids.

This is the largest patch of branching corals I've seen among all the intertidal zones I've visited so far! Branching corals are actually colonial animals, and each coral you see above has lots on tiny holes, and each hole has a tiny coral animal, called a polyp.

We proceeded on and soon we reaching the rocky shores. And on the rocks, we saw lots of these:

Onch slugs! Here, there, every where!

And just a short distance away was this spectacular pink cliff.

The colour came from the iron in the rocks.

We manged to check out some of the plants on the cliff as well, including the Raffles pitcher plant below.

Finally, we reached the lagoon! There were lots of huge corals every where!

The above is a pretty boulder hard coral. The colour on the corals came from algae that live in it. The algae will photosynthesize, and nutrients will leak to the coral. This is one way that corals obtain nutrients. The other way is by filter-feeding. The polyps will come out when the tide is high, and use their tentacles to collect edible particles in the water.

We also saw several soft corals, including the lobed leathery soft coral above. It is also a colony of polyps, but instead of a hard skeleton, they live together in a shared leathery tissue.

Soon, we got out of the lagoon and proceed to the "Broken Soul Cliff".

The stuff found the hunter-seekers were placed near the area. And among the many things they found was a cute marginated glossodoris nudibranch!

Eventually, we decided to call it a day.

Here's a group shot of the garang Swimming Crabs who went to and survived on the Adventure Trail!

And some of the children with the Family Trail drew some really pretty drawings on our guest book.

And before we knew it, our second Sentosa walk was over!

Check out the blog entries put up by other Naked Hermit Crabs:
- Adventure with Naked Hermit Crabs on 6 June 2007
- Sentosa's Natural Integrated Resort
- Morning packed full of seaside fun!

Thanks to Ria and Andy for providing most of the photos published in this entry, and the other NHCs who helped make this walk so successful - Marcus, LK, July, Ivan, November, Helen, Robert, Kok Sheng, Yuchen and Liana :)