Sunday, July 27, 2008

Wild boars and madcap mudskippers at Chek Jawa, 27/7/08

We had a huge turnout of visitors today. 55 folks! Wow! Thank you for making that skip-hop-jump journey to Chek Jawa.
The groups were quite large, many of you may not have heard all the commentaries. Thank you for your patience. Chek Jawa with its varied ecosystems will always be full of little surprises. From the lovely guestbook drawings that you did, it looks like you had a great time and enjoyed seeing many of the creatures first-hand.

"Madcap Mudskippers"? Yes, that's what one of our young visitors called the mudskippers. I totally agree. The little mudskippers were so alive today. They were literally skipping and flipping somersaults. I guess it's not easy being a mudskipper living at the water's edge, and not quite sure whether it wants to be a land creature or a sea creature. Haha! Perhaps we are witnessing a tiny slice of the evolution process when sea creatures grow legs, shed their gills and begin to walk on land.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Announcement - Chek Jawa Boardwalk Tour on 27-Jul-08 (Sunday)

If you have nothing planned for this Sunday afternoon, why not join us on our free Chek Jawa Boardwalk tour.

The free tour starts at 3pm, meeting place is at the Chek Jawa Information Kiosk. The Naked Hermit Crabs will be there to meet you. No sign-ups needed. Just show up. We will bring you out on the boardwalk tour on a first-come-first-served basis. No big groups please. Just small family and friend groups. Suitable for young children. Last month we had 40 visitors which was quite scary because we nearly didn't have enough guides. We managed to fit everyone into a group.

Date: 27 July, 2008 (Sunday)

Time: starts at 3 pm.

Duration: 1 - 1.5 hours

Price of tour: free

Meeting Place: Chek Jawa Information Kiosk

Bring your binoculars and camera! Always be prepared because you'll never know when you see the magnificent Oriental Pied Hornbills of Pulau Ubin.

For more information on how to get to Chek Jawa (Pulau Ubin), read our FAQ sheet.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Chek Jawa Boardwalk with SLA 12 July 2008

There is an unspoken rule among volunteers when they head out for a public walk. There is to be no mention of “rain” or “lightning”. Instead, one can only mention “pyrotechnics”, “light display” or “special effects in the sky”. So Jun came up with, the weather looks “funny”.

But by the time we all reached the visitor kiosk, the weather was no longer “funny”, but sunny. And sunny days are perfect for our visitors from the Singapore Land Authority (SLA) to enjoy the Chek Jawa boardwalk.

Once the groups were formed, we set off. Our first stop was the coastal hill forest. It was durian season, and we could see durian trees in the distance. The rambutan trees were also heavy with fruit. As we walked further in to the mangrove habitat, we reached the boardwalk, where we stopped to peer at the fiddler crabs and mudskippers going about their business.

I was telling my group that creatures like horseshoe crabs exist near the mangrove areas. One of the walk participants shared that when he was young and living in Changi, they call it the ‘belangkas’ and that the horseshoe crab is well-known for its medicinal qualities. Unfortunately, though, populations of these ancient creatures in Singapore have been severely reduced over the last two decades. In Singapore, the Coastal Horseshoe Crab (Tachypleus gigas) is listed as vulnerable. The main threats are habitat loss and pollution.

From animals, we shifted our attention to the trees. The majestic Nipah palm trees, the only true mangrove palm, also have many uses for humans. In the olden days, it is the leaves of the Nipah palm which was used for the roof tops.

Its fruit is still used nowadays to make the attap chee for ais kacang. The sweltering heat made us all crave for something cool to eat!

No sign of the shy mud lobster but the vinegar crabs were out. The vinegar crabs are so called because the Teochew pickles this crab black sauce with vinegar, and eat it with porridge. Did this guy manage to get a glimpse of one?

We soon reached the Jejawi Tower and marvelled at the view of Tekong and Malaysia. Who can resist taking a group shot against such a beautiful background? Here’s CH’s group with their sunny smiles!

My group couldn’t resist taking a picture either when we got down from the tower.

The people in LK's group were fortunate to witness, not once but twice, the magnificent Oriental Pied Hornbills of P Ubin. There is a very healthy population of hornbills in Ubin now, thanks to conservation efforts by NParks.
The view from the top is definitely breath-taking, but we were soon back on the boardwalk, taking in the view from the ground. The tide was too high for us to see marine life of the seagrass lagoon, coral rubble area and sandy ecosystem, but pictures of sea stars, crabs, nudibranchs etc saved the day. We also saw barnacles, and learnt more about how the male of the species goes to great lengths to reproduce!

Speaking of which, we soon reach the Tongkat Ali plant, used to concoct the traditional “Viagra”. One of the walk participants shared that actually, it can also be ingested by women. He also said that the Tongkat Ali plant is beneficial more for one’s well-being, so perhaps it is more similar to “Ginseng” than the little blue pill in its effect.

Just next to the Tongkat Ali plant is a well, which in the distant past, was used by the villagers. What’s down there, mister?

Last stop – House No. 1. Interesting fact! It was actually the Singapore Land Authority who allocated the House to be used by Nparks. Now it has become a visitor centre so that we can all learn more about what we have seen on the Chek Jawa boardwalk.

It’s drawing time! Our visitors put pen to paper, sharing their thoughts on the Chek Jawa boardwalk. See one of our young budding artists at work!

Let’s see those dazzling smiles one more time!

Thanks to LK, Marcus, Jun, Jerald, CH and Vyna for coming down. Credit goes to CH for some of the pictures. We hope all our visitors had a great time!

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Sentosa Walk 6 July 2008

A turnout of 30 visitors greeted us for our last Sentosa walk of this current season. Lovely weather was guaranteed for our visitors, from the looks of the fair skies that morning.

In fact, before the morning light even penetrated the skies, Kok Sheng and his friend had been hard at work doing hunter-seeking and getting the stations ready for our visitors.

Ivan and Gerald’s group went down to the shore first, while LK and Vyna’s group waited for more people to come. Some of our visitors had fallen victim to the “meeting point doppelganger”, so do remember to park at the nearest car park which is located at Imbiah walk, not Imbiah Lookout.

The first treat for the visitors before they reached the shore was the sight of the natural rock formation which does look like mini-caves. We marvelled at the pink rocks, the result of the presence of oxidised iron. One of our young visitors asked if there were bears inside. Well, no bears for sure – but you will definitely be spoiled by the presence of a rich variety of marine life! LK also explained about the harsh environment that these trees above the rocks survived in.

We soon went down to our first station, where the visitors got to see a mosaic crab, a brown egg crab and a small shrimp. At the second station, they saw flatworms, a red egg crab and nudibranch species such as the Phyllid, Jorunna funebris and Phyllodesmium briareum. Most nudibranchs are carnivores, and feed on immobile creatures like barnacles, sponges, ascidians, hard corals, soft corals, sea anemones, zoanthids, peacock anemones, sea pens and eggs of other creatures including other nudibranch eggs even!

Despite all that variety, the humble (and fortunately still rather common) hairy crab which was scuttling amongst the rocks, almost stole the show. Our young visitors thought that the “teddy bear” crabs were extremely cute!

We took our visitors to the station where the black sea cucumber (Holothuria leucospilota) was found. Our group were amazed looking at the sea cucumber which tensed up when it was touched, but relaxes and appeared to grow longer when it was let go (however, visitors should not touch anything on the shores, leave it to the more experienced guides please!). Sometimes, it may even squirt its sticky threads out when it is distressed!

Plenty of the soft ‘omelette’ corals were out in full glory, some even displaying their polyps prettily being half-immersed in the water.

Not to be outdone, the hard corals, such as the mushroom coral below, also make their presence felt. Why mushroom? When they are young, these corals are attached to some surface by a stalk, which they grew out of and detach from when they grow larger. And don’t the patterns on the mushroom coral match resemble very much the underside of a mushroom?

The variety of marine life on the Sentosa shores astounds even the guides. At one of the stations, we saw a sponge moving – or rather, a crab which looks like a sponge! Can you spot it in the picture below?

The tide was coming in, and our last station was at the tidal pool. Remember folks, take nothing from the shore but only pictures! See here one of our young visitors exercising his own “Independence Day”, releasing the marine life he had seen earlier back into the sea.

At the end of the Sentosa walk, the participants gathered at the end point and drew lovely drawings to depict what they have seen for the day. They also got to know more about how glasses protect our eyes from UV rays by using the indicators cards provided by Transitions Optical, sponsor of the Naked Hermit Crab Sentosa walks!

Everyone had a great time at the walk. See the broad smiles on everyone!

Thanks to the guides who made the walk successful: Ivan, LK, Jerald, Allen, Vyna, Kok Sheng and his friend. Credits also go to LK for many of the pictures on today’s post.