Sunday, July 27, 2014

Outing to Chek Jawa Boardwalk - of spiders, snakes and rambutans

Fifty people turned up for the Chek Jawa Boardwalk outing with the Crabs yesterday. How lucky we were because the weather turned out to be cool and windy for most part of the morning! Many of them shared with us that this is the first visit to Ubin, and that they wanted to spend the Hari Raya weekend away from the shopping belt. What do we say to that? "Excellent choice"!

This is the view that greeted the visitors on arriving at Pulau Ubin jetty. National Day is just around the corner, and the flags and buntings are up. The rustic life in Pulau Ubin is very much a treasured identity of Singapore. It reminds us of what Singapore used to be during the early years of nationhood, something very familiar to our pioneer generation. Many of us are glad that the way of life in Ubin has been preserved even in this super modern day and age. Here is a recorded interview by AsiaOne with one of the remaining 30-odd residents of Pulau Ubin: "We don't close doors, there are no thieves here".

How did our outing turn out? Read on ....

Over at Chek Jawa, we spotted just one wild boar. We wonder what happened to the rest. Last month when we guided at Chek Jawa, we saw 4 piglets and 2 adults. Maybe the rest of the wild boar had gone foraging in another part of the forest.

Here's a picture of Alyce with the group at the start of the trail. A quick explanation about safety, some simple do's and don'ts, and then the the group is off. Most of our visitors come with their families, sometimes multi-generational families too. 

If we take the clockwise route around Chek Jawa, then one of the first stop along the trail is the 6-storey high Jejawi Tower. The kids love being up on the tower. This has got to be the tallest bird-watching tower in Singapore!

Here's a view of the platform at the top of the tower. From the platform. you will get a panorama view of Pulau Ubin as well as vistas of Pulau Tekong across the waters, and the hills in Johor in the background. 

A group photo taken at the Jejawi Tower.

The tide was high during the walk, and the visitors were excited to see schools of little fishes swimming in the water. We were also looking out for eagles in the sky, and delighted to see a pair of White-bellied sea- eagles a long way away. The eagles were soaring in spirals, carried up by columns of hot air. The flying looks so effortless! It's wonderful that the forests in Pulau Ubin continue to be an important habitat for these native birds.

These porcelain fiddler crabs can be found in the outer mangrove area. The male fiddler crabs have an unusually large pincer that they constantly wave in the air. It is difficult to spot the females because they are smaller, duller in colour and they do not have a conspicuous large pincer. Some of the visitors are so observant because they spotted the tiny sand bubbler crabs too. These are the tiny crabs that make neat balls of sand. 

And the kids drew fiddler crabs for us!

One of the highlights of the trip was coming across this beautiful tent web! Instead of a 2-dimensional orb web, the tent web spider builds an elaborate 3-D web made of numerous vertical and horizontal lines. The centre of the of the tent is held up by this ingenious spine of webbing that seems to pull up the web into a beautiful ball-like shape.

The visitors saw the little spider crawl into the tube from below. So that is its hiding place! The silk web of this spider is not sticky, unlike those made by the orb web spiders. What happens is that when an insect flies into the tent web, it gets entangled and falls into the horizontal web. The spider then runs out quickly to grab the insect. The web really is quite a clever design, and we had a wonderful time admiring the web, and thinking just how clever this species of spider is! Click on the photo to get a close-up of how intricate the silk thread patterns are.

Another highlight of the outing was the sighting of a Painted bronzeback by several groups. Everyone remained quiet to observe the snake searching for prey in the dry mud.
(photo by Ria)
Many of the kids included the Painted bronzeback in their drawings! How awesome is that! The snake must have left quite an impression on them.



At the inner mangroves area, we were able to see the Giant mudskippers. This fish grows to a length of 30 cm. The mudskipper is territorial in behaviour. In this photo, you can see a pool of water dug out by the mudskipper. It digs its burrow by grabbing mud in its mouth and spitting it out again. You can find lots of this mudskipper species in the Pasir Ris Mangroves too.

These are the flowers of the attap palm. As you may have known, the attap palm gives us our favourite attap chee, a sweet ingredient in a local dessert called 'ice kacang'. 

June is durian season in Ubin. And July is rambutan season! Look at the bunches of fruit in the rambutan trees! These photos were taken in Chek Jawa. Many of our visitors bought rambutans from the villagers in Ubin town. A few of the guides bought them too, as a treat for our own families.

At the end of the walk, we held a short drawing session for the kids, Adults chipped in too with their words of encouragement to conserve Chek Jawa for future generations of kids.

A shout-out once again to our wonderful visitors! Thank you for giving us an enjoyable day out to Chek Jawa.

To end, a word of thanks to our dear guides for their time and dedication to this long-standing project. Thanks CH, Ivan, Alyce, Ria, LK and Vyna! In particular, we're delighted to welcome back Vyna who took a break for a few years because of work commitments. You will see more of Vyna in coming walks!

The Crabs are taking a break in August. Our next walk is on 27 September.

Meanwhile, happy nature exploring!

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