Sunday, December 25, 2016

Chek Jawa outing with the Naked Hermit Crabs

We have concluded the final two walks for 2016. There were 60 visitors in November and a bumper crop of 80 visitors in December. We are so happy to see the wonderful turnout of parents with their kids in tow! The school holidays are perfect for families to spend time together exploring the wild side of Singapore. With the Crabs as guides, it's a great way to explore Chek Jawa Boardwalk!
Visitors in December
The walk begins with a briefing from the guides. There were 4 guides altogether, and visitors were split roughly 20 to a group.
Briefing before the walk
We found lots of ripened fruit on the ground - fruit from the seashore nutmeg tree. In fact we found at least 3 areas in Chek Jawa littered with the bright red fruits. Chek Jawa remains one of the last strongholds for the critically endangered species of the seashore nutmeg in Singapore.
Seashore nutmegs

This is how the tree looks like. This tree is growing on the rocky shore near the start of the coastal boardwalk.
Seashore nutmeg tree

On the mangrove boardwalk
On the mangrove boardwalk, you come up close to the nipah palms. So close that you can reach out to touch the fruit even though you are just a wee lad. The nipah palm is the source of our favourite ice kacang ingredient - 'attap chee'. Save the mangroves for our 'attap chees'! A good enough reason, say the guides!
Child feeling the woody fruits of the attap palm
A most interesting sight greeted us at the out mangroves area. These Gold-spotted mudskippers were crowding together, and they kept moving forward as the tide hits them from the back. We've never seen them bunched together like this before.
Gold-spotted mudskippers
Here's a close-up photo of the cute mudskippers.
A close shot of the mudskippers
As it turned out, there was a Dog-faced water snake lurking in the water not far from the mudskippers. It was stalking the mudskippers! How exciting! No wonder the mudskippers were crowding together. The kids were absolutely thrilled with this sighting.
Dog-faced water snake stalking the mudskippers
Another snake spotted by a young visitor! This time it is the Oriental whip snake. It has a really long and slender body. Most of the kids saw the snake easily because it was on a low bush just next to the boardwalk. This snake is only mildly venomous (only to small creatures), and not at all scary. Some of the kids saw its head under the leaves.
Oriental whip snake 
At the inner mangrove area, one can spot fiddler crabs with stalk eyes. These little crabs have lovely patterns on their shells.
Fiddler crab (inner mangroves)

This is one group looking closely at the fiddler crabs. Our visitors are awesome!
eager visitors looking at fiddler crabs
This monitor lizard was moving quietly in the back mangroves, but could not escape the sharp eyes of our visitors. You're looking at the Clouded monitor lizard. The guides are able to identify the lizard by its ears
Clouded monitor lizard sighted in the back mangroves
Looks like NParks installed this bird box.
new bird box in the back mangroves
On our way back to the hut, we saw several wild boars up on the hillock near the graves. The adult wild boar was wary of us, and kept looking our way. We moved on quickly so as not to disturb the wild boars.
wild boars
Here are several photos showing the volunteer guides at work.
Ian and his group

Sankar and group

Ria and group

Leykun and group
We always end our walks at the English Cottage. It is a nice quiet way to finish the walk where the kids drew what they saw, and parents took a rest. The kids do produce some fabulous drawings of the animals! It is good to have them understand the natural world, and their place in the cycle of life. Well done, parents and kids!

Thanks go out to our volunteer guides - LK, Ria, Sankar and Ian - and to Juhari for the beautiful photos. Most of the photos in this post are by Juhari. Photos (and blog posts) are a wonderful record of the event, as well as a visual documentation of the animal species that we still see in Chek Jawa.
The guides with Mohd Juhari

Thanks to Mohammad Juhari for these photos of the walk!

And MORE photos by Mohammad Juhari

Thanks to Richard Lau for these photos of the walk!

On our way back to Singapore mainland after the walk, we stopped to take a few photos of the 3m high tide. At 3m, the tide is already splashing above the sea wall.
3m high tide
The big rock at the jetty is almost submerged.
3m high tide
And the hut on stilts was almost touching the water. We made a mental note to check out Ubin during one of those super high tide days when the tide can go up to as high as 3.3m.
3m high tide
That's how we ended our 2016 Chek Jawa walks!

We are taking a break in January, and will shortly post the dates for 2017. Till we meet again, Happy Nature Exploring!

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