Saturday, February 24, 2007

Walking on water (or in it)

Internet and time are both hard to find, but here is a quick note about our tidal pool and tidal flats experiences. Earlier in the trip we went to Sisters Island and our newly acquired friends Ron, Ria, and their troupe helped us explore the natural wonders. Sisters Island was so named because a pirate in the area fell in love with one of two sisters (I know, piracy and kidnapping are a good start to any story, but I digress). This pirate then captured the object of his affection, but upon sailing away her sister jumped into the ocean to swim after the fleeing ship. Unfortunately, she was not morphologically equipped to outpace the pirate ship and drowned. The captured sister, upon seeing the devotion and love her sister had demonstrated flung herself off of the pirate ship into the sea to die. Thus Sisters Island got its name as it is actually two distinct islands.

On Sisters Island, we successfully avoided attack by the local monkeys and saw a TON of species. This list includes spider conchs, flatworms, mosaic crabs, corals, snapping shrimp, toad fish, scorpion fish, worm eels, octopi, snails, rays, flathead fish, two species of hermit crab and much much more. It was great to get to see some of these species during the day and then see them in all their glory after dark. Our guides told us that the corals were more beautiful after dark, but it was hard to fathom this until we saw it for ourselves.

A few days later, we followed this experience with an exploration of the mudflats off of Chek Jawa on the island Pulau Ubin. First, I feel I must share a little of the back story of this wonderful place. Chek Jawa is now a protected area in Singapore, but it was once slotted for reclamation and development by the government. Through the tremendous efforts of volunteers and interested parties, the government was able to understand how important Chek Jawa was to local Singaporeans. This effort is a great example of just how successful a grassroots campaign can be, but I digress because I really want to tell you about how cool the experience was. . .

So, we got up way early in the morning and after a bus ride, we took bum boats out to the island (Pulau Ubin). This island still has some subsistence farmers on it in addition to some locals who have adapted their houses to provide drinks, bicycles etc to tourists. Unfortunately, Singapore has had heavy rains this season and the excess freshwater has negatively impacted the diversity of species at Chek Jawa, but the area is beginning to recover. Nevertheless, we saw sea hairs (basically slugs) in large numbers, peacock anemones, sea cucumbers, jellyfish, sea pens, several species of crabs, snails, whelks eating decaying fish, snapping shrimp, barnacles, mangrove trees, mud skippers, sand dollars, white bellied fish eagle, and the collared king fisher just to name a few. Having been forewarned about the reduced diversity due to the excess freshwater, we were very surprised to find so many species.

Also worth noting is that Chek Jawa and the Rachel Carson Nature Preserve outside the Marine Lab in Beaufort are slotted to become sister estuaries. Hopefully this relationship will allow for a continued relationship between these two beautiful protected areas. Finally, I would like to offer further thanks and praise to Ron, Ria and the rest of the volunteers both for taking such marvelous care of us during these excursions into the nearshore environments around Singapore and for all of their hard work to explore and protect these wonderful areas. I am sure that without the efforts of such dedicated advocates that the true importance of these areas would still remain unknown. And, in the case of Chek Jawa, Singapore would no longer have this wonderful natural resource.

I am sure the picture will be added to this posting at some point, but the internet it presently foiling all efforts (the story of my life).

Until next time,
Ais Kachang!!

1 comment:

tHE tiDE cHAsER said...

Hi! Ron here. It was great bumping into you guys again yesterday at the Harbourfront MRT Station! The intertidal walks with all of you had been a really rewarding and interesting experience for me. Thanks for coming to Singapore, and we do look forward to seeing you again! :)