Sunday, July 01, 2007

A Trip to Ghost Island


Translate: Are you people going to Ghost Island?

Sounds like a rather eerie start for a morning trip when the customs officer at West Coast Pier asked me this question.

Yes, indeed, we were going to the Ghost Island, or rather, the name of the island is Pulau Hantu, which means Ghost Island in Malay. You can find out more about this island on Wikipedia :)

Anyway, it was a very pleasant night, with a lovely full moon.

As we stepped into the lagoon, we immediately noticed there were lots of prawns swimming around.

Doesn't it have a really pretty tail?

Pulau Hantu is one of the few places in Singapore which you can find nemos. And our luck proved to be really good today!

That's a false clownfish on a merten's carpet anemone. We were really glad to see the nemos, as we heard from some of the other Wildfilms crew that they couldn't find any nemos on their last trip. We were really worried that the poachers might have collected them. Hopefully things will stay the way it is, so that other Singaporeans who visit Pulau Hantu can get to experience seeing nemos in the wild!

We found several pairs of anemone shrimps on some of the other merten's carpet anemones too. There are actually 2 shrimps in the photo above. Can you see both of them? :)

And apart from the merten's carpet anemone, we found a few magnificent anemones too, and one of them even had nemos!

Sorry for the blurry photo above, but this is the first time that I see a tomato anemonefish in the bulb tentacle anemone! We had a hard time trying to get a good shot, as the water was a little deep, and the anemonefish was quite small and fast. Unlike the false clownfish we saw earlier, this anemonefish only has one white stripe around its head,

And other than anemones, we saw other animals that looked like anemones too, including the sunflower mushroom coral above. This is a free-living hard coral, which contains just one coral animal (or polyp).

And that's another hard coral which looks like an anemone, which is also why it is called the anemone coral. Unlike the sunflower mushroom coral, these are colonial animals, and each of the flowery tentacle you see above is an animal!

Of course, we have hard corals which don't look like anemones too. The one above is probably a bracket coral (Podabacia sp.).

And this is a branching coral which I've seen several times, but never get to find out the ID. Perhaps someone can enlighten me on it?

Corals don't always come in the hard and stony forms above. We have some softies too! The above was what we call "Dead Man's Fingers", or finger soft coral.

And this a flowery soft coral. Doesn't it look like a plant with flowers on its branches, except that in actual fact, they are animals.

This is something that was sometimes mistaken as a soft coral, because it was kind of soft and the colour is similar to some of the soft corals we have. But actually, these are colonial animals called zoanthids. They are related to corals though.

Enough about corals and their relatives, but do we have other animals at Hantu?

We have alright! That's a black sea urchin!

And here's a stonefish sea cucumber! This is actually edible, though commercially less valuable than the sandfish sea cucumber which can also be found on our shores.

Both sea urchins and sea cucumbers are relatives of seastars, and today we were lucky enough to meet another of their relatives - the featherstar! This is the first time I've seen a featherstar at Hantu, though I understand divers often seen it when they dive around Hantu.

We also saw two really cute marginated glossodoris nudibranchs as well. The name "nudibranch" means "naked gills". Can you see the flowery thing on the back of the nudibranchs? That's what gave it its name!

We also saw several octopuses. Believe it or not, they are relatives of the nudibranchs above, being classified under the same phylum Mollusca!

We also found a bristleworm. These worms can actually release their "bristles" into the surrounding water when they are disturb, giving others in the water nearby nasty stings. So don't handle this with your hands, and avoid disturb it when it's in the water, especially when you are also in the water nearby!

It was already quite bright by now, and tide is also rising - meaning it's time to head back to the jetty.

It was also then we noticed the various star markings on the sand.

Look carefully, and you will find many hidden stars in the photo above!

Called the common seastars, these seastars used to be really common, even on mainland Singapore. However, they were over-collected and many of their habitats were destroyed, and so they are really rare now on mainland. Pulau Hantu is one of those few places that you can still see them. Hopefully, the seastars here won't suffer the same fate as those on mainland Singapore!

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