Thursday, May 31, 2007

Big Sisters Island on Vesak Day

It was around 1.45am when I left my place. I was supposed to pick up Alvin at his place around 2am to go to Marina South Pier. The boat was departing around 3am.

I had thought that it would take about 30 min to reach Marina South from Alvin's place, but surprisingly, it only took 15 min! Alamak, could have slept for another 15min if I knew this.

Anyway, when the boat reached Sisters Island, one of those Kenki boats was there again, blocking the jetty. The water at the jetty was quite rough actually, and thus it was kind of dangerous to jump from boat to boat. But anyway, we made it to land safe and sound.

It was a beautiful night, and the moon was round and bright. (hmmm this actualy rhymes...)

Dr Chua and gang found this velcro crab (Camposcia retusa) near the mouth of the lagoon. Come to think of it, dont' think I've seen decorator crabs on Sisters before. They were more common on our northen shores. Its body and legs were covered with fine hooked hairs that allowed it to camouflage itself by sticking pieces of sponges, ascidian and algae that it came into contact with.

There were many red egg crabs (Atergatis integerrimus) as well. The water was exceptionally clear, and I decided to take a few underwater shots. Note that this crab is poisonous though, so you are not supposed to eat them.

The were lots of leaf slugs (Elysia ornata) as well, feeding on the hairy green seaweed, bryopsis.

We also found many of these tiny hairy little sap-sucking slugs, that looked exactly like the broyopisi they were on. Can you spot it in the photo below?

Saw a few nudibranchs as well, including the marginated glossodoris nudibranch (Glossodoris atromarginata) below. 'Nudibranch' means 'naked gills' actually, which you can see on the back on the nudibranch in the photo.

Near the sea wall, I also found this giant top shell (Trochus niloticus). If only Dr Dan was with us! He had wanted to see one when he was out with us early this year, but we only manage to find two of the smaller ones. This one was definitely bigger than the ones we found that day.

I also saw this octopus, which quickly got undet the rocks when it saw me.

There were many beautiful branching anemones in the lagoon too. And thanks to the clear water, I managed to get a nice underwater close-up shot of this one.

There were many leathery soft corals too, including this finger soft coral (Sinularia sp.)

There were some lovely mushroom corals (Fungia sp.), with their tentacles all out as well!

And here's a close-up shot of a boulder hard coral, probably a Favia sp.

We saw many fishes too. There were lots of toadfishes, espeically little ones.

I also found this well-camouflaged flathead.

There were a few blue-spotted fantail ray out in the open as well. We often find them hiding under the sand, and any poor chap who accidentally step onto them will get a painful jab in return.

And yet another master of camouflage - the Peacock Sole (Pardachirus pavoninus).

We also saw this cute little pufferfish.

And a ball of juvenile eel-tails catfish!

Soon, the tide started coming in. You can probably tell from the above photo that the water was getting murky.

We had no choice but to move back to dry land.

To see more photos of this trip, do check out the following blog entries:
- Dark Side of the Sisters
- Crabby night at Big Sister's Island
- Ray and rabbitfish
- Benthic hunters

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Ubin's Sensory Trail

It's been quite a while since I last guided at Ubin's Sensory Trail, so when I realised that we would be having a sensory trail walk last Saturday, I decided to sign up with Adelle.

The trail was called the Sensory Trail because plants along this trail can either be touched, smelled, tasted or, of course, seen. There were simply too many things along this trail, and I could only highlight some of them here.

Near the entrance to the trail was this little shed used for storing the dynamite for blasting the granite at Ubin last time, with a beautiful fig tree (but somewhat eerie) growing over it. It was believed that before it was used to store dynamite, this shed was a breadmaking oven owned by a French family that lived and sold bread on Ubin like 100 years ago.

And soon, a lovely fragrance greeted us as we entered the pandan valley...

There were also "fishy" plants in the garden. To find out why they are called fishy plants, just smell the leaves...

Little "Moses" were peeping out of their "cradle" for this moses-in-the-cradle plant, reminding me of the purplish herbal tea I used to drink when I was a kid.

And mulberry trees... I used to have a huge one right in front of my kampong house last time, and we used to find all kinds of cute little birds feeding on the berries on the tree..

Looking at the leaves of this henna tree, I had a pleasant surprise waiting for me - a hairy little caterpillar! The leaves of this tree gives the red dye used for henna art.

If you forgot to bring insect repellent, you will be happy to find this patch of citronella - a natural insect repellent!

There were lots of aloe vera in the garden too.

And also, cat's whiskers, which was a very popular medicinal plant in the region, and was used to treat all kind of diseases from kidney problem, gout, bladder probelm to diabetes and rheumatism.

And as we enter the secret garden, just on the left side near the entrance was a patch of toothache plant. Want to know why is it called the toothache plant? Join one of our Sensory trail walks!

There were blue peas growing on the fence too. This is the flower which gives the blue colouring for some nonya kuehs.

The belimbing tree was fruiting like nobody's business - yet another tree that reminded me of my childhood kampong days... We used to pluck and eat the fruits, though they were usually really sour...

We used to have coffee plantations on Ubin, you know?

They used to plant jasmine commercially on Ubin too! And the flowers smelled really nice...

The honeysuckle flowers, which were also called the "gold and silver" flowers. Can you guess why?

We proceed on to the mangrove area, and found lots of red weaver ants on a sea hibiscus tree. Maybe someone can enlighten me on the bug-like animals on the branches?

There were lots of mangrove trees along the trail too.

There were also several bird nest fern sitting by the side of the trail.

And dragon scale ferns creeping up the coconut trees.

And near the Volunteer's Hub, there was this tall cacao tree. This is the tree which gives us cocoa beans to make chocolates! I've always wondered why the tree was called cacao, but the beans called cocoa though... hmm... anybody knows why?

And right next to the cacao tree were several papaya trees, and among them were a few male papaya trees with lots of flowers.

And as I walked towards the jetty, I couldn't help but notice this lovely hibiscus flower, which blooms in the morning as a white flower, but slowly changes to pink in the afternoon.

And here are my visitors on the bumboat going back to mainland Singapore.

It was always nice to see visitors who enjoyed our nature walks. Despite the hot sun, all of them were happily chatting and smiling.

After I sent the visitors off, I went back to the trail to take more photos, and bump into 2 elderly angmos from England. They were on a working trip in Singapore, and would be here for a few months. Knowing that they were nature lovers, I offered to give them a free guided walk. And so, off I went again around the sensory trail...

Glad that the angmo couple enjoyed the trail as well, and even asked me to point out where it was located on the map, so that they could visit it again in future!

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Quick Notes on Sentosa

Was too occupied with my recce at Sentosa, and thus did not take many photos last Saturday. But thought it will be quite a waste not to share some of the things I've seen, so... here goes!

Before the recce, I had a bit of time to explore the area near the Sentosa cable car station. I have to say that I was really amazed at the size of the corals - they were HUGE!!!

This one was probably close to a metre in width.

And here's another humongous hard coral.

These corals are actually colonial animals. The coral above probably had hundreds, if not thousands of little coral animals (aka polyps) living inside. And many corals grow very slowly too. The coral above may have been around even before you and I were born!

And just look at the patch of branching corals below. The area it covered was like the size of a badminton court, or perhaps even bigger!

It's just too heart-breaking to think that all these may be lost to the reclamation soon.

We also found a pair of coastal horseshoe crabs trapped in a net. Fortunately, they were still alive, and we quickly set them free.

Finally, around 7.30am, we started the recce proper. Was glad that I had a very enthusiastic gang with me. Thanks to Helen, Siyang, Kok Sheng, Gaytri, Marcus and Ivan!

We saw the usual onchs and snails etc, but I got really excited when I saw this Raffles' pitcher plant's lower pitcher hanging just off the cliff, ready for an shot.

Like many other pitcher plant from the Nepenthes genus, the Raffles' pitcher plant has two types of pitchers - the lower pitcher and the upper pitcher. The former is produced on leaves nearer to the ground, and is usually fatter, shorter and more colourful. The latter is usually produced on leaves further from the ground, and tends to be longer and thinner. The photo below shows a few upper pitchers with the flower and fruits.

For more photos of what you can find at Sentosa's shores, you can check out my previous postings at:

or postings by my fellow nature volunteers at: And if you like to visit the natural wonders of Sentosa before they are gone, do check out the Naked Hermit Crabs blog for more information.

Monday, May 21, 2007

When it's raining on the shores...

What to do when you were out on the shores with no shelter and it started raining cats and dogs?

Solution 1: Put on your poncho, find a place to sit and stay away from trees. To pass time, you may complain about everything under the sun (or rather, in the rain).

Solution 2: Find a cave and squeeze in as many people as you can. Clearly, the cave below was not fully utilised. It should be possible to squeeze in one or two more people.

Solution 3: Be kiasu. Find a cave, and wear your poncho as well!


1. To ensure that you will have a comfortable experience hiding from the rain, you are advised to scan for caves the moment you reach the shore.

2. Small caves may not effectively shelter you from the rain, so when it starts raining , dash for the biggest cave, unless it's obvious that you can't reach the cave before the others.

3. If the cave is big enough, pretend to be a gentleman and let someone else enter the cave first. It will be very stuffy in the cave, especially when it's raining. The best position is some where in the middle, when the person at the back will be hot and stuffy, while the one in front can block the rain and wind for you.

If you have other brilliant ideas on what to do when it rains, feel free to add in the comments!

Monday, May 14, 2007

Walking to Kekek

Finally found time to put up my entry today! Been terribly busy for the past few days, some more kenna food poisoning after the Ubin trip. Suspect it's due to what I ate on Friday night, since I've been feeling funny since Saturday morning.

Anyway, it was a really nice and sunny morning when we reached Ubin last Saturday, and we were really taking our own sweet time looking at the beautiful flowers and insects along the way while walking to Kekek Quarry. Here's a lovely flower which I don't know the name.

We were going at such a slow pace that I jokingly told Luan Keng that soon we might see Chay Hoon catching up behind us. Chay Hoon just woke up just 15 min before we board the bumboat. And indeed, she showed up after a while :)

There were lots of kampong plants along the way, including many banana plants on both sides of the road. The one below was flowering.

A banana plant is actually not a tree, but a massive herb. It doesn't have the woody trunk that trees have.

We also saw this sea canon ball tree (Xylocarpus granatum).

When we reached one of the little kampong house that sells drinks, and the friendly uncle enthusiastically told us that he wanted to show us a "Guang Yim". Was he referring to the Goddess of Mercy, Guan Yin, or was it a mispronunciation of "quarry"?

Just as I was discussing with Luan Keng, he brought us to the nearby quarry.

Oh, so is was a mispronunciation of "quarry" after all.

But... surprise, surprise!

On the other side of the quarry, there was this huge rock that looked just like a statue of the Buddhist's Goddess of Mercy!

According to the friendly uncle, he had been staying there for many years, and the statue only appear like 2 weeks ago!

Anyway, we soon left the friendly uncle and moved on.

And here's a cute little green lizard we saw.

And apart from green lizards, we saw a green caterpillar too! Here's an atlas moth caterpillar munching off a leaf. Just compare it with Chay Hoon's finger! It's HUGE! The caterpillar, I mean, not Chay Hoon's finger :)

I also found this reddish ladybird..

And this reddish nutmeg...

And finally, we reached Kekek Quarry!

Robert couldn't resist the cool water in the quarry lake, and immediately took off his shoes to soak them inside.

There were many fishes in the lake, and we started discussing whether these fishes can perform the fish therapy that can be found at Sentosa!

Ed commented that he used to feed the fish at Sungei Buloh with simpoh air flowers, and so I tried to lure them with a flower between my toes.

But alas! It didn't work. In fact, the fishes simply refused to go near our feet. Even the terrapins in the lake refused to go near our feet. One of them was swimming towards us, and then suddenly, it turned and swam away in the opposite direction in double quick time!

Sigh... did our feet really stink that badly?

Anyway, it was a wonderful trip, with all the Semakau kakis. Thanks Luan Keng for organising the trip :)

Do check out the following blogs for more about this trip:
- Manta Blog
- Colourful Clouds
- Where Discovery Begins