Wednesday, December 05, 2007

One Whole Day (and Night) on Pulau Ubin

Last Saturday, I was back on Ubin again with a heavier-than-usual backpack - I would be staying overnight there! Been looking forward to this actually, since we had a lot of fun staying overnight on Ubin earlier this year.

But it was not going to be all fun and play for the whole day, as I had to do some "serious" work in the morning. It's the day for my students from Temasek Poly to get some hands-on training on guiding at the Chek Jawa Boardwalk.

At 8am in the morning, we met up at Changi Jetty. I was supposed to have 6 students going for the practical training, but due to some unforeseen circumstances, only 3 of them could make it. Also with me were a bunch of Semakau guides - Luan Keng, Samson, Robert and July - who acted as VIPs (very irritating visitors) for my students.

Won't share about the things that we usually saw along the boardwalk, but will instead talk about two plants which I hardly touched on in my previous entries.

We can often see these tall slender palm trees in the coastal hill forest, but mind you, they are not coconut trees. They are nibong palms, that can be used to construct kelongs and fishing stakes as the stem is resistant to salt water and marine borers.

Walking out of the mangrove boardwalk, we saw this tree with lots of pretty bright magenta, pom-pom like flowers. This is a jambu bol tree. The fruits are very perishable, and thus you don't usually find them in the market.

Anyway, the walk went well, and on the whole the students did alright for a first try :)

After the practical guiding session, we went to my favourite restaurant again to have fried sotong and kampong chicken. Yum yum!

Robert, Luan Keng and I were supposed to go for the Nparks volunteer even later, but it was still a little early, and thus we got the gang to go to the Butterfly hill with us near the old Nparks office.

But of course, before we start on any walks, the first thing we should have is always a toilet break. And surprisingly, there're quite a few interesting things near the loo too!

Here's a bunch of hoya flowers. Hoyas are climbers which have fat leaves to store water, since they are often found in mangroves and coastal areas where freshwater is scarce.

We also found an ant-house plant, which has 2 types of leaves - the normal looking ones, and the "inflated" ones which are hollow. Ants are usually found living in these hollow leaves. The ants would be safe from predators, while the plant grow roots into the leaves and absorbs nutrients from the leftover food and rubbish the ants gathered in the leaves.

We also found several caterpillars of the plain tiger butterfly. Heard from July that this food eaten by this caterpillar made them to be distasteful to birds when they metamorphose to become butterflies.

This is a dark glassy tiger (according to July), which is supposed to be rather common in Singapore.

We also saw a few white variety of the Singapore Rhododendron. Some local Chinese believe that the roots of this white variety has wonderful medicinal properties which can heal all kind of illness, but research has shown that the chemical components found in both pink and white varieties are somewhat the same. Frankly, I can tell you that my cousin has herbal soup he made from this plant, but really so far all his health problems have not disappeared yet.

If I can remember correctly, I think Luan Keng said this is some kind of hopper or what ever (Update: Pai seh, I heard wrongly. It's a skipper, not hopper. Thanks Luan Keng for the correction :P). I'm never really good with insects, so if anyone reading this knows the ID, please let me know :)

Soon, it's time for us Luan Keng, Robert and I to go to the Nparks office to meet Adelle. We were drove to the Ubin Resort for the volunteers event.

Since we were still early, I decided to run back a bit to take a look at the Kuan Yin rock formation.

Seems like it's still there. We first saw this rock formation on our way to Kekek quarry in May.

Anyway, the other volunteers arrived and we had some team building games. During the game interval, I walked pass a nearby tree and saw this interesting scene.

There were many red weaver ants on a branch covered with mealybugs on a branch. Mealybugs are unarmored scale insects that feed on plant sap. They sometimes form symbiotic relationships with ants, which milk them for honeydew, and at the same time, the ants will protect the mealybugs from predators.

When we were heading towards another location for the games, Andy told me that he saw some seastars in a tank in the restaurant. Must say that I was really quite surprised to hear that. I ran over to the restaurant and indeed, it has a tank with many marine creatures!

There were 2 cake sea stars, which I've only seen once at Pulau Sekudu. Most of the Chek Jawa guides have not even seen this before!

There's also a seahorse which looked like it's pregnant...

And sea urchins and hermit crabs!

I can't really fault the villagers for collecting marine animals, as they have probably been doing this all their lives. It's the development and land reclamation that has destroyed most of our marine wonders. Yet at the same time, I couldn't help but feel worried that will all these collection eventually lead extinction, when the local population of cake seastars may not be as high as the good old days. Sadly, there's little that we can do to stop anyone from collecting from our unprotected shores. We can only hope that people will be more educated in future and will eventually stop collecting from our fragile shores.

Later that night, some of us decided that perhaps we should take a look at the shore near the chalet. Surprisingly, we had a few interesting finds even though the tide wasn't very low!

There were several sea anemones in the shallow water.

We also saw 2 hairy seahares!

A few squids were also spotted swimming near the water surface.

And I saw this halfbeak before I stepped out of the water.

One of these days, I must certainly come back to explore this place again when the tide is lower!

Indeed, it was a nice stay at the chalet, even though this time round we didn't go for a midnight walk :)

And the following day was yet another big day, as we Naked Hermit Crabs had a boardwalk tour at Chek Jawa, and this was the first time we had some many visitors, more than 70 of them including friends of some of the guides!

Last weekend was certainly a very busy one for many of us, but it was a very fulfilling and enoyable one as well! :)


Kok Sheng said...

oh no, cake seastar in captivity :(

Ron Yeo said...

Yah... so sad right? :(