Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Rained Out at Chek Jawa

Last Thursday, I finally managed to squeeze out some time to go Chek Jawa to guide at the public walk. It felt really good to be back here again, especially when I had been really busy and had not been able to guide here since April this year.

Here's the group assigned to me.

Nipah palm (Nypa fruticans)
We started with the mangrove boardwalk, and saw several interesting plants such as the nipah palm (Nypa fruticans). What you are seeing are the flowers. The attap chee used in local desserts like the ice kacang come from the fruit of this palm. During my kampong days, the house I lived in had roofs made from attap leaves, so seeing this palm always bring back the good old memories.

Tree-climbing crab(Episesarma sp.)
We also saw many crabs in the mangrove, such as the tree-climbing crab above (Episesarma sp.). Also called vinegar crabs, these crabs are edible and are pickled in black vinegar by the Teochews. We also saw many different species of mudskippers.

Here's a look at the mangrove habitat. Many mangrove trees have roots exposed to the air as the soil is very poor in oxygen. These exposed roots will help the trees to breathe better. The roots are usually spread over a wide area too, helping the trees to balance themselves on the soft mud.

Climbing down the ladder at Chek Jawa
We eventually reached the intertidal area, but to get onto it, we had to climb down a little ladder.

Orange striped hermit crab (Clibanarius infraspinatus) and slipper snails (Crepidula walshii)
Here's an orange striped hermit crab (Clibanarius infraspinatus). It's rather common at Chek Jawa. Unlike true crabs with a hard exoskeleton covering their whole body, hermit crabs have a soft abdomen, which is why they need to live in an empty shell for protection. A few slipper snails (Crepidula walshii) live inside the shell with the hermit crab. they are the flattish, white coloured stuff on the shell behind the hermit crab.

Green mussels (Perna viridis)
There were several clumps of green mussels (Perna viridis) on the sandy shore too.

Ball sea cucumber (Phyllophorus sp.)
This was the first time many of them saw a living sea cucumber! The one above on the child's palm was a ball sea cucumber (Phyllophorus sp.). The Malays made a traditional tonic called Air Gamat from the body fluids of this sea cucumber, which is used to help the healing of wounds and as a post-natal treatment.

Haddon's carpet anemone (Stichodactyla haddoni)
I was rather glad to see that the resident Haddon's carpet anemone (Stichodactyla haddoni) was still there.

Cake sand dollars (Arachnoides placenta)
I found several cake sand dollars (Arachnoides placenta) near the anemone. These are animals related to the sea cucumber and sea urchins.

Sea hare
The hunter-seekers also found us a big sea hare which we often encounter on our northern shore. It looked somewhat like the geographic sea hare, but did not have some of the usual features, and so we were still not sure what's its exact ID.

Then all of a sudden, the sky poured on us! Many of us were drenched even though we had out umbrellas and poncho. The wind was just too strong and the rain too heavy. We had to get out of the intertidal area immediately.

This is too much, too wonderful!
It was just rather funny to see Adelle holding the sign "This is too much, too wonderful!". There were certainly too much rain and wind, but wonderful or not was really rather subjective. Haha. I must say it's rather fun to be rained out once in a while though :P

Taking shelter
The visitors went to the nearest shelter as the rain was just too heavy.

And it turned out to be a blessing in disguise for not returning to the Chek Jawa Information Centre immediately, because we spotted 3 otters swimming in the sea nearby! The rain was too heavy and it was too dark and far for me to take any decent photos though.

It was rather unfortunate that we couldn't complete our guided walk, but still, it was a really exciting trip for many of us!:)

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