Sunday, 24 June 2012


How would you react if I told you that there is an entire reef, filled with a cornucopia of living things, smack in the middle of the industrial triangle, near a huge and busy shipping lane.

I know... That's what I thought. And yet, it exists! Cyrene Reef is an offshore reef that is only exposed at low tides. So, just like yesterday, we got up early in the morning and set off by boat.

What started off as a small sand bar slowly got bigger as the tides receded. Cyrene Reef at low tide is a huge expanse of seagrass and coral reef. No doubt, there's plenty to see!

As you can see, Cyrene Reef is incredibly close to the CBD (on the right) and Keppel (on the left). Sunrise was simply beautiful. Behind me were petrochemical plants, which frequently conduct flaring. It's rare to see such diversity amidst such disturbance.

Anyway, we got to work, removing the remnants of Siti's experimental set-ups. Unfortunately, there was no therapeutic smashing this time. That was already accomplished by the previous trip, which went on Friday. So, we worked quickly and finished early. In classic civil servant fashion, as Ria said, we explored the Reef, trying to look like we were still working hard.

Sean, Pei Yan and I set off for the edge of the Reef, where we were instantly overwhelmed by the sheer numbers of Knobbly Sea Stars AKA Chocolate Chip Sea Stars AKA Darth Maul Sea Stars (Sean's idea)

Notice the resemblance?

Anyway, after walking around for a bit, we found a 6-sided Knobbly Sea Star...

That's like the Four-leaved Clover of the Sea...

Anyway, while having a heated discussion about Sea Star anatomy, Sean and I met Sijie, who found a Pentaceraster!

And another one!

And two more after that!

Notice that he/she's missing an arm...

Here was an Frilly Sea Anemone that I found.

A Black Long Sea Cucumber. I saw three or four of them. These zoologists are certainly creative when it comes to naming a species...

Sean and I also came across a Reef Spider. Unfortunately, it was moving around too much, so I couldn't get a decent photo. So, here's a picture from WildSingapore. Thanks a lot!

Be afraid. Spiders can walk on water now.

This spider lives underwater and lives in crevices with air pockets at high tide. At low tide, it comes out to hunt. It is able to stand on the water surface because of its hairy legs and can skitter quickly across relatively still water.

Above is a Garlic Bread Sea Cucumber. "A study found that this sea cucumber plays an important role in the health of eating sediments and burrowing in the ground, the sea cucumber makes more nutrients available to the seagrasses." (Source: WildSingapore)

As we soldiered on, the water got cloudier, the sun got brighter and the quality of my photos got worse. My bad...

Here's an Arrowhead Crab that I saw while looking for some seasonally abundant Melibe nudibranchs (which I did not find).

Finally, here's a Blue Dragon Nudibranch that Chay Hoon found. Sadly, my picture does no justice to the brilliant colours that you can see in this species. There are some better photos at WildSingapore.

That concludes my post about my trip to Cyrene Reef. It is literally one of the most amazing things I've ever seen. I'd hardly say this post does it justice. It's one of those things that you've got to see to believe.

Alas, the holidays are at an end and I shall have fewer opportunities to go for these trips. I shall try to keep this blog alive in the meantime with feature articles etc. etc. etc. Till next time, adios!

Blog posts about this trip:

Saturday, 23 June 2012

Sweat, Blood and Seawater

Huzzah! 'First' post! Big whoop, everyone!

So, I woke up at 4.35 a.m. to go to Chek Jawa. Chek Jawa is a wetland located at the tip of Pulau Ubin. Huge seagrass meadows. Lots of slimy things to see. The works.

So, anyway, we arrived at dawn, with the sun just starting to rise.

Picture from Peiyan.Photography. Thanks!

What's going on? We were helping Siti to disassemble the frames and collect the seagrass samples for analysis. After about a 500 metre walk, we reached the set-ups and Siti gave the safety briefing.

Picture from WildSingapore. Thanks!

After removing the cable ties that secured the frames, we got the chance to use sledgehammers to smash the frames into their component parts. Very therapeutic. Don't worry we wore goggles.

Picture from Peiyan.Photography.

That's us bringing the PVC pipes up onto the jetty. Altogether, I walked <4km carrying heavy, barnacle infested PVC pipes that scratched my arms and legs (Hence the title). But it was totally worth it. On the bright side, it was great exercise and training for NS!

Courtesy of WildSingapore.

There's a group photo of us! Along with the pulverized remains of the PVC pipes...

We met the wild boars on the way back. Considering all the recent hoohaa about culling them, this was certainly a special experience.

LOOK AT THAT! ISN'T THAT ADORABLE? IT'S LIKE A WATERMELON WITH LEGS! WHY WOULD YOU WANT TO CULL HIM? This fellow was coming up to us curiously. How adorable...

A highlight of today's trip was the Gliding Lizard we saw in the mainland. It was male with a yellow dewlap. These lizards are small and are able to spread out their skin and ribcage to glide from tree to tree. As close as it gets to a real life dragon. Cool, huh?

I walked back and forth between the pontoon and the set-ups  at least eight times today. Each time, I saw something different. I think that's a testament to just how much biodiversity is contained within Chek Jawa itself. As such, should we not be making an effort to conserve it, rather than exploit it?

I'll be doing the exact same thing tomorrow. But this time, I'll be doing it at Cyrene Reef. Huzzah!

More blog posts about today's trip: