Friday, January 02, 2009

Welcoming 2009 at Sisters Island

There is no better way to welcome in the new year than to spend it with friends, in the middle of the dark, with water up to your knees, enjoying the sea breeze, playing "finding nemo" and listening to pulsating beats from the nearby resort island. And this you can only get by spending new years eve on sisters island with a group of dedicated beachfleas. Personally it was from missing the opportunity to spend the last few new years eve in Singapore that I was really looking forward to performing the traditional new years eve toast on the shores with friends! This year, we also made a new friend who joined us for the first time at Sisters.

I also saw many animal friends that I have not seen in the flesh before!
My favourite has got to be this land hermit crab. This is the first time I saw them for myself. The last time I tried to find them was at the NHC sentosa recce in November 08 but unfortunately I left too early and didn't see the one hairen found amongst the rubbish on the backshore. This time at sisters, when we ended our trip as the tide came in, we encountered an army of them on land, climbing on coconut trees and checking out the benches that litter the island. They were quite cute and I even found one that refused to come out.

Also a first for me is the ghost crab, or more accurately, the horn-eyed ghost crab. (check out the horny eyes!) I always thought that ghost crabs were very small but I was pleasantly surprised to find them almost the size of my feet! Here's a photo of the ghost crab with a coconut husk and bits of trash for scale! But I must admit, my feet is not very big!

Perhaps it's the time of the year but out on the shores, very many things are seasonal. For one, it seems to be sargassum season as half the lagoon was covered with them. Many of the corals, anemones and what not were covered with these large masses of floating macro-algae. Macro-algae just means really large seaweed. Even in the dark, I couldn't resist taking a picture of the obstacles ahead.

You can see the huge boulder corals covered beneath sargassum and those corals are by no means small! Trapped amongst the cover of sargassum were also drift nets. It was bad enough to be tangled up with the sargassum but throw in drift nets and it's a deathtrap formula for many of the marine animals.

This is a real hazard to our marine life, especially since Sisters Island is one of the only areas designated as a potential marine protected area in the last Singapore Green Plan. The rest of the other areas were dropped in this second revision.

Sisters Island is really special to me as in my first visit in January 2007, I saw my first sea krait, a venomous but generally docile snake. The juvenile pictured below even swam over to Jun's leg and rested there for a while, probably thinking it was a rock. But of course we made sure to pretend to be a rock! There's no such thing as being too cautious after all :) This banded sea krait actually lives in the sea but lays its eggs on land! This means that not only must its marine home be healthy but it also requires a good terrestrial habitat to reproduce. In this visit again, I not only saw 1 but 2 banded sea kraits!

This first sighting is a juvenile but the second I saw further out, near the sea wall, was an adult. Unfortunately it was well disguised by the sargassum and I didn't get a good photo of it.

The sargassum also resulted in a little hide and seek with a pair of nemos (false clown fish) and their "anemone that was stuck to a piece of rock". But fortunately, Andy, who spotted the clown fish took a video of them! Meanwhile, Jun and I who had liken the search to an imaginary computer game we aptly named "finding nemo", had to give up our search amongst the sargassum as we could just imagine the words "game over, you failed, try again?" appearing on our imaginary computer game screen. Even Andy couldn't relocate the elusive but charismatic creatures hiding amongst the algal bloom a second time!

As my torchlight wasn't working well I had to content myself with spotting any little creature that swims past me, including this little sotong that tried to sneak pass me inconspicuously.

I am also happy that my first find of the day was a flatworm that met me when the day light was still ample.

The crabs and cnidarians were also aplenty at every step of the way. Ria also saw plenty of amazing creatures that I wasn't able to spot out on the shore.

But at the end of the day, nothing beats spending new years eve with friends on the shores we love.

Here's wishing a wonderful 2009 for our shores! May it prosper in health and love!


ria said...

What a lovely sea snake that was! Great shots of all the other critters too! Thanks for sharing.

I'm so glad we could come together for our traditional year end salute to the shore!

I'm sure looking forward to another year of wet and wacky adventures!

Monkey said...

thanks for organizing the trip and getting us together :) definitely looking forward to another year of shore adventures!