Archive for July, 2014

You’ve come to the Jong place

Visited the Balik Pulau exhibition at the National Museum some weeks back, and learnt that the country of Singapore consists of 40 islands (used to be 77). Not all are inhabited however – some, like Pulau Jong, are simply too small. That doesn’t mean there’s nothing there, though.

If you thought there wasn't marine life in SG, you thought Jong.

Yep, this is Singapore.

“Wait, Pulau Jong? Where the heck is that?” (Actual response when I told someone where I was.)

There it is!

There it is! (When you’re a tiny red dot on the map of a country that is a tiny red dot, you know you’re TINY.)

 

Ubin, Semakau, Kusu and St. Johns are some of the more well known islands barring the mainland (P. Ujong) and Sentosa (P. Belakang Mati). But they are, after all, just some of the 40 islands that make up our island nation. To me, Pulau Jong was always that small “charsiew pau” island that we would cruise past on the way to P. Semakau. I had heard many things about the marine life there, and last Wednesday, I finally got a chance to set foot on the shore of Jong.

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If you thought there wasn’t marine life in SG, you thought Jong. Jong has a surprising diversity of corals and other reef life – and one doesn’t have to dive to see it – just come at a low tide!

So what is Jong? Wiki attack!
Pulau Jong or Junk Island is a 6,000 m² conical island about 6 kilometres off the southern coast of Singapore.”
“According to a local legend behind the island’s name, a Chinese junk was attacked by Malay pirates one night where the island now is. Just as the pirates were about to board the junk, the captain (the Nakhodah) awoke. When the captain saw the pirates, he uttered such a frightful yell that the sea spirit turned the whole junk into an island.”

Uh yeah. That’s it.
There’s also a special rock type found here, but I don’t know enough about that to really say anything about it.

Anyway, since Jong is uninhabited, that means NO JETTY. So how do we land? Like friggin commandos that’s how.

Our boat tows a rubber dinghy, used for amphibious landing. (Sg skyline in the background)

Naw not parachutes. Our boat tows a rubber dinghy, used for amphibious landing. (Sg skyline in the background)

Currents around the island are significant - we get as close as we can, jump off and try not to stumble and fall.

Currents around the island are significant – we get as close as we can, jump off and try not to stumble and fall.

 

Also, see that awesome sunrise? Most of the lowest tides occur at ungodly hours – for this trip we left the marina at 7am, and that’s considered late. (Some of the trips are at 3am!)

The sunrise assures us that we made the right choice not sleeping in.

The sunrise assures us that we made the right choice not sleeping in.

 

Okay enough about the island – what wildlife is there?
Uh I spent an hour stalking marine spiders (Desis martensi), a species of spider that lives and hunts in the intertidal zone and can walk on surface of the sea.

I spent an hour observing them, but they're so skittish and fast that this is the most decent shot i got :(

I spent an hour observing them, but they’re so skittish and fast that this is the most decent shot I got of an adult 😦

Lots of cute little babehs though!

Lots of cute little babehs though!

Corals come in all shapes and sizes, like this cool blue Xenia sp.

Corals come in all shapes and sizes, like this cool blue Sansibia sp.

Fishies!

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Some kind of goby? I’m terrible with fishies (leave a comment if you know!)

 

Crusties!

Anemone shrimps can be super hard to spot, only their movement gives them away.

Anemone shrimps can be super hard to spot, only their movement gives them away.

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When looking through my photos the thumbnails make it look like I’ve accidentally been shooting random rocks

Oh look more of those spiders

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Whee

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Yay

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Hairy crab (Pilumnus sp.)! AKA the teddy bear crab. When submerged, the hairs get suspended and break the shape of the crab, assisting camouflage.

Apart from the stuff above, we also saw a ton of cool beasts including a small black-tipped reef shark, two giant reef worms, a spotted fantail ray and a free swimming octopus. Unfortunately no photos of any of those, cos I was focusing on reef spiders and saw those by chance heh.

So I didn’t manage to get photos of as much wildlife as I would’ve liked (time spent stalking spiders), but thankfully I wasn’t the only one on the trip! Check out some of these other blogposts and pages about Jong (also, just go google!)

Many thanks to Ria Tan who brought me along on this trip!
Her blogpost can be viewed here http://wildshores.blogspot.sg/2014/07/checking-up-on-pulau-jong.html#.U8x15o2Sw4Q

The awesome guys from Travelledpaths bravely brought along their trusty drone, capturing some stunning images of the place
http://www.travelledpaths.com/exploring-the-wildshores-of-singapore-pulau-jong/

Jerome also has beautiful photos of Jong
http://thelongnwindingroad.wordpress.com/2014/07/18/boarding-the-junk-at-sunrise/

More information about Jong and factsheets about marine life in Singapore can be found at Wildsingapore! Do explore 😀
http://www.wildsingapore.com/wildfacts/places/jong.htm

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People love nature, they just don’t know we have it.

So at last year’s Festival of Biodiversity, I was directed to this 7-year old Yi Han who happened to be this crazy love for arachnids. A while into my conversation with him he pulled out his book on arachnids and was dropping cheem words like amblypygi, pedipalps and chelicera – that conversation went on for more than ten minutes till we had to reluctantly part. Before he left with his family, I told his mom how to reach me on FB and she messaged me later thanking me and the rest of the festival for making her boy’s day. 

yihan

This year, I contacted his mom, and invited them down for the Festival of Biodiversity 2014. After some ambiguity, they did eventually attend FoB – except Yi Han was not as a visitor this time but a guide, sitting with me behind the specimens to share his love and knowledge of arachnids with other kids and visitors. He even brought specimens that he amassed through his loyal subscription to the BUGS magazine series, including a centipede and a whip scorpion which were both missing from our collection. While we were engaging members of the public, our mothers somehow managed to end up talking to each other and agreed on how they had both given up on trying to get their sons to pursue a more ‘normal’ passion.

Conclusion is – every festival, we reach out to thousands of people. Most will just glance over and leave unchanged, some may take home a few key messages. But sometimes (with a very low chance), I meet someone special like Tan Yi Han who goes home with a passion ignited and returns for more. And while every interaction is meaningful and worthwhile, this kid makes me feel SUPER DUPER grateful I chose to come share 

Remember his name – he’s bound for Arachnology superstardom.