Archive for May, 2015

Lots of Life at “Ghost Island”!

Pulau Hantu, literally translated, means “Ghost Island”. In spite of it’s name however, the island certainly isn’t dead (nor undead, for that matter)!

Seahorses don't move much, but they're very much alive!

Seahorses don’t move much, but they’re very much alive!

More on that later, but first – why the ominous name “Ghost Island”?

The name of the island could be a reference to how the middle of the island appears and disappears depending on the tide, or attributed to the folk legend behind it’s creation. The legend states that the islands were formed from – SURPRISE – two dead warriors, who died fighting each other, with some godly intervention. Seriously, go check out the legend in it’s entirety here. This is spookily similar to the lore behind the formation of Pulau Ubin (formed from an elephant, a boar and a frog who all drowned while trying to race across the straits) and Sister’s islands (formed from a pair of sisters who drowned while escaping from pirates), which all involved animals or people dying. Man, people in the past were pretty morbid (and not very creative it seems). Seriously, it’s like they just looked at islands and thought: “Huh, I wonder why there are these little bits of land sticking out from the sea. THEY MUST’VE BEEN FORMED FROM DEAD BODIES”. (Sometimes, though, they’re right!)

Moving on, the Lee Kong Chian Natural Museum held its first SG50 Intertidal Walk to Pulau Hantu on Saturday, and I got to tag along as a trainee guide (read their blogpost here)!

In order to catch the tide, we met our 39 participants at Marina South Pier (which thankfully now has an MRT) at *gasp* 6AM in the morning! Which means I had to wake up at 4.30AM D:

Cheng Puay (left) and me (right). I am not a morning person.

After an hour’s boat ride, we arrived at P. Hantu Besar!

Good morning from "Big Ghost" Island!

Good morning from “Big Ghost” Island!

Even before we hit the shore, visitors were fascinated by the flowers that littered the ground around the island.

These pink fireworks explosions are flowers of the Sea Poison Tree (Barringtonia asiatica), whose seeds were crushed and used by people in the past to stun and capture fish in freshwater streams. The poison was later broken down during the cooking process, and the fish could be consumed safely.

Ironically, the very first intertidal organism most visitors are introduced to are socially awkward ones – the creeper snails, and the adorably anti-social hermit crabs.

"Hey! Don't invade my personal bubble!" (Photo by Ian Siah)

“Hey! Don’t invade my personal bubble!” (Photo by Ian Siah)

As we moved across the mud towards some patches of seagrass, more organisms, such as this fan worm began to appear.

The Tape seagrass (Enhalus acoroides) were also flowering!

Common sea stars were everywhere

And as we headed past the muddy mangrove towards the coral rubble, well uh, coral started showing up!

Many more creatures live among the coral rubble, such as the cute little heart cockle

And the gigantic relative of the heart cockle, the Fluted Giant Clam

The uncommon Spider Conch (Lambis lambis) was also found. They have a large spike foot thing they can use to flip themselves over, but this one wasn’t really up to performing so we quickly returned him back to face-down position.

Sometimes amidst the uniform brown sediment, we get blinded by sudden flashes of colour

Participants today were SUPER LUCKY. We hit lots of rarely seen critters, such as this pair of seahorses, spotted by one of the younger participants.

Ian managed to get a clearer photograph of the sneaky seahorsies

Our hunter-seeker Jiayi found us a cute (but not really comfy) cushion star

She also found some beautifully striking feather stars

Other strange invertebrates include nudibranchs, commonly known as Sea Slugs. This particular one is the Polka-dot nudibranch (Jorunna funebris).

Covering almost every taxa, we also came across representatives from the vertebrate groups “fish” and “reptiles”

With so many awesome sightings, we were all feeling pretty great.. till we encountered this. A ghost net on ghost island.

Participants and guides worked to help save critters stuck in the net.

Entangled fish included this blue-spotted stingray, who unfortunately didn’t make it 😦

Even a large stonefish was entangled!

Mr. Stonefish after being liberated. My foot size is US 7.5, for scale.

We then cut out as much length of the net as we could manage, and disposed of it. As you can see, abandoned drift nets are very harmful to marine organisms as they trap fishes and crabs. The trapped animals get tangled up and die. Project Driftnet is made up of a group of volunteers have organised themselves to collect data on where abandoned drift nets fish traps are found and dispose of them.

We will keep a lookout for the drift net in our next Hantu trip.

Though abandoned driftnets are bad news, it was heartening to see our participants jumping in to rescue the trapped crabs and fishes.

Till the next SG50 walk! For more information on upcoming walks, do check out the LKCNHM page HERE (!

For all the photos taken by Ian and I, you can check out our albums on facebook: