Last Saturday,I went for a guided walk in Pulau Ubin , Chek Jawa with the ‘ Naked Hermit Crabs’ and we saw so many interesting things that I can’t wait to share! I have actually been to Ubin several times but I had not photographed much.
As it was school holidays, the group was big and there were many children. I was happy to see the kids run about and be so curious and inquisitive about the nature and marine life there. When we entered Chek Jawa, we were welcomed by the Wild boar as visitors are usually. But this time, there were a little piglets trailing along! They were so adorable playing and wrestling with each other.
We were introduced to our guides and started the boardwalk. They explained to us that Ubin was originally a Malay Kampong (village) and showed us remains of a Malay grave. I looked out for remains of the kampong and there were several throughout the trail. First we climbed up the viewing tower to the view of the water. We saw 2 Pink-necked pigeons and some bulbuls. While descending I saw a nest made by the Weaver Ants: Walking down the path, there were many Nipa Palms. I saw the buds of the plant for the first time and the bees were pollinating it as well. I learnt something very interesting from the guides about dragonflies. They are known as one of the most fiercest predators in the ecosystem (no wonder they are called dragonflies 🙂 ) and have a higher chance of killing their kill than lions or bigger predators. Most importantly they eat the most hated insect- Mosquitoes!!
Inside the mangroves we spotted many Vinegar crabs or Tree-climbing crabs. I learnt that they were a famous delicacy eaten in Singapore but not any more.
There were many fiddler crabs in different colours. Fiddler crabs usually have uneven claws. One of them is larger than the other, almost the size of their bodies. You may also see them waving their claws around- a way of communicating with each other as well as attracting a mate. One of the people in the group spotted this huge Honey Bee swarm. I thought it was nest but after researching I came to know it is not a permanent nest and they disappear usually after 24 hours and are not aggressive as they have no hive/food store to defend.
Mangroves have interesting reproductive methods. One unique way is through propagules. Some mangrove plants such as red mangrove flowers have long bean shaped propagules hanging on the tree. The propagule drops down and dispersal takes place. The period varies for different plants. If it finds a ‘favourable area’ during this time it goes into the standing period in which the primary roots and leaves appear, and grows into a new plant. This is how mangroves spread over large areas.
We saw a propagule standing vertically nearby the tree. There were little balls of sand which we could see from the boardwalk. They were made to the Sand bubbler crabs (which we didn’t see because they are very shy and only appear if you go quietly near their burrows) as when they eat tiny particles of sand, they shift it out and create little balls of sand.
That came to the end of our guided tour at Pulau Ubin. I enjoyed it a lot and learnt a lot from the trip. Thank you so much to the guides, Ley Kun and Ria Tan for organizing these kind of trips!
We decided to walk back to the jetty so that we could eat lunch on the way. We also drank 3 fresh coconuts from a shop on the way. They were delicious!! My father asked the shopkeeper how long he had been working there and he said his parents opened the shop and the shop has been running for more than 50 years. Can you believe that they run totally on hand-generated electricity? It’s pretty cool!
The forest in Pulau Ubin is rich and teeming with wildlife. We saw many butterflies and were lucky to see a glimpse Red junglefowl and its chicks, but I couldn’t capture it properly in my camera.
There was a beautiful lotus pond similar to the one at Bishan Park but much bigger. I really liked the purple flowers.
Near the NParks office, we heard loud noises. On looking closer we saw the nest box and a hornbill nearby. I was so excited to see the Oriental Pied Hornbill as the population seems to be pretty healthy now! The first time I saw a hornbill was actually Ubin, in 2010!
Near the jetty, there were a few Asian Glossy Starlings (which I have never photographed before!). I love the way it cocked its head to look at me! Back in Singapore, we sat down to relax a bit in Changi Village, thinking that our adventure was over. But we were in for a surprise! The roads were booming with the sounds of the Red-breasted parakeets. They seemed to be so used to humans and the female let me get so close to her as she sat in the hole of the tree. Pulau Ubin is such a beautiful place and I really do hope that it is preserved as a Kampong (village) and retains its old and rustic feel. Also, the nature, especially the mangroves should stay intact and safe so our future generations can also experience the nature that we are enjoying now.
I’ve been visiting Ubin every year and I never run out of things to see or do. The people in the village are also so warm and it makes me happy to see the same people whether it be the taxi drivers or durian sellers over the years! I was so excited when the kids in the guided tour were so inquisitive about the nature and wildlife. They were already experts in spotting mudskippers, crabs and spiders by the end! Through continuous guided walks like the Naked hermit crabs do, hopefully more kids get to experience the beautiful nature in Ubin, and the awareness to preserve the island spreads.
Naked Hermit Crabs (You can go for their next guided tour!)
————————————————————————————————————————– Lavanya Prakash
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