I’m sorry for the long break, but I am back and have something awesome in this blogpost to share with everyone-my visit to Sister’s Island, the new marine park that has recently opened to the public. My mother and I went for a guide training workshop organised by Ria Tan (from wildsingapore) and had a memorable experience meeting nature enthusiasts, learning how to handle visitors in guided walks and seeing some AMAZING marine life. So sit back, enjoy, and join me on the virtual walk!
We went by a hired boat from Pasir Panjang Ferry Terminal to Sister’s Island since there are no public ferries to the island. The terminal is used by workers to travel to and from Pulau Bukom where there are oil refineries.
The ferry ride was a little bumpy and noisy- but nonetheless our guides made the journey enjoyable by telling us stories to tell to the visitors when they were on the boat. We passed by Sentosa, Labrador Nature Reserve, and the two other islands that are a part of the Marine Park- Pulau Tekkor and St.John’s Island. On the boat, Ria started gearing up for the visit and covered herself totally!! She told us better to be safe than sorry (and itchy!)
On reaching, we saw the beautiful little Sisters’ Island (Pulau Subar Darat) from the window. There are very strong currents between Big Sister (Pulau Subar Laut) Little Sisters’ islands so diving there is not advisable.
We got off the boat and headed towards Big Sister island in our respective groups. The sandy shores lay out beautifully against the darkening sky and I felt excited to explore the rich marine life that we had heard about in our previous training sessions.
Since it was already getting dark, we switched on our flashlights and started wading into the sand and water.
First we spotted a Haddon’s Carpet Anemone with its best friend (literally, forever) the Five-spot anemone shrimp. They live a symbiotic relationship; the shrimp uses the anemone as a home and in turn provides defence and cleans the anemone.
Here’s how it looks under UV light ( the light was brought by one of the trainees in our group). It looks like it has a heart in the middle of it!
There was a huge colony of Common sea stars. We had to be extra careful not to step on them as there was one every few centimetres! Common Sea Stars are not so common any more on Singapore’s shores, so it was amazing to see so many of them.
Acorn worms are unsegmented worms that are rarely seen on the shore. We saw its coiled cast (or for lack of better words, poop) in the sand.
A unique crab we saw was the horn-eyed ghost crab. It’s common but an elusive as it only comes out at night and moves so quickly that one only gets a fleeting glimpse, just like a ghost!
We were briefed before on the different zones of the marine park- the zone we were walking on and will guide on is the trample or “Dead Zone”. The “Red Zone” is for the seekers, people who collect animals that are not on the trample zone and display them for visitors to see. Of course, we are only allowed to take certain creatures that would not cause much harm to them. We got to experience the role of a seeker and try to collect creatures in buckets and display them. After that the creatures were returned safely.
This was so far the most exciting part of the trip- we spotted many crabs, including the flower crab and the poisonous Red Egg crab that we heard some horrible stories about- including a Thai worker who cooked them and died shortly afterwards.
I saw this cute Marine Spider scuttling around amongst the corals. They can walk on water and are listed as “Vulnerable” in the Singapore Red Data book.
Seeing so much diverse marine life was very new for me, and I was absolutely fascinated by the hard corals and anemones that made up the reef. The first two pictures are sea anemones and the third one is a coral under UV light.
We were excited to see what the other groups had found, so we headed near the edge of the Red Zone (or rather what I thought was edge, it was so dark that time I didn’t know where exactly we were!). The guides had kept on display on various parts of the sand, the following amazing creatures.
This is a White-rumped sea cucumber. They are among the few edible sea cucumbers that are harvested for food trade. They must be properly prepared before eating as tests have shown they do contain some toxins.
The highlight (and the scare) of the trip was the Cone snail. I was terrified when hearing about in the classroom sessions, but realised they won’t harm you UNLESS you touch, agitate and collect them because of their beautiful shells. So if you do approach one, just keep your distance, and take the necessary precautions by wearing skin covering clothes ( since they inject poison into bare skin).Cone snails are often collected for shell trade because of their attractive shells.
Black margined nudibranchs are stunning creatures that are lemon-coloured with well defined black margins that look so artistic against the yellow of it’s body. They feed on sponges. What you see beside the nudibranch is the Ornate Leaf slug whose colour actually depends on how much or what seaweed is in the slug’s digestive system.
One of the experienced trainees held up this Hairy Crab just for all of us to see clearly. It’s so cute and no wonder some people also call it the Teddy bear crab!! But you know there is a catch coming. …They have been known to give little stings if handled in the wrong way. But on the most part they are pretty safe and adorable! (P.S Don’t try this at home!)
The other groups, in the Red Zone also saw a Blue-spotted fantail ray, a Yellow-lipped Sea Krait, and a frogfish with its eggs! All fascinating animals that I would have loved to see! Here are some pictures taken by some fellow trainees.
Special thanks to all the organizers of this workshop and everyone who attended- I had loads of fun. Hopefully everyone visits this precious shore of ours, Sisters Island- and discover, just like I did that Singapore has some pretty cool marine life. If you want to sign up for one of the walks (my mother and I may be the ones guiding you 😉 ), do register here when the registration opens.