24 June 2009

Soft and soggy on Pulau Jong

Shaped like a little 'pau' or dumpling, Pulau Jong actually has a large submerged reef flat around it. At low tide, when the reef flat is exposed, the island resembles a junk. This is how its name is said to have come about.
The reef flats of Pulau Jong are dominated by gianormous leathery soft corals (Family Alcyoniidae) in shades of pink, yellow and green. We make landfall at first light and explore the reef under dark skies.

Pulau Jong is a tiny island, so tiny that it isn't even marked on Google Earth. It lies next to Pulau Sebarok, the 'petrol station' where serious bunkering of ships in port takes place. Next to it is Semakau Landfill and Pulau Bukom, where major petrochemical plants are located.
(Click on the image for a larger view).

Despite its proximity to heavy industries, the reef flats of Jong are very much alive. Here's a view of the tanks and bunkering facilities on Pulau Sebarok.
And a view of the Semakau Landfill transfer station where incinerated ashes of our rubbish is transferred twice a day.
In the distance behind the reefs of Jong are Pulau Bukom with its petrochemical plants, and the wooded island is Pulau Hantu.
On the side of Pulau Jong without any industrial facilities is a major international shipping lane.
Besides the very many and very large leathery soft corals (I did lots of details of these on the post about my previous trip to Jong), there are also large colonies of hard corals, especially near the edge of the reef flat.

Today, I saw six very long baby blue Tongue mushroom corals (Herpolitha sp.). Like other mushroom corals of the Family Fungiidae, these hard corals are not attached to a hard surface as adults.
They were lying peacefully among the other hard and soft corals in the reef flat. Here's one that's a little bent. So these corals are sometimes also called Boomerang corals.
There were many large and healthy hard corals of all colours and shapes.Even commonly seen hard corals like this Flowery disk coral (Turbinaria sp.) looked very healthy and happy.
One sign of a good reef is the presence of branching Acropora hard corals (Acropora sp.), so it was nice to see some today.
Overall, in the brief walk on one short portion of the reef, the corals looked alright. There was no bleaching and most of the corals were well formed.

I came across these leathery corals that looked like they were splitting up.
Here's a closer look at the portions that were splitting. What is going on? Is this a natural occurence or did something happen to these colonies?
Here is what a leathery soft coral usually looks like.
I also saw lots of flowery soft corals (Family Nephtheidea), one Giant anemone (Stichodactyla gigantea) but no 'Nemos', some Black long sea cucumbers (Holothuria leucospilota). I tried to find the special giant clam, Tridacna maxima, that we saw on our last trip. But failed to find it. Hopefully I just missed it and that it's still there somewhere.

Marcus and the others saw lots of nudibranchs and flatworms. I only saw one Glossodoris atromarginata, a very common nudibranch on our reefs.
Alas, before we could properly explore this large reef flat, the weather turned. The rain on the mainland headed out towards us with an accompanying light-and-sound show.
We diligently counted seconds for the sound of thunder after a lightning flash. And when the difference fell to 10 seconds, we hurry back to shelter at the rocky cliffs of the island and put on our raingear.
At first the rain was light, and we pottered about on the high shore. There were lots of land hermit crabs (Coenobita sp.) and this intriguing shell of a large cowrie, possibly the Arabian cowrie (Cypraea arabica)!
Alas, the rain got heavier AND the tide started turning, so we decided to head back. Despite the glimmers of sunshine through the clouds.
It was a bit tricky getting into the dinghy in the high waves that came with the weather. And most of us got soaked in the process.
We were impressed to see that Thye and Jumari had figured out a way to get us quickly back to the boat from the very shallow sandy area where we were, WITHOUT using the motor or paddling...
Yes, he pulled all of us on the dinghy back to the boat. Wow! We can't help documenting this heroic effort.
And safe on the boat, but very wet and soggy indeed, we say farewell to Jong.
We have grown quite fond of the little white dinghy that takes us there and back. She has no name, so we decide to christen her the "Twee White Bunny".
Because she is small and she is labelled 'TW'. And also to distinguish her from the monstrosity parked at the Marina, the obscenely huge 'White Rabbit".
As we arrive, we look at the wonderous growths of soft corals that have settled on pontoons at the Marina!
It has indeed been a soft and soggy day at Pulau Jong! But we're glad we are still injury free!

Other blog posts about this trip

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