04 October 2009

High and dry at Chek Jawa

Today it was DRY! Compared to yesterday's very soggy trip to Chek Jawa! And the tide was quite high!Here's a sunny, mangrove fringed cove at Chek Jawa, a rare sight for me as I seldom go to Chek Jawa at high tide.

It's still early Sunday morning and there are virtually no visitors at Chek Jawa.
The staff at the Chek Jawa Information Kiosk always have a cheery greeting for everyone.

I have a look at House No. 1 first. Usually, I'm too tired at the end of a walk or work session to look at it properly.
Wow, the tide is very high! The rebuilt jetty infront of House No. 1 allows a closer look at Pulau Sekudu which is also part of the Chek Jawa ecosystem.
The Chek Jawa boardwalk has lots of signs to direct you as well as explain what can be seen nearby. Here's the decision point between Mosquito Valley (but which has lots of interesting animal sightings even at high tide), and the breezy leisurely Coastal walk.
Among the first stops towards Mosquito Valley is Jejawi Tower. I finally took a closer look at the gigantic Jejawi fig (Ficus microcarpa) that the tower is named after. It is a strangling fig, starting life as an epiphyte on a host tree and eventually overwhelming the host. This tree can be distinguished from the common Banyan tree (Ficus benjamina) in NOT having wavy leaf edges or very pointy leaf tips. These trees naturally grow at the edge of brackish and fresh water and according to Corners used to form behind mangroves in impassable thickets. A big Jejawi, he says, suggests a relict of an old forest.
Another interesting plant near the tower are the Pinang palms (Areca catechu). And today, one was flowering as well as fruiting. The flower spray is yellow, the fruits green ripening orange. The flesh of the fruit when chewed with betel leaf (Piper betle) and lime acts as stimulant. The palms are sometimes called Betel nut palms, but this is not quite right. The betel comes from another plant, and the fruit of the Pinang palm is not a nut but a drupe.
The mud lobster mounds mark the back mangroves which are away from the sea front. It's cool and green here, with the mounds providing condominiums for all kinds of burrowing animals, complete with swimming pool for aquatic animals. Smaller plants grow better on these mounds too.
The tide was really rushing in, and water was swooshing into the back mangroves. At such times, the Giant mudskippers (Periophthalmodon schlosseri) tend to be more active. I heard a splash and saw these two eye-balling one another. I couldn't stay to watch the outcome of this staring competition as the mosquitos got a bit too much for me.
I didn't see many animals aside from this pretty blue dragonfly. But I'm really bad at spotting little animals.
On the front of the mangroves, you don't see the mud lobster mounds. As I passed by this colourful family, I overheard the father explain things to his kids. It's nice to see parents taking their young ones to experience our shores. The boardwalk makes this easy to do.
Here, the 'Critically Endangered' Tumu Berau (Bruguiera sexangula) (left) and 'Endangered' Lenggadai (Bruguiera parviflora) (right) were 'fruiting' and flowering. The B. sexangula was replanted from a mother tree on Pulau Tekong, while the B. parviflora is the only one on Chek Jawa (although there are others on Pulau Ubin). Thanks to Dr John Yong for sharing this information.
A quick look at the planted area along the path before the Coastal stretch, and I noticed this strange plant in bloom. I have no idea what it is.
I finally get a good shot showing the difference between stilt roots (emerging from the trunk) and prop roots (emerging from a branch and propping up the branch when these roots hit the ground).
The tide was really high by the time I got to the Coastal stretch! Even the huge rock was nearly submerged by the splashing water.
The coastal hill forest of Chek Jawa is home to many special and rare plants. There seems to be another Nyatoh tree (Pouteria linggensis) higher up on the slope. I usually only get to look at the one closer to the ground. It is fruiting! This tree is 'Critically Endangered'.
For the first time, I see just how close some of the rare plants grow to the high water mark. This is the rare Delek air tree (Memecylon edule) which is fruiting. The lower branches are actually dipping into the water! It is also 'Critically Endangered' and there are several of these trees on Chek Jawa.
Some of the Seashore nutmeg trees (Knema globularia) are also growing very close to the high water level. It is also 'Critically Endangered' and there are lots of these trees at Chek Jawa.
This Pink-eyed pong pong tree (Cerbera manghas) is growing with its feet just above the high water mark! It is also 'Critically Endangered' and there are a few of these trees at Chek Jawa.
In my obsession to look at plants, I totally didn't look for animals in the water. But at high tide, it's easier to look for fishes in the water, and of course, there would be birds in sky. I met a lively group of young people on the boardwalk who asked me to help take their group photo. They seemed to be enjoying the sights. After the sunny walk, it was nice to get back into the shady portion of the trail.
Chek Jawa is a great outing at any tide, rain or shine!

More about Chek Jawa on the wildsingapore website. The Naked Hermit Crabs conduct walks at the boardwalk every last Saturday of the month. Other groups also have activities on the boardwalk, these are listed on the wildsingapore happenings blog.


  1. Ria,
    I have seen ur blog pictures. I am interested to know more about Memecylon edule (deluk air tree). When it will start to blossom blue flowers? Thanks

  2. Thanks for dropping by the blog SenthilR. I'm not sure when the flowering is but I expect it will be some time later as the trees are fruiting now.

    I have replied to your email on this issue as well.



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