18 September 2010

Chek Jawa with Katong Convent

An awesome team from Katong Convent! They not only cleaned up Ketam Beach this morning as part of International Coastal Cleanup, but afterwards, had energy to visit Chek Jawa!
I was glad to share Chek Jawa's mangroves with these fine ladies!

It was a HOT and blue sky day despite the dire warnings of "heavy rain and flash floods" this morning. Here's a view of Chek Jawa's restored jetty, with the rocks of Pulau Sekudu and mainland Singapore on the horizon.
A large contingent of about 100 ladies from Katong Convent today not only had the energy to clean up a beach at Pulau Ubin, but also visit Chek Jawa. Thanks also to their enthusiastic teachers! One of them is Pei Yan, I mean Ms Heng, who is also a Naked Hermit Crab. I helped out to represent the Crabs.
After a quick look at the Jejawi Tower, we checked out the Nipah palms and the ladies soon spot all kinds of crabs, mudskippers and fiddler crabs in the mangroves. Wow, one of the sharp-eyed ladies spot a young Malayan monitor lizard!
Here's a closer look at the tiny monitor lizard. It's hardly bigger than a gecko! We have recently been seeing many small monitor lizards at Chek Jawa. Which probably shows that the mangroves here are a good nursery for these and probably other animals too.
We checked out the mud lobster mounds, saw little Tailorbirds and heard the Strawheaded bulbul. We didn't see the Oriental whip snake but were treated to more mudskippers and fiddler crabs before we ended our trip on the mangrove boardwalk.

At the end of an exciting trip, we take a group photo in front of the beautiful mural painted by Pui San and his fellow artist volunteers during the Dugong Ambassadors event organised by Joseph Lai. This is perfect, because I was asked about the dugong and the painting helped to show just what one looks like! Read more about Joseph Lai, and some of the work done by volunteers before the deferment of reclamation on Chek Jawa.
On the way to the van, we get a glimpse of the Oriental pied hornbill! We heard them calling but didn't get to see them until the last moment! This bird has a unique and fascinating method of nesting. The mother bird is sealed into a tree hole by the father bird and she stays there until the babies are hatched and ready to fly.
A young Wild boar confidently forages among the bicycles parked at the entrance of Chek Jawa!
And just as we were leaving, a bridal party arrived to take wedding photos on Chek Jawa! Wow, I guess that's a sign that Chek Jawa is indeed becoming appreciated for its unique landscape. I think a few of us are quite impressed that the bride is willing to tough it out in the humid weather!
Today I actually walked all the way to Chek Jawa! Since I was alone and it was a nice sunny day. I first stop at Pak Ali's shop to top up on the delicious home cooked food there. I had their awesome Nasi Lemak with sotong and sweet kopi! Yumm. Ubin Town seems rather quiet today, with lots of bicycles still waiting to be rented even though it was late in the morning.
I stop by at the Ubin Volunteer Hub to drop off some photos that Alan requested for a new touchscreen to be set up at Chek Jawa - what a great idea Alan! And in front of the Hub, the traditional spot for cyclists to gather before heading for a trip around Ubin.
The paths are mostly shady and there was very little traffic today. So it was quite a pleasant stroll despite the hot day.
There are some abandoned fish ponds along the way. I was told that otters used to raid the fishes here when the ponds were in operation. Smooth otters are often sighted on Pulau Ubin, with the most recent sighting being just last month!
I passed the home of the village headman, bright with colourful flowers. The village headman sadly passed away last year at the age of 101. I remember visiting him in 2004 when he had an ostrich in the backyard! Apparently the ostrich was part of a pair bought by the Ubin Lagoon Resort people. It's companion died after accidentally eating a bicycle (well, a part of it). The Resort people gave the survivor to the headman. The ostrich was removed to Jurong Bird Park in 2005 during the bird flu scare at that time. Sigh.There were a few cyclists braving the hot weather. The road takes us past some kampong houses.
Ubin is the Last Kampong in Singapore with many examples of traditional kampong houses. This is my favourite kampong house, blue under a blue sky! I was told that this house is often used in Malay TV shows.
Of course, there's lots of kampong fruit trees. The Chocolate tree is full of pods! The beans in these pods are actually the ones used to make chocolate! I also saw a Chiku tree, Nangkas were hanging in large bunches and bananas are commonly seen too. Unfortunately, durian and rambutan season is just over. Ubin is a great place to enjoy these fruits fresh from the tree, including local coconuts too!
This is where I turn off the tarmac road. The trail leads up through a secondary forest. It's quite easy to find Chek Jawa on foot or by bicycle as there are clear signs along the way. If it's your first time, you can also get more directions before you start from the friendly folk at the NParks Information Kiosk near the Ubin jetty, or your bicycle rental operator who all love and know Ubin very well.
Here, there are some mangrove trees and Nipah palms. Among the most common mangrove trees are Bakau putih with tiny white flowers. The flower petals form a pouch with tassels at the tips. Apparently, the petals violently burst open when pollinators probe the flower, spraying the pollinator with pollen! In the flower on in the photo on the right, two petals are already open while the rest are still unopened, ready to spring a surprise.
The path takes me past some kampong homes: all that remains of what used to be the bustling Kampong Melayu. The community was resettled in preparation for the reclamation at Chek Jawa. And the people never came back even though the reclamation was deferred.
A lovely kampong house is nestled among the trees, surrounded by flowering plants.
Indeed, the usually gloomy green forests are sparkling with bright orange blooms of the Jarum jarum. This is a wild Ixora naturally found in our forests, and it doesn't bloom as often as the garden variety.
Jarum-jarum means roughly "bundle of needles" in Malay because the unopened flower buds are long and narrow. I saw a pair of shiny black beetles chewing up the flowers.
In the bright sunny day, there were lots of colourful wild flowers along the way, with busy bees and other bugs. Among the most colourful as the bright pink Senduduk plants with sweet fruits that turn your tongue black when you eat them.
My favourite flower is this garden plant which my mother calls "Nyonya makan sireh". This old fashioned name translates to something like "fair maiden chewing betel nut", a perfect description! The pale calyx does look like a fair maiden, and the bright red flower the betel nut that is often chewed by the ladies of leisure of days of old.
Along the forest path to Chek Jawa are some serious signs. This sign is at the exact spot where a very long long time ago, when Dr Chua Ee Kiam and I were heading to Chek Jawa at 3am in the morning, a gianormous tree branch fell and nearly killed us. Good thing we escaped or we wouldn't enjoy Dr Chua's many wonderful nature books about Chek Jawa, Sungei Buloh and more!
On the way in, I saw some bright pink flowers of the Jambu bol tree. The jambu fruits of this tree is delicate and is not sold in markets as they don't travel well. So you can only enjoy them where they grow, such as at Ubin. I also saw lots of white flower bits strewn along the road, possibly a relative of the Jambu tree?
Today I travel light and leave Big Cam at home. Armed only with Sneaky Cam, I find she can even take insects, well, when they are stationary. There was a little brown skipper, and a huge dragonfly. I'm not too good with terrestrial insects. You can find out more about our butterflies on the awesome Butterflies of Singapore blog by Butterfly Circle. And for dragonflies the equally fabulous Singapore Odonata website by Tang Hung Bun who recently published Singapore's first and only guidebook to our dragonflies and damselflies.
I'm quite impressed by Sneaky Cam as she can even take photos of this spider hanging upside down in a large tent-like web at the base of a tree trunk. I think this is the spider named after Singapore: Psechrus singaporensis. You can read more about this spider on Joseph Koh's awesome Common Singapore Spiders online guide.
Walking, I had a chance to pay my respects to the enormous Pulai tree that grows here. I haven't seen it for many years. It's an awesome tree. And yes, I have confirmed that it is now outfitted with lightning protection.
That's good to know because the Pulai tree sticks right out of the forest canopy. It can be seen even as we head to Ubin on the bumboat. I forgot to take a photo of it from the boat, so here is a photo that I took from the Chek Jawa shore some time ago.
Tall Pulai tree (Alstonia angustifolia)
I arrived at Chek Jawa just in time to meet up with the Katong Convent ladies!

More about Chek Jawa, how to get there and what to see and do.

Join the Naked Hermit Crabs for a free guided tour of the boardwalk every month!

More links


  1. I met the KC girls at Ketam Beach in the morning for ICCS and was impressed by their spirit! Great that they got you to guide them!

  2. I'm proud of my 4 girls who were really cleaning up the beach. Just the 4 of them, they collected about 4 trash bags along with the big items like chair, one big metal piece, plastic cages... They even wanted to take the tires but it was too heavy for them on the rocky beach.

    @Siva, you not only met them at Ketam Beach on sat, you met the first group at Chek Java south, flipped the horseshoe crab and showed the girls the anemone the previous week.

  3. Uh, that was me at Chek Jawa South last week.
    The horseshoe crab was a timely find as it helped explain why we needed to keep the shore clear of abandoned fish nets as the crabs and other organisms would get inextricably caught up in the nets and perish. The small green carpet anemone at Chek Jawa South was unusual as we rarely see them at the CJ South mudflat.



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