23 January 2012

Hantu health check with shrimp suprise!

A small team head out for a long overdue trip to Pulau Hantu despite the gloomy weather. Has this beautiful shore been affected by the Bukom fire of October 2011? And the oil spill near Pulau Senang and Pawai in January 2012?
It was a relief to see the shore seems normal. The large leathery soft corals (Family Alcyoniidae) on the shore opposite Pulau Bukom seemed alright. And Chay Hoon and Kok Sheng found some special sea creatures too!

The Sargassum seaweed (Sargassum sp.) 'bloom' over the reefs is massive! As a result, we couldn't explore the reef flat. While Russel and Kok Sheng explored the edges near the sea wall, I decided to spend time in the swimming lagoon.
Hantu has many lovely corals, and most of those I came across looked normal. Unlike our friends at the Hantu Bloggers who visit this reef every month, I haven't been to Hantu since June 2011, and haven't done a proper check since January 2012.
Some special corals seen include some Galaxy corals (Galaxea sp.) all were rather pale. Some Brain coral (Family Mussidae), Ridged plate coral (Merulina sp.), one tiny Acropora coral (Acropora sp.), a small Anchor corals (Family Euphyllidae) and some small Lettuce corals (Pectinia sp.). I also saw several healthy Cauliflower corals (Pocillopora sp.), which are usually the first to bleach.
I came across some Favid corals (Family Faviidae) that had odd yellowish patches. But they were not totally bleached.
But most of the Favid corals were colourful as they normally are.
And there were many small corals growing everywhere.
Even inside the lagoon, there are spots with lots of different kinds of hard and soft corals. Many of the flowery soft corals were a little pale, and the Asparagus flowery soft corals (Family Nephtheidae) were also rather pink. But I didn't see any that there bleaching.
Hantu is one of the places where we can see lots of Circular mushroom corals (Family Fungidae)!
Hantu is one of the few places where we can still see many Sunflower mushroom coral (Heliofungia actiniformis). The other location where this happens is Pulau Semakau.
I came across this large cluster of pretty green anemones. I don't know what they are!
There were lots of Giant carpet anemones (Stichodactyla gigantea) but alas, I didn't see any with 'Nemos'. The large Magnificent anemone (Heteractis magnifica) is still where it used to be.
And so is the Burrowing giant clam (Tridacna crocea)! Kok Sheng also saw another pretty giant clam on the outer reef.
On this trip, I focused on taking close ups of common marine life. Like this Zebra coral (Oulastrea crispata). I didn't realise that the polyps have such delicately spotted tentacles!
The only nudibranchs I saw was one Jorunna funebris and one Chromodoris lineolata. The rest saw lots of other nudibranchs in large numbers too!
Mangroves have settled naturally on the seawalls of Pulau Hantu. The trees look well. While inside the swimming lagoon are lots of hard corals, as well as nice long Tape seagrass (Enhalus acoroides). Elsewhere, there were still lots of Common sea stars (Archaster typicus), and a wide variety of healthy looking sponges.
The find of the day was a commensal shrimp in a red feather star! Chay Hoon found it! This is my first time seeing this tiny shrimp!
I took the opportunity to take a closer look at the super tiny feeding tentacles of the sea fan!
Koh Sheng found this little red sea cucumber that we are not familiar with. It has pretty yellow 'fluffy' feeding tentacles, that are very sticky. This looks like the sea cucumber we've seen at Pulau Semakau and Cyrene Reef. So it's good to finally get a closer look at it. Hopefully it can later be identified.
The sea cucumber has an obvious underside full of sticky tube feet.
Chay Hoon also found an Alicia sea anemone (Alicia sp.)! This looks like the one Andy found at Cyrene. Unfortunately, it refused to open up nicely. Sigh.
When we arrived, there were about 6 people fishing off the jetty with lines. As we walked to the end of the jetty, we saw bundled up driftnets next to a styrofoam box with fishes, crabs and clams.
Here's a closer look at their catch.
Two guys were standing on the reef edge fishing. When we approached, they headed back to the seawall. I had a quick friendly chat with one of them. He said they don't visit Hantu often. They usually fish off Seringat, where, he said "there isn't so much corals" and the fishing is better. He said they didn't catch much although they had been here all day. We saw some small fishes among their catch.
In the lagoon, there was an abandoned driftnet which has been there so long that it is already overgrown with sponges.
Pulau Hantu lies very close to Pulau Bukom! And yet there is still so much marine life here.
Fortunately we were spared heavy rain, although it mizzled a fair bit throughout the trip. As the sun set and the tide turned, the wind and rain picked up. Time to huddle up and wait for the boat while enjoying the many snacks shared by Andy and Russel, thank you!
Hopefully, Hantu will remain healthy until our next trip there. Tomorrow, a trip to Sisters Island!

Others who posted about this trip
  • Kok Sheng with lots more nudis, heart urchin, many more corals!
    Russel with lovely corals, nudis and more!

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