30 December 2008

Seletar shore from afar

The plan was to nip by the shore at Seletar after work to check it out for sea stars. From the dam across Lower Seletar, there were huge mudflats, with Pulau Seletar in the distance.I haven't been there for more than 5 years. The last time I went, there was a tranquil little mangrove with sandy shores, fiddler crabs and the usual mangrove creatures.

Here's a google earth map of the Lower Seletar dam with the mangroves of Khatib Bongsu on the left and Pulau Seletar at the seaward side, and the two halves of Pulau Punggol on the right. There has been massive works at Pulau Punggol in the construction of a dam across Sungei Punggol. While a causeway and bridge was also being built to Pulau Punggol Barat.
And there is the humungous bridge, complete with streetlights and all.In the little mangrove patch I remembered, next to the new bridge, was a whole flotilla of little boats on two long make-shift jetties.There were houses among the mangrove trees!
On the shores, smack in the middle of the Lower Seletar dam was another outdoor loo!The structure the loo was attached to had been dismantled.And the structure next to it as well.It seemed the walls had been removed, leaving all kinds of things there intact. Including the potted plants and a sign to "Walk Do Not Run".

Alas, I couldn't find a safe way down to the shore. The shore was a lot lower than I remembered and the seawall made up huge loose rocks. Having fallen down enough sea walls and jetties to learn better, I decided not to chance it. When I last visited, the shore was a lot higher and it was just a hop skip and jump down to it. Has there been erosion on the shore?
Way way in the distance were the beautiful mangroves of Khatib Bongsu, the mudflats dotted with shore birds. I checked and there was also no easy access to that shore. Without some serious bush bashing and rock climbing and other stuff too manly for me to do before dinner and in the setting sun.

Sigh. Booties still dry, no mud on my face, I went home.

Here's some interesting history and background about Seletar that I found out, to make up for lack of marine life sightings.

Rare mangrove trees in Seletar!

from "A Guide to Mangroves of Singapore", Peter K. L. Ng and N. Sivasothi (editors)
Botanists discovered a stand of Berembang (Sonneratia caseolaris) in the upper reaches of Sungei Seletar only last year (1998). Prior to this, only a single tree of this species in Woodlands was known of in Singapore! It is actually viewable in the distance from Lentor Avenue! This tree is thought to be associated with fireflies, and can tolerate freshwater conditions.
Rich history of Seletar

from the Wikipedia entry on Seletar
The Malay word seletar refers to the aboriginal coastal dwellers (orang laut) called orang seletar, who lived along the mangrove creeks of the Johor Straits and especially at the mouth of the Seletar River (which has since been dammed up to form the Lower Seletar Reservoir), hence the river's name. Later, Sultan Abu Baker of Johor is said to have taken these people from Seletar to Sungai Pulai in southwest Johor.
from the Joshua Project

Who are the Orang Seletar?

The Orang Seletar are one of the nineteen Orang Asli people groups living in Peninsular Malaysia. Nearly half of the Orang Seletar ethnic group of 1,700, also live in northern Singapore.

They are a maritime people, the descendants of the Orang Laut or sea people who constituted the original navy of the Malaccan Sultanate and played a pivotal role in the region's history. Originally from the Spice Islands in Indonesia, five hundred years ago they roamed the Straits of Malacca in bands, raiding, burning, and pillaging. They were the old pirates of South East Asia.

What are their lives like?

The Orang Seletar have been generally integrated into the Malay community to the extent that they are in danger of forgetting the central role they played in early Malaysian history. In fact, some royal families in Malaysia have Orang Seletar ancestors!

Those who have retained their old nomadic lifestyle prefer to live by the sea and remain one of the poorest minority groups of Asia. They are specialists in harvesting the produce of the sea, shore, and mangroves for their own consumption and for trade.

See the the Joshua Project for more about "What do they believe?" and "What are their needs?"
Recent changes at Seletar

At Seletar Airbase, residents are making their last farewells to the tranquil surrounding they have enjoyed for many years. The area is being redeveloped for the aviation industry, another JTC success. Like the original Orange Seletar, some Airbase residents have moved to Johor following the development of their homes. More media articles and blog posts about the changes at Seletar Airbase.

More links


  1. Looks like exploring this place will be best for someone semi-suicidal like YC! =)

  2. Yes, I really missed YC on this trip :-)



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