03 October 2009

Wet and wild at Chek Jawa

Today I joined November and Marcus for their trip to Chek Jawa. They were guiding undergraduates from the NUS Geography Department. I wanted to tag along to shoot some stuff for an upcoming project.
But just as we were leaving, the dark clouds gathered.

And as soon as we arrived at Ubin Jetty, the heavens opened up.
As we waited, the group swelled by another 6 latecomers for a total of nearly 40 people! Meanwhile, November is annoying a poor dog who is just trying to keep dry in the pouring rain.
Despite the dismal weather, everyone was really eager to see Chek Jawa. As soon as the rain let up a bit, we headed out for the shore. Since it was impossible to shoot in the rain, I thought the least I could do was help out with the guiding. Here's Marcus and his valiant group.
And my group who are quite eager to see the mangroves and other interesting things along the boardwalk.
We had a quick stop at the Jejawi Tower. Which provided some relief from the constant rain.
And a panoramic if fuzzy view of the surroundings. Great for a nice group shot!
We realised a problem with rain was not only that the animals were hiding, but the mossies came out in force! Ouch. Nevertheless, the sharp eyed visitors spotted crabs and some fishes, and we looked at Nipah palms (Nypa fruticans) and mud lobster mounds in the Mosquito Valley. A quick round the bend and we had a drizzly look at various kinds of mangrove trees and their weird roots. The team even patiently listened to my story about durians and mangroves, and asked lots of thoughtful and interesting questions.
We also stop by to look at the lush seagrass meadows, the tide was low enough to see the wonderful large patch of rare Ribbon seagrasses (Cymodocea rotundata). Also the lovely rocky shores and coastal forest at Chek Jawa. We could even see the sand bars in the north and south. Chek Jawa is special because it has a complete range of marine ecosystems in one small location. And we meet up with November's group leaving the shelter as they head in towards the mangroves. It was still pouring!!
We stopped by at this shelter to get out of the pounding rain. And to look at the beacon and talk about reef flats and look at some of the surrounding islands and land forms. The rain got heavier as we headed back and I didn't get a chance to tell the full legend of how Pulau Sekudu (Frog Island) got its name. But here's the full legend on November's Pulau Ubin Stories.
Just before we reached the Information Kiosk, we stop for a quick look at the special Seashore nutmeg (Knema globularia) and pretty Penaga Laut tree (Calophyllum inophyllum) that was in bloom. And the Tongkat Ali plant (Eurycoma longifolia) (amazing how everyone knows about this plant!) and have a peek at the special nest box that NParks put up to encourage our Oriental pied-hornbills to breed. Here's more about the successful programme on the Bird Ecology Study Group blog.

As we waited for everyone to get back to the shelter, a mama wild boar and her babies popped out of the undergrowth to have a look at us! There were 7 of them in the group. Earlier on, the group also saw some wild boar at Punai Hut when they arrived. Marcus got some nice shots of a whiskery male, I'm sure we'll see the photos soon on his Annotated Budak blog. Wow, I've never seen so many wild boar in a trip to Chek Jawa. It's good to know that some wild boar are less shy of people. I do miss the gentle Priscilla the Pig, who was a great hit with visitors.
Soggy and wet, we headed back as it started to get dark. Here is our intrepid leader, Harvey Neo in his bright yellow poncho as he counts everyone before we head back.
Wow, I'm very impressed by everyone's enthusiasm despite the rain. And they all volunteered to come and had to pay their own way to do so. It's inspiring to know that there is such a keen spirit to learn more about Chek Jawa!

We had a speedy trip back home as Pulau Ubin seemed deserted in the rain. There are odd four digit numbers written on the white board of the jetty. Those 'lucky numbers' would have to join the licence plate numbers of the 4 sets of accidents involving what must be 20 cars that I encountered on the drive home. It was STILL raining!!
As we reach the mainland, I had a look and the coastal works at Changi is still going on. I last saw it about a month ago. I still have no idea what is being done here.
Our shores have marvellous marine life (here's some happier, sunnier photos of Chek Jawa on my flickr). And there are many issues that impact them, from flooding to coastal works. So it's good to experience the warm enthusiasm of the NUS students on this cold and wet day! Bravo!

More about Chek Jawa and Pulau Ubin on the wildsingapore website.

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