03 April 2010

Back to Beting Bemban Besar

It's dawn and we're back on Beting Bemban Besar! We're a little early and only a tiny sliver of the huge submerged reef is above water!
Where is Beting Bemban Besar?

It lies just off Pulau Semakau. Next to it is another large submerged reef, Terumbu Raya, as well as several other smaller submerged reefs.
Beting Bemban Besar (or BBB as we call it), lies near the petrochemical plants on Pulau Bukom.
We can even see the city skyline behind the mangroves on Pulau Semakau.
As well as the massive industrial facilities on Jurong Island and shipping in the nearby waters.
Despite all this, BBB is very much alive!
Although I couldn't find the rich patch of reefs that I saw on our earlier trip, I did see many of the hard corals we commonly see on our Southern shores: (left to right) - Carnation coral (Pectinia sp.), Cauliflower coral (Pocillopora sp.), Flowery disk coral (Turbinaria sp.), Favid coral (Family Faviidae), Thin disk coral (Turbinaria sp.), Galaxy coral (Galaxea sp.), Ridged plate coral (Merulina sp.), Anemone coral (Goniopora sp.) and small Goniopora coral (Goniopora sp.).
Some of my favourites include the Pebble coral (Astreopora sp.) which has rounded, pebbly corallites. The tentacles appear on the tip and resemble a tiny flower!
There were a lot of these long Mole mushroom corals (Polyphyllia talpina) but I only saw one living circular mushroom coral.
Here's a coral that I don't see very often. I'm not too sure what it is, but it resembles bracket mushrooms.
It's always a delight to encounter a colony of Acropora corals (Acropora sp.)
Like a stony tree, the branches of this coral provides shelter for all kinds of little animals. This one had a little crab, and a little clam!
Kok Sheng also spotted the rare Cabbage coral (Trachyphyllia geoffroyi)! I didn't see any signs of coral spawning. Could it be corals have their orgy in the dark, and by morning appear just as decorous as they usually do? (Quick check on the SECORE blog and it seems the corals didn't spawn last night. Oh dear)

There are, of course, also the leathery soft corals that we often see elsewhere. Like hard corals, they too are colonies of tiny little polyps. But these share a leathery tissue and don't create a hard skeleton. Among those I saw were some that resemble omelettes, that look black-and-white, and others with a pimply skin.
And lots of the flowery soft corals that remind me of asparagus. These come in different pastel shades.
Here's a special creature that I seldom see. I think it's a kind of leathery soft coral. From the tiny little polyps sticking out of the smooth surface. While the other leathery corals flop over out of water, this one seems to have a kind of internal structure to keep it upright. I've seen this before on Cyrene Reef, and we saw lots of them on Sakeng.
Something I encounter more often on our Northern shores, but seldom on our Southern shores: peacock anemones in various colours!
It's jellyfish season again. There were lots of these Ribbon jellyfishes (Chrysaora sp.) which pack a powerful sting. This one had its long tentacles stuck to various parts of the reef as the water level fell. It got free but left bits of its tentacles on the reef.
Some had very short tentacles, probably ripped off too. While many were stranded on the sand. Jellyfish stingers can continue to fire even if the jellyfish is dead, or if they are separated from the jellyfish. This is why it is best to avoid touching the reefs.
There were seagrasses all over the reef, but they grew very sparsely. Only in a few parts were the seagrasses longer and more lush.
I saw all the common seagrass species, and was glad to see some Noodle seagrass (Syringodium isoetifolium) which so far I've only seen on Pulau Semakau and Cyrene Reef.
The seaweeds were particularly beautiful on the reefs today. Fresh and not covered in scum, bright and colourful in the clear waters and bright sunny morning. There were lots of red seaweeds: Halymenia species that were feathery, flat or branched; as well as spiny red seaweed (Acanthophora sp.), hard flat pink pom-pom seaweed, and this bluish seaweed that I don't know.
The massive blooms of Sargassum are gone, and it seems that a bloom of Hairy green seaweed (Bryopsis sp.) is starting up. There were also lumpy codium seaweed (Codium sp.), hard green coin seaweed (Halimeda sp.). And always lovely to see the juicy green seaweeds: Caulerpa taxifolia, Caulerpa lentillifera, and this bluish Lacy seaweed that is actually probably the red seaweed Martensia sp.
Of course there were all kinds of colourful sponges too: The bright yellow many branched sponge named after Singapore that resembles a daisy (Coelocarteria singaporensis), the delicate pink puff ball (Ocenapia sagittaria) that is the above-ground part of a much large buried sponge, large lumpy pink sponges (Haliclona cf baeri) and bright yellow sponges with many cones (Spheciospongia sp.)
The shallow waters were full of little fishes, and there were even more fishes at the reef edge. But I never attempt to take photos of them in daylight as they are too fast and skittish. I have a better chance shooting them at night. Nevertheless, I managed a shot of this fierce little damselfish (possibly Pomacentrus tripunctatus).
We saw several stingrays, lots of large carpet eel blennies (Congrogadus subducens), some Copperband butterflyfishes (Chelmon rostratus) and filefishes (Family Monacanthidae). But we are really glad we didn't see Mr Stonefish!! Ivan was stung by one when we were last on BBB on New Year's Day. He's fine now and was in fact, back with us on the shore today!

There were lots of special finds on this trip. Marcus found a Fluted giant clam (Tridacna squamosa). Although Mei Lin is not with us (as she is busy with spawning coral), we are still very much in Giant Clam Hunt mode. We try our best to take measurements, fortunately Kok Sheng had his trusty ruler, and Chay Hoon had the presence of mind to use her phone to take the GPS coordinates. Marcus took lots of photos on all sides.

Chay Hoon spotted lots of nudis (of course), a cushion star (Culcita novaeguineae) was seen but we didn't see many Knobbly sea stars (Protoreaster nodosus).

My special sighting was of the Leathery sea anemone (Heteractis crispa). My first encounter with this anemone! More about it in this post.

All too soon, the tide turns and it's time to go home. Just as well as it was beginning to get very VERY hot! The big pile of bright orange life vests help us to home in on the departure point from the vast distance of this huge reef. There are some patches of these branching Montipora corals (Montipora sp.) here and there on the reef.
'Besar' means large in Malay and Beting Bemban Besar is indeed huge! We hardly covered much of it. We should try to come back again to explore the rest of this reef.

Other posts about this trip

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