07 July 2010

'S' luck on the shores

Many of the unpleasant ways to get hurt on the shores begin with 'S' (and with people being an 'S'). So I discovered as I compiled my presentation on shore safety for the mega shore guide workshop tomorrow.
Blue spotted fantail ray (Taeniura lymma)
For example: Stingray, whose business end is not pleasant to encounter in your ankle. Stingrays are not easy to spot! Can you spot the stingrays in the photos below?

Some may be hidden by seaweeds, or among rocks or under sand.
Even out in the open in clear water in sunlight, the sparkling water surface makes it difficult to see the blue-spotted beast. This is why we should avoid wading in deep water, especially murky water.

I've been an 'S' with stingray and got stung at Pulau Sekudu, keeping a record of what happened over the days. Others who got stung include Nor Aishah at Pulau Semakau, and Chay Hoon at Beting Bronok. In Chay Hoon's case it was quite scary as the sting hit an artery and there was a fountain of blood spouting out of her foot! Here's more about our stingrays.

Among the wide variety of fishes on our shores, some have unpleasant stings (such as Scorpionfish), while most can give a nasty bite if they are picked up or handled. Some harmless fishes look like dangerous fishes. And dangerous fishes can resemble harmless rocks! So it is best not to touch any fish, or even things that may appear harmless.
The most dreaded fish must be Mr Stonefish (we are particularly respectful of this 'S' luck creature). With lots of stout spines that can penetrate even through booties and thick-soled shoes, causing excruciating pain, this fish is commonly encountered. Can you spot the stonefishes in the photos below? Can you spot one in the field BEFORE you step on it? This is why we should watch our step and walk slowly and carefully on our shores.
Fortunately, so far, we've only had two stonefish envenomations on our trips. The first was a long time ago when Robin stepped on a stonefish on Pulau Hantu. The other was on New Year's Day this year when Ivan had his 'S' luck at Beting Bemban Besar. Here's more about the Hollow-cheeked stonefish (Synanceia horrida) .

Recently, we have become even more adventurous and started visiting our submerged reefs. This often involves landing in deep water. We notice that, even in water about thigh deep, there is lots of splashing around us. These turn out to be Sharks!
These sharks are small and probably wouldn't want to bite us. They are probably just hunting little fishes in the shallow waters of the outgoing tide. Nevertheless, we try not to annoy them and sneak as quietly as we can to higher ground. While at the same time avoiding Stingray and Stonefish.

Snakes we see on our shores will NOT hurt us if we don't disturb them. While the bite of some of these snakes are harmless to humans, others can kill. But these snakes will NOT bite if we don't touch them. It's hard to tell apart the different kinds of snakes we might see on the shore. So the best thing is to leave snakes alone and observe them quietly.
These snakes may be curious about you too! So just stay still and observe them.
Yellow lipped sea snake (Laticauda colubrina)
Often, the highly venomous Yellow-lipped sea krait (Laticauda colubrina) will come up to my booties and curiously 'sniff' me out, before resuming its hunt among the rocks. Another reason why we should always wear covered shoes on the shores. Snakes are beautiful creatures and rarely seen. I feel lucky to see one! Here's more about snakes on our shores.

The other 'S' luck creature that is highly unpleasant is so tiny that we can hardly see it. It is the horrible 'run-for-your-life' Sandfly! Read more about these truly scary creatures.

With precautions, preparation and proper respect, we can hopefully avoid being an 'S' on the shore not have 'S' luck with these amazing creatures!

There's a LOT more to safety, and to guiding effectively and happily on our shores. I hope to share and learn more at the first session of the mega shore guides workshop tomorrow!

More about safety on our shores with a quiz: will you survive a sea shore trip?


  1. Hi Ria,
    Good one, how about (S)andfly.

  2. Thanks TC! Of course I didn't forget about the tiniest but most terrible of the 'S' luck creatures.

    It is listed last on the post with a link to a much longer post all about our least favourite beast of the shores.



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