02 January 2012

Berlayar Creek Boardwalk is open!

Early this morning, the new boardwalk along Berlayar Creek was opened! Starting from the Labrador MRT station, the boardwalk leads along the mangroves of the Creek towards the sea.
The boardwalk was built by URA and the opening organised by them with a large contingent from the local constituency. NParks supported the event by putting up a little display of mangrove specimens at the Boardwalk. It was a big hit!

Raem shared more about the many fascinating plants that can be found in Singapore's mangroves. In fact, he was the one who gathered all these fresh specimens early in the morning specially for this event.
The favourite specimen was a huge (and heavy) bunch of Nipah palm fruits. This is where we get 'attap-chee' from!
Wei Ling shares more about the pretty pink flowers of the Sea poison that becomes huge green squarish fruits!
In the water, Wei Ling spotted some halfbeaks and several schools of mullets. I also noticed that some strange mangrove plants have been replanted in the area. I do hope they were taken from native stock?
Wei Ling set up binos so the visitors could have a closer look at the trees and wildlife.We heard lots of birds of all kinds and saw a majestic sea eagle flying overhead as we ended the day. But it was disturbing so see so many people carrying balloons which were probably given out at the start of the trail.
When balloons pop and fall into the sea, they can look very much like jellyfish, which are the food of sea turtles. I took the opportunity to tell those carrying balloons not to let them go. I shared how sea turtles are unable to vomit out the plastic. If the plastic does not come out the other end of the sea turtle, it blocks up the digestive system. The food inside the sea turtle then starts to rot, releasing gases which causes the sea turtle float. The result is called "floating syndrome". The sea turtle then can't dive to eat, or to escape from predators, or get away from fast moving boats. More about how balloons and soft plastics kill sea turtles, slowly and painfully.
Exploded balloon floating in seagrass
An exploded ballon looks very much like a jellyfish!
This was seen at Cyrene Reef.
The completed boardwalk provides stunning views of the wooded hill Bukit Cermin, and the spectacular buildings behind it. As well as a view of the last natural shores of Sentosa which lies just opposite. In fact, the mangroves at Berlayar Creek probably help contribute to the health and diversity of the shores on Sentosa!
After the walk, the families headed out for games and fun at Labrador Park.
Raem told me more about these series of sculptures in the garden that I have walked by so often. He designed it so that the sculpture is completed when some one fills in the missing link! How delightful!
Read more about the boardwalk and download a DIY Trail-Guide on the NParks website.

Berlayar Creek is a narrow tidal stream next to Labrador Nature Reserve and Keppel Golf Club. The stream is flanked by among the last mangroves on the Western mainland, and flows onto natural rocky shores, sandy shores, some seagrasses and a bit of reefy shores at the deeper edges! There are crabs, snails, sea anemones, sponges and more. Here's more about what I had seen here in the past.In fact, the shores are so rich that volunteers of the Leafmonkey Workshop conducted the finale of the Guides of Singapore shores workshops with a field trip to Berlayar Creek to practice what we had learned. One of the most exciting mangrove trees here are the Bakau pasir (Rhizophora stylosa) which is listed as vulnerable. There are several of these trees along Berlayar Creek. According to Dr John Yong "most importantly, botanically speaking for Singapore, Tanjung Berlayar is the only place on Singapore mainland to have at least 10 trees of Rhizophora stylosa."
This shore is so nice that is used by Real Biologists like Karenne Tun and Beverly Goh in their teaching effort. I had met them with some teachers from NIE who are keen to learn more about how to conduct field work for their students.
In May 2010, I had also joined a kayaking trip up Berlayar Creek! It was a tranquil and certainly non-destructive way to closerly explore the mangroves!It was with trepidation that I learnt of plans to build the boardwalk. Information released suggested a slim boardwalk that doesn't impact the existing mangroves. Earlier media reports on the boardwalk assured that "construction work would be carried out carefully to ensure that the ecosystem would not be affected". The 960m Berlayer Creek Mangrove Trail is touted as an "'Eco-Educational' mangrove trail starts with a lushly landscaped Entrance Plaza at the open area surrounding the future Labrador Park MRT Station."
However, in Mar 2011 I saw an astonishing extent of large steel girders have been placed very close to one another along the entire boardwalk route.
The entire structure was large enough to support several three large cranes, plus lots of other equipment.
In July 2011 I  was astounded at the progress of the construction at Berlayar Creek for the boardwalk. The humungous steel girders pounded into the shore seems to only be to allow the huge machinery to construct a much narrower boardwalk!
Here's a closer look at the wide, huge, rusting steel girder structure supporting heavy machinery, and the more slender grey structure that looks like the boardwalk itself. Having seen boardwalks being sensitively constructed on shores like Chek Jawa and Sungei Buloh, I'm quite surprised at the massive scale of the work on this boardwalk. I'm not sure how the shores coped with this construction as I have yet to visit it since the construction began in Mar 11.
Another heartbreaking issue on this shore is excessive and destructive fishing activities.In the past, we have seen people stringing driftnets right across the stream.
Laying out driftnets across Berlayar Creek
What is disturbing about this is that the driftnets often come loose and are abandoned. These nets are made of non-biodegradable plastic and continue to trap and kill animals until they are removed.
Laying out driftnets across Berlayar Creek
Volunteers did a massive cleanup of abandoned driftnets in Nov 07 and Dec 07. Volunteers did another clean up in Aug 2010. Our work on the issue of abandoned driftnets and traps have since 2011 been consolidated under Project Driftnet. I'm not sure how the boardwalk will affect this sort of destructive behaviour.
Drift net removal at Belayar Creek
The shore is also often strewn with golf balls that escape from the nearby Keppel Golf Club.
Here's the big bag of golf balls I picked up from the shore during just one trip. Others also picked up more balls!

The completion of the boardwalk means more opportunities for ordinary people to interact with the mangroves and other seashore life at Berlayar Creek. A great chance to raise awareness! But also many other challenges. If you would like to make a difference, do contact NParks at Labrador Nature Reserve. They will always appreciate volunteer assistance and ideas to create positive influences through the new boardwalk!

Thanks to Yuet Hsin for inviting me to the event, and Raem and Wei Ling for a great morning in the mangroves. It was great also to catch up with so many friends afterwards!

More about flora and fauna seen on Berlayar on previous trips:
  • Finale of the Guides of Singapore Shores work shop in Aug 10
  • More mangrove flora and fauna seen in Mar 09.
  • More rocky shore creatures and big trees at Bukit Cermin seen in Mar 09.
  • More reefy creatures seen during a low tide seen in Apr 09.
  • Quick look at Berlayar shore in Jan 09.
  • Canoeing up Berlayar mangroves in May 10.


  1. Wow, I didnt know there was a mangrove patch at Labrador, I will visit that patch very soon! Thank you for infomation!

    Rick (NUS)

  2. Is it legal to fish/use fishing nets in Parks in Singapore? Or to collect other wildlife, for that matter? If illegal, is it posted as such?

  3. Dear Steven, thanks for your questions.

    From the AVA website, "Under the Wild Animals and Birds Act, it is an offence for any person to kill, take or keep any wild animal or bird, other than those specified in the Schedule such as mynas, pigeons and crows, without a license."

    And Fishing gear is licensed under the Fisheries Act, Fisheries (Fishing Gear) Rules which states that "No person shall erect, operate, maintain, use, remove or have in his possession any kind of fishing
    gear except in accordance with the terms of a fishing gear licence issued under these Rules."

    There are areas in various parks designated for fishing with their own rules.

    I feel enforcement is not always ideal as the only solution.

    I personally believe the real solution must begin with a proper understanding of the issues based on sound data. This will help identify suitable approaches. Raising awareness is a key element. These efforts must involve ordinary people doing their part.

    The impact of fishing and abandoned fishing gear is heartbreaking and something I am trying to work on through Project Driftnet http://projectdriftnet.blogspot.com/

  4. Correction, the ComChest Sculptures were not designed by me, but by the design team when they set up the ComChest Walk (not many people know this).

    Glad to show people the wonders of our habitat. No need to go Thailand to see them when you can see it right here in Singapore!

  5. Oh thanks for that correction Raem! It is a great design feature and I'm glad you shared it with me.



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