06 June 2015

Terumbu Raya with corals and giant clams

Terumbu's reefs are teeming with corals.
We saw Giant clams, Nemo-infested anemones and lots more colourful marine life.

Despite the proximity of petrochemical plants on Pulau Bukom, there are lots of corals and other marine life on this submerged reef.
This submerged reef lies opposite Pulau Hantu and the petrochemical plants on Pulau Bukom, and is next to Pulau Semakau.
As the sun rises, the rich reef edge is more obvious.
Lovely colonies of Anchor corals studded with fan worms.
More views of the reef edge.
On the other side of the narrow channel is Pulau Semakau.
The edge of the reef plunges away, so we have to be careful not to fall down!
I didn't realise this was a special coral until I got home. It is probably Physogyra lichtensteini. This coral is more commonly seen by divers, not so much on the intertidal.
I mistook it for a kind of Anchor coral, which has different shaped tentacles with U-shaped tips.
Another special coral, a large colony of Horn coral.
There was an assortment of the usual wonderful corals that we find here.
It has been very hot lately, which makes us worry about coral bleaching. So we also checked for this during our trip. Here's the latest Bleaching Alert Areas from the NOAA website. Singapore falls in the 'Watch' status. What is coral bleaching and why this is of concern on the Bleach Watch Singapore blog. Fortunately, we didn't see many corals bleaching today at Terumbu Raya.
from the NOAA Coral Reef Watch website.
A few of the large coral colonies of various kinds were rather pale. But I didn't see any that were bleaching outright. I saw a few small Leathery soft corals and they were alright. I did not come across any flowery soft corals.
There are also many large sea anemones in this reefy stretch. The Tomato anemone fish lives in the Bubble-tip anemone.
A closer look at a bigger Tomato anemonefish. There were two large ones in this anemone, but these active fishes were stirring up a lot of sediments too.
There were also False clown anemonefishes in the Giant carpet anemones.
This is not a true sea anemone. It is a cerianthid or tube anemone because it builds a tube to live in.
I saw this Fluted giant clam in the water. It is quite well camouflaged.
The second giant clam I saw was exposed on the high shore. Kok Sheng and the rest of the team also saw other giant clams. During our last trip to Terumbu Raya in Aug 2014, we also saw a lot of giant clams!
It looks like a rock, but it is the Cushion star! This large sea star is quite heavy and hard.
The only nudibranch I saw is the common Phyllidiella nigra. Kok Sheng also found a Tiger cowrie and other special creatures.
There are various kinds of seagrasses in patches on the reef edges. Mostly Spoon seagrass and Tape seagrass which were cropped to about 20cm. Also some Sickle seagrass and Serrated ribbon seagrass.
Most of the seagrasses were heavily covered in epiphytes. This is similar to the situation I saw on my last visit here in Aug 2014, and in Jul 2013.
A look at the seagrasses underwater. Not a happy photo.
There was a scummy growth all over the shore, even on bare sand.
We arrived to a glorious sunrise.
The sunrise highlighted the emissions from the petrochemical plants on nearby Pulau Bukom.
In daylight, we could also see the emissions hanging over Jurong Island (the three white 'clouds'). The wooded island is Pulau Hantu.
This is what a plastic bag looks like to a sea turtle in the water. It is easily mistaken for a jellyfish, the favourite food of sea turtles. And there are sea turtles in this area. Alex saw several from the boat while we were working. More about how balloons and soft plastic kill sea turtles, slowly and painfully. Fortunately, we didn't see any fish nets today.
Our terumbu trips continue over the next two days. Too many reefs, too little low spring tides to do them more often than once a year.

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