29 November 2015

The other side of Singapore's Marine Park: St. John's Island

The Sisters Islands Marine Park includes the western shore of St. John's Island! Yesterday, I had a chance to explore it with the volunteer guides of the Marine Park.
We started on the eastern shore enjoying a glorious sunset with the lights of the Central Business District just a 15-min boat ride away.

How nice to find a Giant carpet anemone with a Clown anemonefish. Later, the rest of the team told me they saw more than one anemonefish sheltering in the anemone. This might be same ones we saw on our last trip here in Feb 2015.
Among my favourite gobies is the colourful Head-stripe goby that is usually found in reefs.
There were also many other more well camouflaged gobies: the Ornate goby and Frill-fin goby.
Victor points out the Mosaic dragonet, which is our first entry for St. John's Island in the factsheet of this fascinating little fish.
Other fishes spotted by the team include a Copperband butterflyfish, some tiny Filefishes, and a tiny Fringe-eyed flathead.
I generally can only spot nudibranchs that are very obvious. Like this one that looks like a cheesecake, Doriprismatica atromarginata
This is quite a common nudibranch, Discodoris boholiensis
I also saw two large Spangled flatworms.
I love the Very hairy hermit crab, which I often see in large heavy shells like this Spider conch shell. They are often seen on this shore.
The Marine spider is very common on our shores and often found climbing up our pants!
It is the Sargassum Season: so the reefy part of the shore is covered in a carpet of long Sargassum seaweed. These shelter all kinds of animals, including this tiny Hairy sea hare. I'm astounded that I managed to see it.
Here's a closer look at the Hairy seahare, which is identified not just by its 'hairs' but also the tiny electric blue dots on its body.
Sargassum is also a good nursery. The volunteers show me clusters of egg capsules probably laid by a squid.
Due to the Sargassum bloom, it was hard to safely check out the reef. But all those hard corals and Leathery soft corals that I saw were not bleaching. To properly see the corals, we need to go on a much lower tide when the Sargassum season is over, like our trip in May 2014.
A closer look at coral polyps. These tiny animals together create the entire colony.
Chay Hoon spots a very small green Knobbly sea star! We saw many more on our last trip here in Feb 2015. But we didn't find any Sundial snails or Haddon's carpet anemones like we did on our previous trip. But there were many Common sea stars in both lagoons.
There were some handsome Purple climber crabs on the rocky shore, and tiny Sand bubbler crabs on the sandy shore.
Among the other creatures common on the shore are Frilly anemones and Long black sea cucumbers.
There were also some small Barrel sponges, and other encrusting creatures such as ascidians.
We had a great time spotting octopus and other creatures that only come out at night. Our last survey at St John's Island was in Feb 2015.
There are sprinkles of Spoon seagrass with tiny leaf blades. And some clumps of Tape seagrass on this shore. This clump was bearing fresh female flowers.
On the western shore of St John's grow some Nyireh laut trees. We only have a handful of these Critically Endangered trees, some here and one other growing at Sentosa. The big mother tree seems alright, although she seemed to have lost the branches on one side. Perhaps broken off by some branches falling off the coastal forest?
The two other smaller trees nearby were still there, though the smaller on the southern end had fewer leaves which were all curled up.
The shore is usually very rocky. But there seems to be a lot of sand now, and reef animals on the shore are slowly being buried in the sand. Like these corallimorphs.
The Marine Park volunteers had been on the island all morning and were already hard at work exploring the shore when I came by later in the evening.
How nice to see this family with kids exploring the intertidal on the shore.
There were also families camping out, and their kids checking out the rock walls.
The volunteers too had a great time exploring the natural rocky shores, reefs and coastal forests of St John's Island.
Here's a short video of the shoreline of beautiful St John's Island, overlooking the Central Business District on the mainland, Sentosa island and Pulau Tekukor and of course, the Sisters Islands.
St John's Island: the other side of Singapore's Marine Park

Photos by others on this trip

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