Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Guiding students at Semakau

I had an excellent trip to Semakau on Sunday to guide a group of male students from Xinmin Secondary School.

Here's our group named Goby. Joining us is Mr Pah (at the second from left) who is a history teacher of the boys. Don't be deceived by his teaching subject... he is also interested in marine life!

Mr Pah shared with me several of his adventures including diving off Tioman. He also told me of a case of alleged diving "murder" that happened off Sisters' Island during the 1960s. Wow... I better go check the newspaper clipping to find out more.

Anyway, I had the privilege to also have Sofina with me, who is an OJT in training to be a guide. She's been of a great help and I'm sure she will be a great guide in the future.

So much talking about the people, here's the marine life that we caught a glimpse of during the trip!

Just near the seagrass meadow are two handsome juvenile Cushion stars (Culcita novaeguinea). This one is in the usual orange colour.

While this is a bit more plain but still very very cute! Cushion stars are rather uncommon in Singapore's intertidal shores and Semakau is one of the few shores left where we can still find them without trying very hard.

Moving on, the hunter seekers found the third juvenile cushion star! This one has a very pretty pattern of black and yellow on the aboral surface. This is definitely a pleasant surprise... three cushion stars! But that's not all.

More stars of Semakau that captivated everyone's attention will be these Common sea stars (Archaster typicus). Sofina shared some interesting facts about these stars including their mating patterns and regenerative abilities.

But the most charismatic stars of them all must be these Knobbly sea stars (Protoreaster nodosus). The hunter seekers found three of different colours. I like the brown one especially!

And of course, we had the traditional group photo with the knobblies which unfortunately were not obvious in this photo.

One of the special finds by the hunter seeker will be this Spotted moon snail that has a spotted body. This is only my second time seeing it on our shores.

As we approach the reef edge, we could see many hard corals in this zone. The day's tide was lower than expected so it was a great time to look at our magnificent reefs. This coral that looks like a maze or a brain is called a Brain coral (Family Mussidae).

Commonly seen at Semakau and not so in other reefs except Hantu will be this Sunflower mushroom hard coral (Heliofungia actiniformis).

Here's a bigger one of the same species. Unlike most corals that are in a colony, these are solitary creatures.

Later, we came across this particular mushroom coral that looked weird. Either there were two corals stuck together or that one coral spit into two in the middle.

On the underside, we noticed that it was bloated up instead of the usual hard skeleton. Is it stressed up?

Another hard coral that we came across was this Acropora coral (Acropora sp.). They usually only thrive at reefs of relatively good water quality.

Of course, what's a Semakau walk without the resident adult Fluted giant clam (Tridacna squamosa). It's always a joy to see it still doing well over the years. :)

While we had a bit of time for our own exploration as a group, Sofina spotted this Upsidedown jellyfish (Cassiopea sp.) can be found.

Yes it prefers to be 'upside down', with its bell facing the sea floor and tentacles facing upwards toward the light. This is because they harbour microalgae on their tentacles, thus they need to be upside down to make food.

Well, the best part of the reef edge must be the two more cushion stars that were sighted! This time the adult ones. This particular star was found by our hunter seekers.

While this individual was spotted by one of the participants. It was great to see them develop keen eyes to spot creatures even on their virgin trips to the seashore.

Soon, the sun sets with a warming glow as we depart the huge yet charming shore of Semakau.

It's been really a nice experience guiding students and Mr Pah. They were enthusiastic participants who took notice of safety and ensured that they do not trample the shore in the process. Thanks for the nice memories and hope to see you all in the future somewhere.

More photos with bigger sizes for download are available at:

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