Saturday, April 30, 2011

First visit to Terumbu Pempang Laut

Last year I missed all the opportunities to visit any of the 3 submerged reefs off Pulau Hantu. I finally visited the largest one last Saturday: Terumbu Pempang Laut.

According to Jeff's compilation on meanings of island/reef names, "Terumbu" describes a reef that is visible at low tide; the meaning of "pempang" is not known, perhaps it is a corruption of the malay word "bemban" meaning fish traps; the 3 reefs were further distinguished from each depending on their relative position to land (ie "darat" near shore, "tengah" the middle reef, and "laut" the reef nearest the open sea).

We arrived to this largest and also furthest of the 3 reefs away from Pulau Hantu during sunrise. At the background is Pulau Bukom where the oil refineries are situated.

With the ever skilful assistance of Jumari at the dinghy, we safely made our transfer from the big boat to the reef.

I first had a look at the sandy habitats of the reef. There are seagrass all over though sparsely distributed.

It was good to come across the usual candidates of what one can find in a southern sandy habitat. There are quite a variety of sea anemones found here such as this Giant carpet anemone (Stichodactyla gigantea) with an anemone shrimp (Periclimenes brevicarpalis) among the tentacles!

A number of the Haddon's carpet anemones (Stichodactyla haddoni) were also seen and I particular find this bright green individual very lovely.

That's not all. The uncommon Hell's Fire anemone (Actinodendron sp.) was also seen exposed on the sand bar. Just before departure, we saw that this same anemone has already shrunk into a small ball with most of its body tucked underground. This must be a way to prevent dessication.

Here's another fire anemone that is happy with the tide pool around it, thus exposing their pretty but also deadly tentacles. They are known to give nasty stings and we have never dared to try how bad it can be!

Another anemone species found at the sandy area will be this Swimming anemone (Boloceroides mcmurrichi) that is usually more commonly found at our northern shores.

At some sections of the shore, there were lots of these brightly coloured Green gum drops ascidians gathered.

There was a small colony of Common sea stars (Archaster typicus) though they were are widely spaced apart.

These White spiral fan worms are usually especially nervous creatures that will shrink into their tube when we get close to them. This is because they have eyespots found on their tentacles.

Mei Lin and Nicholas found another one- this has a purplish coloration around the mouth area. Quite pretty!

So much on the sandy area. Terumbu Pempang Laut also has a reefy side! Which has high abundance of soft corals.

The name of the beacon in this photo is Sinki Beacon. It marks the western most part of the Terumbu. Beyond it is Selat Sinki, a major shipping lane, and on the horizon, Jurong Island.

The team also stumbled across a minefield of Montipora coral (Montipora sp.)! The largest patch I have ever seen in Singapore. Wow.

Here is a picture of the huge field of Montipora coral with James as the scale.

Though the corals are not as dense as Terumbu Bemban, we could still see some good colonies of uncommon coral species such as this Acropora coral (Acropora sp.).

There were also a number of these Cauliflower corals (Pocillopora sp.).

Where one of the colonies (found under the rock- thus bleached) has a commensal Red coral crabs (Trapezia cymodocea) living in it.

But the top find of the day is definitely the creature I am holding on to. At first I thought I spotted the scary stonefish based on the spines. Checking the underneath revealed that it is not a stonefish but a huge murex shell with a hermit crab occupant!

And the brightly coloured hermit crab turned out to be the Spotted hermit crab (Dardanus megistos)!! It is my second time seeing it and the first time I could take a photo of it. I was excited to see such a large individual.

Here's a closer look at this handsome hermit crab living in such a huge shell.

Another nice find will be this well camouflaged Spider conch (Lambis lambis), a living snail where we can see their body and eyes from the underside. This photo shows the shell from their top.

Slugs and nudibranchs are like snails without shells. This is the Polka-dot nudibranch (Jorunna funebris).

Mei Lin and Nicholas pointed this small fish to us that was "stuck" within a small hole, with its head facing us.

But the most interesting fishy action of the day definitely will be this gunho Blue-spotted fantail ray (Taeniura lymma). It tried to swim away from me and while doing so leaped out of the water across the rock to get to the other side! I didn't know stingrays are so powerful. Haha.

I have also posted several videos taken during the trip on this post.

More photos of the trip here:

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