Monday, July 28, 2014

Our first Marine Park on Sisters' Island

With the news release of Singapore's first Marine Park at the Sisters' Island, the two islands have received a lot of limelight. According to National Parks Board, the Sisters’ Islands Marine Park will be a platform for outreach, educational, conservation and research activities related to our native marine biodiversity. The location was chosen due to its variety of habitats including coral reefs, sandy shores and seagrass areas.

For regular trippers who have been surveying the Sisters' Island, visiting the Big Sisters' Island today was more like meeting an old friend despite its new status. :)

One of the iconic features of the Sisters' Island would be the frequent sightings of the seahorses. In fact this is a pregnant papa! For seahorses, the male broods the young in their pouch.

And we found a female seahorse right within the vicinity of the pregnant father. Both of them are known as the Tiger-tail seahorses (Hippocampus comes).

Some stretches of the reef are colourful and resemble an underwater garden with lots of sponges, soft corals and ascidians.

And to make the underwater garden lovelier, there are also many Feather stars (Order Comatulida) like this beige and brown feather star. 

Here's a photo of another three feather stars that were sighted nearby! In various patterns and colours.

Jianlin even found a commensal brittle star on the underside of a feather star! A star on a star! That's indeed a double-star find. Hahaha!! (Photo credit: Jianlin)

While I was taking a look at the narrow and deep stretch outside the seawall, I was pleasantly surprised to find a thick patch of Sickle seagrass (Thalassia hemprichii).

How are the two Fluted giant clams (Tridacna squamosa) doing? I'm glad they are still well. Here's the one that is found higher up on the shore.

And this bigger one found lower down and submerged in water is also looking good. What makes me frown is that I missed a nudibranch sighting until I got home to process the photos. Can you find it in this photo?

Here's the slug that was found at the bottom left corner of the previous photo of the clam. I totally missed this well camouflaged Spotted-foot nudibranch (Discodoris lilacina).

So during the survey itself, I thought this Black phyllid nudibranch (Phyllidiella nigra) would be the only slug find of the day. Haha!

As we started our trip before sunrise, many of the Reef octopus were actively swimming and wading about in various locations such as hugging beside the Leathery soft coral (Family Alcyoniidae).

There's yet another one peeping in and out underneath of the Brain anchor coral (Euphyllia ancora).

I'm glad that the Circular mushroom corals (Family Fungiidae) are still around as they have been all along.

Unfortunately, I don't find the Acropora corals (Acropora sp.) anymore except for this tiny colony found outside the seawall. It was only slightly bleaching at some tips. 

The space between the branches of the corals make good hiding place for commensals such as this pair of Face-banded coral crabs (Tetralia nigrolineata). They have a bandit-like dark band across its broad face.

Another pair of crabs that I came across would be these colourful Sally-lightfoot crabs (Grapsus albolineatus). They were found near each other for some time. I wonder what they are up to!?

A Spider conch (Lambis lambis) was spotted by myself and Jianlin also found another one higher up on the shore! They are usually very well camouflaged from the top until you flip them over.

One of my favourite shots of the day would be this sedative Pygmy squid (Idiosepius sp.). They are usually actively swimming and that makes photographing these squids hard. I'm glad this tiny little fellow was a little more friendly for me.

There are many Giant carpet anemones (Stichodactyla gigantea) in the lagoon and some of them are homes to the nemos and the Anemone shrimps (Periclimenes brevicarpalis).

Here is another Anemone shrimp found on another host- the Haddon's carpet anemone (Stichodactyla haddoni).

How nice to observe the rising sun peeking from the direction of where St John's Island is.

And we were once again blessed with great weather and spectacular sunrise despite the wet weather forecast. Thank God for that!

With good weather and nice sunrise, it is definitely time for our drone commander Pei Yan to set the drone on flight!

And here we go with the drone taking aerial shots and videos of the reefs and the island. I felt a little weird to be "droned" from above haha!

We had a big team today as many guides who will be leading the upcoming guided walks at the Marine Park are having a recce.

With the rising tides, my last look would be to flip the rocks on the high shores and here are two new finds for me... The first one would be this worm that I have not seen before.

And another would be this clam which I have probably seen before but definitely no impression.

To find out more about Sisters' Island Marine Park, please visit the official Nparks page. Introductory guided walks for members of the public will be organised to offer more opportunities to understand and appreciate our marine biodiversity.

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