Thursday, 4 August 2011

Kusu Island

For me, Kusu is all about corals. It is one of the few shores in Singapore (the others being Tanah Merah and Sentosa) which boasts of densely packed coral gardens. For a great overview of how dense the coral growth is, check out the photos on James' blog here . It is hard to imagine that such "coral gardens" remain in urbanised Singapore which is a mere 20 minute boat ride away.

Unfortunately, these "coral gardens" at Kusu which are located outside the sea wall only reveal themselves at the lowest tide. This was not the case during our visit last year, but fortunately for us, we were blessed with a fairly low tide this year. Incidentally, this is also the only area (be it terumbu or natural shore) with the highest concentration of Heteractis magnifica. Large clumps of this anemone could be found clinging onto large rocks and coral rubble. However, no clownfish or anemone shrimp were sighted amongst these anemones. They appeared to prefer the Stichodactyla gigantea and some of the ones I saw had orange body columns. Strangely, the largest giganteas are to be found within the lagoon areas and not outside the sea wall. I also managed to see one Heteractis crispa but no sightings of Stichodactyla haddoni (Haddon's carpet anemone) or Actinodendron (Fire Anemone).

A first for me on this trip were sightings of the elusive Saron shrimp. In fact, they were hardly elusive on this shore as they were all over the place, some of which were fairly large. There were a couple of interesting fish, including a fairly large nervous seabass like fish (possible escapee from the nearby farm at St John's?). However, the trouble with Kusu is the silty conditions which makes the water murky and non-conducive for photography.

Coral-wise, one could hardly be disappointed with the diversity that could be found here. The most obvious corals were the large boulder-shaped faviidae and Heliopora. Others include large fields of Montipora, Pavona (Lettuce), Pocillopora (Cauliflower), Psammocora (Sandpaper), Galaxea (Galaxy), Fungidae (Mushroom), Goniopora, Mussidae (Brain), Acropora, Porites (Pore coral), Montipora, Turbinaria (flowery Disk), Alcyoniidae (Leathery soft coral) and Nephtheidae (Asparagus Flowery soft coral). I'll let the photos speak for themselves. You can also view more photos here

Terumbu Raya

On the eve of the Hungry Ghost Festival, a few intrepid inter-tidal fanatics departed Singapore at 4:30am for a foray into yet another submerged reef – Terumbu Raya. This was my second pre-dawn visit to the reef which is located across from Pulau Semakau. Situated next to it are 2 other submerged reefs, Terumbu Bemban and as the name suggests, the very large Terumbu Bemban Besar. My first visit to Terumbu Raya wasn’t particularly memorable, other than my first encounter with a Snake Eel foraging around the substrate in search of food. It’s always good not to have high expectations, because you don’t end up getting disappointed. There was certainly no reason to be disappointed given my first encounter with a long-horned cow fish (Lactoria cornuta) (special thanks to Kok Sheng who found it by the reef edge) and a tiny frog fish (Lophiocharon trisignatus) (special thanks to Chay Hoon for showing it to me). Other encounters included the usual reef octopus, quite a few juvenile barracudas (Sphyraenidae), a mosaic reef crab (Lophozozymus pictor), glimpses of large low narrow fish splashing about, a long-spined black sea urchin (Diadema), a fire anemone (Actinodendron), a large bubble-tipped anemone (Entacmaea quadricolor) and 2 flatworms (one of which was an Acanthozoon) .

But the thing which intrigued me most was the amazing diversity of coral particularly along the reef’s edge. In fact, I spent so much time checking out the coral there, I had no time to explore 90% of the rest of the reef. Although the coral colonies were not as dense as say, Kusu Island, there was greater diversity in terms of species found in the same area. Not only were some of the colonies fairly large, some of the single boulder-shaped corals were huge and came in an array of bright colours, particularly the brain corals. I managed to see colonies of flowery disk coral (Turbinaria), smooth plate montipora coral (Montipora), ridged plate coral (Merulina), ringled plate coral (Pachyseris), a huge moon coral (Diploastrea heliopora), lettuce coral (Pavona), carnation coral (Pectinia), anemone coral (Goniopora), smooth mushroom hard coral(Fungiidae) , long mushroom coral (Fungiidae), galaxy coral (Galaxea), grooved brain coral (Symphyllia), lobed brain coral (Lobophyllia), cabbage brain coral and a whole bunch of different favids including boulder-sized jigsaw maze favid coral (Faviidae), pore coral (Porites). I noticed also that this reef had more brain corals than any of the other reefs I visited. I wonder thy this is so.

One noticeable feature about this reef is the steep drop after the reef’s edge. I believe there is much to be discovered by diving in the area, particularly the channel between Terumbu Raya and Pulau Semakau. After all, dolphins, turtles and sharks are known to frequent the area.

You can view more photos of the trip here .