Sunday, 23 January 2011

Big Sisters

Today was the 2nd shore trip for 2011 and my third visit to Big Sisters island. My first ever shore trip was also to Big Sisters sometime in July 2010 (first sighting of a turtle) and that was during the wee hours of the morning. Strangely, we tend to visit Sisters island in the dark.

What promised to be an exciting trip full of new discoveries ended up in major disappointment thanks to the combination of strong winds and not very low tides. The ripples reduced vision drastically and made it virtually impossible to shoot anything decent. This explains the lack of photos published today. On a brighter note, I did manage to see a fairly large squid in the lagoon, a rather cute Moon-headed side-gill slug (Euselenops luniceps) and some Acanthozoon flatworms.

Anyhow, here's hoping the winds won't be as strong during next week’s trips to St. John's and Little Sisters.

Saturday, 22 January 2011

pulau hantu

Today, I joined Ria and the group for my first shore trip of the year, this time to Pulau Hantu. It's my virgin trip to the island, and I was pretty psyched about it because it's i've read about the place on various blogs such as the Hantu Bloggers . In fact, it's also one of the better diving locations in the Southern islands mainly because of the rich biodiversity one can find in its watery depths.

We departed from West Coast pier and made out way towards the island but not without passing Pulau Bukom which we all know, is a major oil refinery hub. It's simply incredible how our reefs can thrive just next to heavy industries such as oil refining. Quite a bit of the reef sits in the channel between the 2 islands.

Like Sisters' Island, Pulau Hantu consists of 2 islands but unlike Sisters' Island, the islands here are separated by a huge lagoon. By the time we arrived, the lagoon was already emptying out. The lagoon is quite vast but relatively "empty", thus making it an excellent swimming lagoon not just for humans, but also turtles and even sharks. Most of the coral can be found beyond the sea wall areas.

Although the tide wasn't particularly low today, it was still low enough to venture beyond the sea wall. Usually, you would find it more interesting than the lagoon areas, though one should be careful where he treads especially at around the edge of the reef. Chay Hoon mentioned that it is a gradual drop and the depths can reach between 14 and 20 metres.

I managed some good sightings today, some of which were a first for me. The first encounter of the day this small coastal horseshoe crab (Tachypleus gigas). Ria thinks this is possibly a first sighting of it on P. Hantu. Initially, I wasn't sure if it was alive as a bit of its shell had broken away, but as I approached it, it began to move towards the sea. I also managed to see my first blue spotted fantail ray (Taeniura lymma) keeping fairly still under a clump of sargassum. Others firsts included the Mosiac Reef Crab (Lophozozymus pictor), the red & pink wriggly star anemone, a tiny false clownfish (Amphiprion ocellaris) within a giant carpet anemone (Stichodactyla gigantea) and a sunflower mushroom hard coral (Heliofungia actiniformis). Strangely, I didn't see any octopus or much in the way of fish.

Corals wise, I didn't notice any bleaching, which is always a relief. The team felt that there were less corals now than before. There were quite a lot of leathery coral, with some growing as large as a metre or so in diameter. There was also quite a lot of asparagus flowery coral and giant carpet anemones. There aren't as many favids here as compared to some of the other places like Kusu Island, Big Sisters and even some of the submerged reefs like Cyrene. Nevertheless, none of the ones I came across were bleaching, and many still retained their luminescent colours.

Tomorrow (or today rather), I will be making my 3rd visit to Big Sisters! Am hoping to make more exciting discoveries!