Feb 7, 2008

New Year visitation: Sisters Island

First day of the Lunar New Year, and a few of us snuck away from family and friends to make our favourite visitation...to Big Sister Island!This island is right next to major shipping lanes, yet it has one of the most fascinating reefs that ordinary people can visit at low tide.

The island is also home to some wild macaques (monkeys) so our blue cooler with the drinks and snacks is brought out to shore to avoid them being stolen!

The shores of the Sisters are full of hard corals and other animals such as sponges and anemones.
In particular, it has a large number of mushroom corals.
These flat saucer-shaped hard corals are free-living, that is, they are not attached to a hard surface and just lie freely on the sand. So we watch our step to make sure we don't step on these or any of the other hard corals on the shores.
They come in various patterns ...
... and colours. They're just so amazing.

A rarely seen hard coral is Acropora sp. On the Sisters Island, you can still see one or two colonies of these beautiful corals.
Take a closer look to see the tiny tentacles on this living colony.
The swimming lagoon also has large colonies of Anemone corals (Goniopora sp.). The polyps that make up the colony have very long bodies. Here, the maroon-brown polyps are extended on the lower left portion, and retracted on the upper right portion, revealing the white skeleton.

You have too look careful to find interesting things. Even at seemingly boring stretches of coral rubble.Here is the well camouflaged upper side of a Spider conch (Lambis lambis).
The underside is a beautiful glossy purple pink. The living animal quite endearing with large eyes on stalks.

I came across a small patch of this strange sea anemone (at least I think it's a sea anemone).It has pretty pink tipped tentacles.The water today was very clear, but the wind was blowing strong and constantly causing ripples on the water surface. So it was hard to take photos of submerged animals.

I came across a blue flatworm near a pink ascidian. I have a very strong suspicion that the flatworm eats the ascidian.
The others in the team saw lots of nudibranchs. We'll read about these in their blogs shortly. I didn't see any nudis. And only took a photo of this cute little guy that Chay Hoon found.
Alas, an unwelcome discovery was several abandoned driftnets in the lagoon.They were quite old and thoroughly covered with encrusting plants and animals.It's a shame that our already vanishing reefs have to put up with such pressures.

Tomorrow, another visitation to another reef.

Other blog entries about the trip
with more creatures seen!
on Sijie's nature scouter blog
on Samson's manta blog

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