Apr 21, 2007

Sentosa's original underwater world

What's on the Sentosa shores slated for reclamation as part of the Sentosa IR development?

Yesterday, I had a look at these shores. It was the first time I'm visiting this area. And at a super low tide. We are seldom at Sentosa at such low tides, preferring to spend these rare occasions on other shores. And when we do visit Sentosa, we usually focus on the area near the Tanjung Rimau beacon.

By now, I should have learnt not to underestimate our shores. Still, I was surprised by the very large growths of hard corals on these shores.
About 8ha of shores on both sides of the cable car tower are slated for reclamation (see media articles about these plans.)

The corals there were particularly large and well formed. With many different kinds growing next to one another.
Besides the usual commonly encountered hard corals of the Family Favidae ...
...I saw two different kinds of mushroom corals.
And large specimens of rarer corals such as Galaxy coral (Galaxea sp.)
Hydnophora sp.
Pavona sp.
and this pretty coral with star-like corallites, possibly Cyphastrea sp.?
Other species encountered included the Anemone corals (Goniopora sp.) , Disk corals (Turbinaria sp.), Psammocora sp., Montipora sp., Pocillopora sp. and Porites sp.

The most stunning were these large colonies of Anchor coral (Euphyllia ancora?).
Each clump was about 1m across, and there were several of them. The ground near them was very soft, so I couldn't get very close to them.

The Anchor coral colonies were very much alive, although at low tide, the long tentacles were retracted into the skeletons.

There large corals were only those seen exposed at low tide. It is possible that there are more that remain submerged in deeper waters.

I also startled a little all-black frogfish! And had glimpses of little reef fishes darting about in the water.

There were stretches of sandy areas between the reef flat and the sea wall. The silty sand flats were dotted with clumps of Tape Seagrass (Enhalus acoroides) and sprinkles of Spoon seagrass (Halophila ovalis). There was also a good variety of seaweed.

On the sandy silty shore, what a delightful surprise!
Several sand dollars that I've never seen before!

These animal were pinkish, slightly pentagonal with thick rounded edges, so they looked a bit like angular Marie biscuits. They had long prickly spines and moved quite rapidly. Could these be Laganum depressum? Described in Dr Lane's BP Guidebook to Sea Stars and Other Echinoderms of Singapore as "occasionally collected in trawl hauls of the Southern Islands". This sand dollar is listed as vulnerable in the Singapore Red Data Book. Indeed, I've never come across them before.

As the sun rose and I headed back, what an amazing sight!

In a pool right in front of the Underwater World is a thicket of living branching corals (Montipora sp.). The ground was crowded with colonial anemones and other sedentary marine life. Little fishes were darting everywhere! Nature's own maintenance-free touch pool!

The area of branching corals was quite extensive! Although the corals look dead in this photo, they were very much alive.

Unbenownst to the thousands of visitors who throng the artificial habitats in the Underwater World, right at its doorstep is nature's own integrated resort for marine creatures.

How sad that these living shores will be buried to make way for an aquarium and other artificial marine habitats.

For the latest on plans for the Sentosa IR.

Larger photos of this visit has been uploaded to flickr under the set Slated for Reclamation and assembled as a powerpoint available for download (4MB) on the wildsingapore website.

Joseph Lai has done a great compilation of Coastal Features of Blakang Mati 1884 on his eart-h.com website. Blakang Mati was the name of the island before it was changed to Sentosa.


JC said...

wow. Any idea how long are the torch/hammer coral remain exposed?

Ria Tan said...

I was there for a minus zero tide which doesn't happen very often in a year. The Euphyllia colonies were exposed for about an hour during that super low tide period.

I've seen other Euphyllia colonies elsewhere similarly exposed for that duration.

However, I've not seen such large colonies before, certainly not so close to the mainland. The colonies at Sentosa looked very healthy.

Btw, was nice to finally meet you yesterday!

JC said...

Yup. I can imagine the beautiful corals from ur pix. Its such a waste & sad that all these lovely coral reef and its animals have to go away for the IR. Any idea if they are in the conservation plans from the developers? Last I rem, they are building a biggest marine park?

Ria Tan said...

Genting promised a meeting with those interested in discussing conservation plans and, yes, the aquarium.

However, to date, I haven't had a follow-up from them.

I'll be emailing to remind them.

For past and latest media reports and blog entries on this issue see wildsingapore's Sentosa IR media listing.

Unknown said...

It's really very amazing! Didn't know there are so much life at the portion of Sentosa. Indeed we should not underestimate our shores.

Very sad that soon after it is discovered, it is going to disappear.

Dai Jiao said...

I went to the shore to take a look on Monday morning. I walked along the shore from Rasa Sentosa side to the underwater world part. It was really beautiful. Although the tide is not super low but I can still see the big patch of Montipora spp. of coral. Felt that it is quite ironic that people had to pay to visit an artificial aquarium over a natural one that is so beautiful, interesting and free. Do visit this shore before it is gone.

JC said...

Hi Ria, possible to keep me in the loop on that "meeting"? Thanks

Ria Tan said...

Would be glad to Jenn Chye!

Thanks Helen for sharing about your trip there. And Kok Sheng for posting the issue on your blog.

Yes, we'll need to visit this shore before it's gone!

Unknown said...

At the rate we're going around developing all our nature sites, there won't be any nature left for our children. Imagine our children growing up in a totally landscaped garden city with high GDP devoid of any spontaneous nature. I wonder if that's the kind of future our leaders want for Singapore and Singaporeans.

Muhd Imran said...

I am often proud of Singapore for its aggressiveness in development and accumulating wealth for our livelihood... but often unfortunately at the expense of nature both on land and in water.

I feel that there is nothing we can do in the name of development but rescue whatever we can for the sake of our children and our children's children.

Since the last reclamation and works to make Sentosa what is it today, the marine life came and made their habitat there. Hopefully that will happen again, once the IR is done... yes years from now.

Today, is there a way we can rescue as many by transplanting these beautiful marine life... our marine life to another designated sanctuary somewhere?

What are the things necessary to do it... permissions, assistance from government bodies and other wildlife associations, funds... etc?

These are incredible creatures that deserve humans' help because humans are taking over their places.

You are a wonderful group of people with compassion. Bless you all.

::tingyu:: said...

May I know where the sentosa corals are shifted to? Do these corals include intertidal corals? How deep is the corals' new home and will I be able to access them?

Ria Tan said...

Those are excellent questions tingyu. Unfortunately, I do not know. One way is perhaps for us to ask Resorts World. If more people ask questions, they will have to share the answers.

I did a quick update of the relocations in a separate post