Over the last weekend, we went to the Pasir Ris Mangroves with the volunteer nature guides from the Naked Hermit Crabs. The natural wildlife group was formed by like-minded individuals who have come together to host free guided nature walks along our shares and they hope to bring more awareness to the loss of natural habitat in Singapore.
Why Naked Hermit Crabs?
Hermit crabs are commonly seen on sea shores and mangrove swamps. They are typically all over the shore at low tide. The name of the group reminds us of the fragile shelled animal having only it’s shelter (shell) for protection, and the worse can only happen if it loses it. Like hermit crabs without shells, our shores will be fragile too if there are no nature lovers to protect them.
Our Discovery Walk
The Pasir Ris Mangroves is a discovery trail at the side of Pasir Ris Park that is suitable for small kids and families. It is also suitable for parents with a stroller in tow as the boardwalk / footpath is smooth and well-constructed. The boardwalk is also very well maintained with no broken pieces spotted. The trail starts from the car park to Mangrove Jetty at Sungei Tampines.
Date of Walk: 1st Feb 2015
Meeting Time: 430 pm
Duration: roughly 1.5 to 2 hours
Meeting point: (Nearest toilets at carpark entrance)
*Note that date/time/duration is not fixed for every walk. It depends on turn-up rate and response from participants.
MRT : From Pasir Ris MRT/Bus Interchange, it is a short 10-min walk following the foot path (red in picture below) leading to the said meeting point.
We started with registration. Look out for Naked Hermit Crab volunteer with the signage.
We got a quick briefing before we set off. Our group leader is a fine teenager by the name of Sankar. Nice to see a teenager contributing efforts to society and nature rather than staying on the streets. So parents, a hint here : get your kids to love nature and make sure the love grows on them!
There are many creatures look out for in the mangroves, such as mudskippers, tree-climbing crabs, herons and monitor lizards. Sometimes, you may even spot kingfishers and water snakes! It will certainly be an unforgettable experience with your friends and family! In the above sighting of the baby monitor lizard, we learnt from Sankar that monitor lizards are good climbers. Their young lives in trees until they are old enough to fend for themselves. Monitor lizards eat insects, birds, rodents, fish, frogs, other reptiles, eggs, and any other animal small enough for them to catch.
Somebody spotted a grey-coloured cockatoo in the trees and feasting on a Pong Pong fruit. We learnt that the poison from the Pong Pong fruit was used in the olden days to kill rats. Perhaps our Town Councils should explore some relatively cheaper methods of killing rats instead letting the rats community grow then spend hundreds of thousands of residents’ money in eradicating them. And then blame residents for feeding strays.
We didn’t see too many mudskippers around on Sunday. It was said that there hadn’t been too much rain and hence water puddles like this is not everywhere. We also learnt that the mudskipper, though is a fish, is completely amphibious and that they can use their pectoral fins to walk on land.
The kids spotted this fluffy tiny insect crawling on the wooden railing. One of the Dunman High students told us this is the Plant Hopper Nymph. Look at it’s size compared to the wood grain. R was super fascinated with this cute little thing and spent quite a while watching it. 🙂
And this below is national geographic moment – three weaver ants attacking a golden backside ant. R spotted it and went back some 20 metres of path to find me, insisting that I needed to see this. 🙂 We watched the ants for a good few minutes. Neither party gave up their fight. R doesn’t dare to interfere for fear of getting bitten. We don’t know the fate of the golden-backside ant when we left.
Further down closer to the jetty, we came by many attap trees. The kids learnt that these attap leaves were used to make the roofs of attap houses in the olden kampong days, hence the name. And each fruit that we see, only has one attap seed in it, therefore the expensive price. K’s favorite tidbit is attap seed. She would always go for it from the bowl of ice kacang. I’m glad that she has the chance to see the real tree and fruit during this walk because…………………I thought that these trees are palm trees actually. I would have taught her wrong thing if not for the guides. >.<
The walk ended at the jetty. Everybody enjoyed the walk and the scenery ahead. We saw many birds flying home to their nest. And a heron’s nest that my handphone is unable to capture. We also saw “fruit-bearing” mangrove plants lining the river-side (Sungei Tampines). Mangroves reproduce by “giving birth” to live young. The “fruits” that we see hanging on mangrove plants are actually it’s young, waiting for suitable time to drop from it’s mother tree. And because of it’s weight and shape, it will plunge right into the swamp vertically and start taking roots from there.
The kids also learnt that mangroves have stilt roots in order to secure themselves in the water. I also took the opportunity to explain to K about the loss of mangrove habitat due to urbanisation (city growth with new buildings as she understands) was partly to blame for the catastrophic effect of tsunami in Phuket some years back. If there was a mangrove habitat, the intense root system and trees would have absorbed most of the impact before passing on. She told me she doesn’t know what is tsunami (that was one of my puke blood moments if truth be told!)
And there is something secretly that I have knowledge of – mangrove trees take in partial salt water due to it’s proximity to the sea. While other plants will die if you water it with saltwater, mangroves trees have a way to “regurgitate” salt and discharge from it’s system from the underside of it’s leaves. So if you flip over one, you will feel something white and “sandy”. Go taste it! “It feels like salt” ;p
At the Mangrove Jetty
At the end of the trip, the volunteers took out their stack of drawing paper and colouring supplies, and invited all the kids to draw what they had seen earlier. The kids were delighted with the availability of colour pencils and paper and instantly sat down to draw.
Here is R charming all the ladies with his smile and art work. I think he is secretly enjoying all the attention too.
Mangroves at Other Areas in Singapore
Besides Pasir Ris Mangroves, the Naked Hermit Crabs also conduct free guided walks at Chek Jawa, Pulau Semakau and Kusu Island. They do not hold private tours and all their guided tours are FREE! for the public. So do hop over to their website and keep a look out for the next tour by signing up for their newsletter via email (firstname.lastname@example.org ). It will be a memorable outdoor lesson for the kids which we can never get to experience from photographs or books.
Naked Hermit Crabs
Website : http://nakedhermitcrabs.blogspot.sg
Email : email@example.com
The Naked Hermit Crabs has also re-opened the registration for Chek Jawa Boardwalk at Pulau Ubin following the completion of the reconstruction of board walk by National Parks Board (NParks). The first date is 11 April 2015. Do check out their blog post for the latest updates.
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– SAys! Shirley