Dive excursion to Raffles Lighthouse with MOS Tan Chuan-Jin

Last Monday, I had the privilege to go on a dive excursion organised by NParks for our minister, MOS Tan Chuan-Jin! The trip was attended by staff from NParks, Ministry of National Development, NGO Blue Water Volunteer Dr Zeehan and nature blogger (aka me!). I have to say, that I was really shy (and a little timid) being amongst everyone from the related government agencies… It turned out that everyone was very chatty and they even asked about my giant clam project! During the entire trip, everyone shared about our nature places to MOS Tan and he too, shared with us about his views. Of course, it wasn’t just solely ‘work matters’… MOS Tan also shared with us about his diving experience. Did you know that MOS Tan learnt diving in the UK? That’s really freezing cold waters!

Paparazzi of the people on board (MOS Tan in orange; Dr Lena Chan; Khairah from MND). Thanks to Jeffrey Low (far right) for the opportunity to join the trip. (J. Low looking very happy here… :P)

 
After an hour of ride, we finally reached our destination for the day! Raffles Lighthouse, or also known to some as Pulau Satumu (loosely translated as ‘One Tree Island’), is the southernmost tip of Singapore’s territorial waters. Just beyond the left or right of this island, we are easily into the Indonesian waters.

This photo of the light house was taken during my last coral spawning trip in April 2010. Raffles Lighthouse has been a long-running study site for our work in NUS and continues to be one of the healthiest coral reefs that we have in Singapore. It also holds the highest number of giant clams (both broodstock and natural clams) per unit area.


Just before the dive, J. Low (center) briefing and giving a short orientation on diving to MOS Tan (far right) and Whoo Kiat (foreground). Both of them have not dived in Singapore yet!

 
One of the trip’s aims is to show MOS Tan our coral reefs and its biodiversity. Raffles Lighthouse is one of Singapore’s most representative example of rich biodiversity despite the prolonged impacts from sediments and coastal reclamation. Despite the small reef area, Raffles Lighthouse has a species richness of 141 based on Huang et al. (2009). A spectacular number that may even surpass our neighbouring coral reefs in the region.


NParks Director Mr Wong Tuan Wah (foreground) and Senior Biodiversity Officer Mr Collin Tong ready to snap photos of our local biodiversity.

 
Mr Wong asked me about our giant clam project’s progress and I’m happy to say that we are making good headway with it, in hope of reintroducing these iconic invertebrates to our local reefs. I also shared with MOS Tan the extent of our surveys and the number of species we have. Interestingly, MOS Tan’s first question for me on giant clams was “Can we eat it?” haha! A question that I find amusing as it occurs to me that Singaporeans relate certain marine animals with their stomach. 🙂


From far left: Mr Wong, Whoo Kiat, Collin and MOS Tan all ready to take a dip in our waters!

 
Look at how clear the waters were on that day! You can see everyone’s fins! haha… When I eventually jumped in, my jaw dropped… The visibility was FANTASTIC! I mean it! The top-down visibility was 7m (measured using Secchi disc by Melvin) and across visibility of at least 6m… Zee and I were buddy pairs, and though we were busy looking around, it was still easy to find her! It was probably my deepest dive at Raffles Lighthouse, where at 15m deep, I could see the sloping reefs very clearly (all those fishes that I couldn’t see before, can be seen now!).

On my way to visit my giant clams, I found this! The Nemo family in the Merten’s anemone (Stichodactyla mertensii)… The photos below were taken in September 2010 and then, there were only two medium false clownfish… The family has grown! A large female, two medium males, and two new fish fry! Wow! How they have grown, and likewise the anemone has grown almost twice its previous size!


Underside of the Merten’s anemone… A key taxonomic feature is the regular pinkish bumps.

 
It was a really good day for me too… I found one of my transplanted giant clam baby from batch August 2008! After the babies had grown, I had to let them go and grow up in the ‘wild’… 24 clams were placed on Raffles Lighthouse and now, only one remains. Though it is uncertain what had happened to the 23 others, I’m very happy to see the individual growing up well and healthy… It is encouraging to see that our clams can adapt to the changing environment…

Everyone were in smiles and discussing happily of our sightings later on the boat. MOS Tan also enjoyed the dives and the boat trip out to sea… For me, it is heartening to see everyone on board enjoying themselves about our nature places. As I continue to learn more about how our nature places are being managed and gazetted, I realised that we need to be practical, yet creative. As our country progresses, technology and creativity are likely tools that can help protect our nature places. That’s where Y-generation comes in! For example, producing iPhone apps that incorporates our nature places! Justa recent trip out to Pasir Ris, I was introduced to Vito and family who designed an app for Pasir Ris Boardwalk! Very neat!


Dive log for my Raffles Lighthouse trip. 🙂

 
Before I end my post, I would like to thank all the senior NParks staff for this opportunity to join the trip and for their continued interest in working with us on our giant clam projects! Also, not to forget MOS Tan and the MND staff for their company during the dives… Cheers to all…

Source : http://psychedelic-nature.blogspot.com/2012/03/dive-excursion-to-raffles-lighthouse.html

shared by :     Tan Chuan-Jin

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