Tuesday, 10 July 2007

George Watson's College @ Tioman [28 June 2007-06 July 2007]

Okies. Here comes a slew of photos to make up for the lack of updates ^^ Can't believe that (most of) the folks from GWC have gone back to Edinburgh. The week plus that was spent with them sure has flown by oh-so quickly!!! *sobz* Anyways, I didn't really take that many photos (Maybe I'm over my triger-happy phase? *yeah, rite*)

Since this is not gonna be any proper chronological order, will just put them in a *hopefully* coherent manner, and try to get the names of the few terrestrial critters I photographed correct as well.... That being said, I HAVE to start this off with THE highlight of the trip. SHARK RAY!!!! (Rhina ancylostoma)

Definitely NOT something you get to see everyday. Wonder if there are actually more people who know what this is as compared to whale sharks and mantas.... And NO, this is NOT a guitarfish or a shovelnose ray. It has a broad rounded head unlike the pointy one that guitarfishes and shovelnoses have. There's also the dangerous looking ridges above the eyes and along the center of its head. More surprisingly, this fella's normally found on/near bottoms of coastal seas, though this one was spotted at the surface, in the midst of floating trash and guck that was washed out by the heavy rains the previous days.

Being biologists, the bunch of us just couldn't resist the chance to hop into the water with it, and even when we came close, it didn't duck away into the blue. Something was definitely wrong. The general consensus was that it was probably dying, maybe due to some trash it mistook for food and swallowed. Was rather amazing seeing this shark ray up close and personal, yet a little disheartened by seeing it in the state it was. Do think twice before conveniently chucking that piece of trash into the sea/beach/mangrove/shore/river.....

On a slightly more cheerful note, we also managed to see a number of amazing (and healthy looking) creatures while exploring the different habitats. One example is this really shy spider conch that was playing peek-a-boo with us. Really cute and lovely eyes it has,yar? This gastropod with its gorgeous shell has good reason to be shy around humans. Many of our "tropical island" souvenir shops sell numerous merchandise made of nicely polished, in-great-condition shells. Ever wonder why the shells look so beautiful? It's not due to human polishing but due to its original inhabitant!! Those shells were all collected while the animals were very much alive. These animals were then killed for those pretty shells that tourists love oh-so-much. Do think twice, thrice, and many more times before you pick out a souvenir from your holidays, and avoid buying stuff with shells....If the demand stops, so will the supply...(If it happens the other way round, NOBODY would be able to actually enjoy these beautiful animals anymore!!)

Amazingly enough, this was the one and only nudibranch I photograhed the entire trip! Think its a blue dragon (Pteraeolidia ianthina) that was nicely curled up into a ball. The cerata (the fingerlike/winglike extensions along its length) are kinda longer that those on the blue dragons I usually see in Singapore, but it was fun seeing it at the rather sandy bay we were at.

This zooanthid was spotted in the coastal mangrove area (meaning no freshwater influence). There were just clumps of them all around!

The zooanthid was not the only marine creature living side-by-side with the mangrove plants. This single carpet anemone (Stichodactyla sp.) was spotted under some Rhizophora sp. roots!?! This particular individual seemed to be by it lonesome self with no other fellow anemones or any of the possible commensals.

However, while we were diving a few days later, we spotted another carpet anemone. This time with a couple of Clark's anemonefish in it! Ever wonder how carpet anemones can confer protection to the fish with those short, stubby tentacles? Wonder no longer!! When the anemonefish detects a threat to itself (and/or its anemone home), it brushese rather rapidly against the carpet anemone, causing the anemone to fulr in (like in the photos below), and then it tucks itself into the folds created. This way, any potential predator would have to come in contact with the anemone's stinging tentacles before it can reach the anemonefish. Neat, eh?

So back to the coastal mangrove. While I was happily shooting away at the carpet anemone, this juvenile cardinalfish hiding in its mangrove root nursery was clearly eyeballing me and wondering what the *beep* I was doing. Its just a very ordinary carpet anemone mah!!

Further in, we also spotted this possibly resident whitetail stingray (Himantura granulata). Accuse me of being a snob but am glad to see any ray that is not the blue-spotted ribbontail ray (Taeniura lymma)!! Just see them a little too often~~~

It was also great to see the burrowing giant clam (Tridacna crocea) in the Malaysian waters. There was even one big piece of coral rubble with like 10 of them in close proximity!!

One thing this trip has helped me greatly is the further exposure I had to terrestrial life. This divejunkie here simply spends too much time in/by the sea!! Here's a HUGE primary forest tree to welcome us to the original forest on P.Tioman.

One of the many lizards that graced the trail to Juara, the dark round-eyed gecko (Cnemaspis nigridius). You can see that part of the tail is a lighter brown with hardly any markings on it. Its a regenerated tail to replace the original one that dropped off due to some threat or fight it was in. Do not underestimate the regenerative prowess of lizards, yar?

I know this is a rather crap photo, but 'tis what you get on a basic digital camera with a built in wide-angled lens... One of the sharp-eyed teachers spotted this green crested lizard (Bronchocela cristella) in one of the trees, and this critter can be found in Singapore as well!! Need to start opening up my eyes more when I'm walking around...

While resting by a stream during our lunch break, a few of the GWC students (obviously still in spotting mode) caught sight of this copper-cheeked frog (aka white-lipped frog) (Rana chalconota). Also native to Singapore, this amphibian is not exactly very common, so... GREAT SPOT GUYS!!!

On to slightly less reconisable stuff, the terrestrial hammerhead flatworms!!! In gardens, one species of these interesting looking land planarians spell bad news as they feed on earthworms. However, in the wild, they are part of the ecosystem here in SEA where they are native, having its own little role to play in the forest community.

Finally managed to see a live cicada after goodness knows how many cicada casts. =^-^= Simply fabulous to have this little fella posing and preening itself while the students were enjoyling themselves in the the waterfall swim.

A quick swim at the waterfall to cool off before heading to Kampung Juara and the long boat ride back....

Scenic shots down the southern side of Pulau Tioman. Long as the boat ride was, we were treated to gorgeous scenery with great weather, it's just so tough to figure out which turned out to be the best shot. Trust me. There are many more of these shots!!

Obviously, there was much to smile on the way back. A good dose of sun for those wanting a tan, a nice long boat ride in relatively calm seas for those needing a nap, and great scenery for the shutterbugs!!

When we moved over to Melina beach for the diving leg of the trip, this nice expanse of intertidal area was just right in front, with plaintain squirrels as our furry neighbours. ^^ Do click on the thumbnail for the full view!!

The diving starts~~~

One of the first things we saw were these potato urchins!!! Also known as sea potatoes as well as heart urchins. Small things around 5-6cm in diameter, with hundreds just covering the sandy bay that we were at for the AOW students to practise their navigational skills. In the same area, I managed to spot a peacock flouder as it fouldered away....



Hammerhead sharks!! No, we didn't see any of the actual hammerheads, just the OW group that was named hammerheads. The other groups were clownfish, dolphins, reef sharks, stingray, and the AOW group being turtles...

SO of course we saw turtles!! Many thanks to Ben for spotting and pointing out this hawksbill turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata)) to everybody. This one was fully grown since it was near to a metre in length. Great that it was nicely occupied with eating, so I managed to get nice closeups of it ^^ You can see the reef fishes benefited as they pick up little scraps that have come loose due to the turtle's chomping...

False clownfish in anemone

Our googly-eyed roomie (a common jumping spider) at Paya saying "Don't leave me out!!" So that's it for now. *phew* That felt like a rather long entry in ages!!


Siyang said...

wowwwwwwww....... nice pictures as usual! Hope to see u in tioman!

juanhui said...

*lol* blog only post up the nice pics mah... but not expected to go to tioman any time soon la...have a fin trip!!

Siyang said...

O... srry, overestimated u lao~~ ;p and its fun not fin trip.. lolz. cya around

La tica y el vikingo en Malasia said...

Hola Juan! That was a great blog entry. Fantastic pictures! Saludos!!