Jong: DIVE OF THE YEAR!
'Nuff said. DIVE OF THE YEAR. The dive that TOPS it all... Today we dived at this small little island called JONG. Pulau Jong
Have ALWAYS wanted to dive here for leisure... Just keep missing the chance to! The first time I dived here it was love at first sight... corals corals corals... but it was just a reallllyyy realllyyy short recce dive. The second dive I had here was last year, during a BWV Reef Friends Survey
. And of course, when you're doing a benthic coral survey, you hardly get to see anything else other than what's beneath the transect tapes!! What with the currents picking up and all (Jong has really strong currents if you go at the wrong time)...
And THIS YEAR, I missed TWO chances to dive at Jong... I missed the RF Survey dive (where they saw 3 black tip reef sharks...wow) 'cos I was ill... AND missed a leisure trip arranged by dive-nazi-Daniel (who said Jong was alright...nothing spectacular... etc...think they weren't as lucky as us...JONG ROCKS!). Determined not to let the last chance for this year I am probably going to get to dive Jong, we arranged a trip out on a fine sunny Saturday to visit the Jong's fine reef (which is coincidentally 5-6 times the size of the actual island!).
Abby and I woke up super early to buy ingredients for our little "picnic" on the boat. The night before, we were in the lab till past midnight. Both of us got barely any sleep, and I kept waking up every hour on the hour 'cos I keep dreaming I was late for the dive!! The excitement was building...
The logistics went all good and well that fine morning... And we got Mr Loh's friend's boat that day 'cos Mr Loh has been pre-booked by the Hantu Blog
, who were also out for a dive that day!
Mr Loh's friend! I call him James Bond no. 2. He drove his boat right into us at the marina! On the boat...
After what seemed like an awfully SLOW ride (I had a feeling James Bond no.2 didn't really know his way to Jong), we finally reached! The water looked SO inviting and promised good visibility.
Pulau Jong...from the surface
And we weren't disappointed... the vis was a great 3.5 - 4m and the marine live AMAZING!!!
OK I will do this systematically...we went down with the aim of helping zeehan survey her gobies. So off we went to the deeper parts looking for seawhips and silty areas where gobies like to hang out... I was suppose to be taking photo records of the gobies while Zee accounts for the species seen. Of course, along the way, we get distracted... by...
ALL THE NUDIBRANCHS!!!!!!!!!!!! This one was a baby pterollidia...SO ADORABLE! Tiny tiny (compare the nudibranch to the strand of algae next to it)...These were EVERYWHERE...I'm not kidding you...
THERE WERE BABY NUDIBRANCHS EVERYWHERE!!! After some time, I stopped taking photos of them... and stopped telling the rest that there were nudibranchs... it was just SO MANY. I think I stopped counting after like 20... BABY ONES... ADULT ONES.. BIG FAT JUICY ONES...
Baby Phyllidia pustulosa... Another baby nudibranch! I don't know what this one is though... Medium-sized Phyllidia ocellata... Large Phyllid... BIG FAT JUICY Phyllidia ocellata... And one on a hydroid!!!
Nudibranchs, as some of you would know, have that bright colouration to warn predators against eating them. Nudibranchs ingest the stinging cells of hydroids that contain toxins, and incorporate these toxins into themselves. This makes them either bad tasting or even poisonous to their predators...
Even a giant polyclad flatworm, draping itself over a sponge!
Still, I managed to catch a few goby shots... most of them of the same type of goby... but I DID take goby shots!!
The FISH LIFE at Jong was just AMAZING!!! Coupled with the good vis... it was just an amazing AMAZING amazing experience... There were schools of parrotfishes, fusiliers, yellow runners, snappers, rabbitfishes, groupers... we even saw a HUGGEE HUUGGGEEE tuskfish and a HUUUGGEEE grouper (OKlah... about 70-80cm?). THREE different kinds of butterflyfishes: the 8 banded, copper banded and the kite butterfly fish. I have NEVER in my history of diving in Singapore, encountered all these 3 butterflyfishes in the same place before... So it was thoroughly exciting... 3 different species of angelfishes too!
OK I'll just stop raving about it and show you some evidence!
So much fishes on the reef! It was amazing! The tail end of a school of parrotfish! And the fox-face rabbitfish in the background! School of fusiliers! Grazing parrotfishes! The BIG ASS tuskfish! And check out the snapper caught in the shot! And the HUGE MEAN-looking GROUPER! CHECK OUT THOSE TEETH MAN!!!! NASTY! (it was deep, it was dark...and I couldn't use flash 'cos of the backscatter...)
Groupers are predators... and are therefore animals higher up in the food chain. Having such predators around is a good indication that the ecosystem is healthy (healthy enough to support animals further up the food chain...). I am not surprised... since they spotted sharks the last time RF did a survey at Jong!!
Underneath this huge Turbinaria coral... was another HUGE Diploastrea heliopora coral colony...and underneath THAT were.... PIPEFISHES!!! JANSS'S PIPEFISHES (YES, it's pronounced as YANS'S, Doryrhamphus janssi) TO BE EXACT!!! NEW SPECIES RECORD FOR SINGAPORE!!! AMAZZINNNGGGGGGGGG!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! LOOK AT THAT!!! LOOK AT THE COLOURS!!!! Doryrhamphus janssi. AMAZING... Such bright orange! Didn't know they even existed here!
Zeehan found them in a crevice under the coral... WHY she poked her head in the hole under there one can only wonder... BUT THANK GAWD SHE DID! Even when she pointed them out to me... I couldn't see it... I spent A LOT of time trying to catch a photo that was in FOCUS... those damn pretty things were so thin and squirming about like worms! It was a challenge... I had to nicely lodge myself under the coral... HOLD MY BREATH.. if not my bubbles will cause a rain of sediments and I'll have to wait for a few minutes for the water to clear up before I can manage another shot... BUT IT WAS WORTH IT! WELL WORTH IT... New species record for Singapore.. well worth it...
And Zeehan REALLY does have a pair of very SHARP eyes... she also spotted these!
A shrimp in its burrow... (Periclimenes tenuipes) This HUGE tiger cowry... it was larger than my hand...I completely swam past it! You can see part of its mantle coming out...
But I wasn't too bad myself... I found THIS:
Gorgonian shrimps! In RED too! There's TWO OF THEM... The female (the larger one) was actually gravid (carrying eggs)! Can you see it....?
The seafans at Jong were also just AMAZING...
A baby feather star on a comb gorgonian (seafan)
Our second dive, we went further out and we found this seafan garden...and this WALL!!! A WALLL... it was SO COOL!! Zeehan calls it an ESCARPMENT...haha... she and her powdeful Engrand...always coming up with cheam names for things! She's right of course, BUT IT WAS SO LIKE A WALL!!!
We were finning along and then VROOP... nothing... but this vertical drop. I don't this we went all the way down... It was almost 3.30pm and Abby needed to be back on mainlan by 4.30pm... (we dived for 2hrs for the first dive... and close to that again for the second one...). Oh I forgot to tell you what happened to our planned "picnic" lunch. It went down the aeosophagus just like that... We decided that time underwater was more important than lunch...
Anyway, back to the "escarpment"... It was just magnificent. It was FULL of seafans... and sea whips... and nudibranchs... and interesting nooks and crannies... And that was where we saw the HUGE A** grouper too...and the yellow lined angelfish (Pomacanthus annularis
)... And there were just SCHOOLS of fusiliers ALL ROUND US... They were circling the wall... I was just stunned... It didn't even cross my mind to take a video!!
The view UP from the escarpment...
SERIOUSLY... The whole time... me and zee (we were buddies... if you didn't already realise that...) didn't feel like we were diving in Singapore! It could have been in Manado for all we cared... Manado with a 3.5m visibility! But it was still SO DARN AMAZING! It actually felt quite surreal...
And the coral cover was also equally surprising...
The colonies that were at Jong were just so huge!! Giant soft coral! I have never seen such big ones in Singapore before!
But as we were diving, we also realised that the reefs of Pulau Jong is not without damage or impact... there was the distinctive silt layer covering what used to be corals, some colonies were bleaching and curiously, a HUGE boulder coral was dislodged and overturned!
Overturned Porites colony...that rolled down the slope and is bleaching...
Some parts of the reef does look like it's been rammed into by something... Singapore has very busy waters, with ships sailing past here and there and everywhere 24/7. But it's sad if they don't take care, and ground onto our reefs... Grounding causes a lot of damage on the ship itself... but it does even MORE damage on the reef on which it grounds! We have so little coral reefs left in Singapore (compared to what it used to be) and every square metre of reef counts in supporting what diverse marine life we still see today... So please, if you're commandeering a ship, TAKE CARE! And if you SEE any ship that has grounded on our reefs, please take a photo and let us know
Places like Pulau Jong, Pulau Hantu, Saint John's Island and many many more of our southern islands have such rich marine life... don't you think they deserve to be protected? Right now, none of our coral reefs are protected under proper legislation. But if you think they should be, write your views to firstname.lastname@example.org
. (Read more of the story HERE
See more photos of Pulau Jong HERE
Also see Jimmy's (Gilldivers) photos HERE