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How often have you visited the seashore, perhaps to swim, do some fishing, or just to stroll? If your intention is to explore the diversity of life there, i.e., be a beachcomber, then there are some things you ought to do, and many others that you should not.

TIME, WHEN? Pick a low tide by consulting the Tide Tables issued by the Port of Singapore Authority or the swimming times in the local newspapers. There are two low tides everyday. One is usually during daylight hours. Since low tides vary in their depth, it is important to pick the lowest possible. A 0.0m low tide is ideal as the entire intertidal zone will be exposed. Occasionally the tides may go even lower, commonly called "minus tides" leg. -0.2m). Try to beachcomb at low tides 0.5m or lower. If you haven't realised by now, you must plan ahead to have a fruitful outing. As a rough measure, the tides will either increase or decrease by 0.1 m each subsequent day and be later by about 40 minutes. That is, if today's low tide is 0.2m at 9.00am, tomorrow's may be 0.3m at 9.45am! Sometimes, the tides may not vary for several days, but the times still change. More about tides.

TIME, HOW LONG? Try to reach the area about an hour before the low tide. You can then follow the tide down to its lowest level, where the conditions will stay that way for one to two hours.

FOOTWEAR Avoid footwear with smooth soles and above all, do not wear slippers. Wellington and diving boots provide optimal foot protection, but an old pair of track shoes with laces would suffice.

HANDS A pair of cotton gloves would also be helpful, especially if you are examining rocks which can be encrusted with sharp shells or barnacles.

ON COLLECTING Don't! Many beachcombers are obsessed with collecting specimens. There are good reasons for avoiding this practice unless one has a scientific basis for doing so. Almost all the specimens will die after a very short while. Remember, they are marine animals, and few of us have the resources to keep these alive. It would be much better to observe them and if you must have some mementoes of these animals, take a photograph.

EXPERTISE AND GUIDANCE If you really want to benefit from beachcombing, try to get a marine biologist or experienced person to accompany you. A newcomer will almost certainly miss many of the interesting specimens that are there. It is immensely more satisfying to have someone who can point out to you what is interesting, what the organisms are, and what to look out for. On your part, you could keep a notebook to record your observations.

BE CONSIDERATE There is a golden rule for any beachcomber. Leave everything as it was. If you must move a rock over to look at the animals underneath, turn it back again. Otherwise, many of the creatures may die from exposure.

Singapore Seashores to visit ...
Shore environment
From A Guide to Seashore Life by Dr Leo W H Tan and Peter K L Ng
Published by the Singapore Science Centre and sponsored by BP

@Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research and Singapore Science Centre