a publication of Sungei Buloh Nature Park

Vol 8 No 3
Dec 2001

chek jawa's
wet wonderland

aqua-tion for life roles of
water in life

where water
meets the lands
fishes of the Park

dispersal by h2o
seeds dispersed by water

some interesting notes on the pacific golden plover

10th international coastal cleanup 2001 and 5th mangrove cleanup

young ecologists@
sungei buloh nature park

an ode to a turtle
chek jawa's
wet wonderland
joseph lai
conservation officer

introduces another form of wetland found in Singapore

What is a natural beach?

Can one be found in Singapore?

One answer might be: 'It should be a natural beach (not man-made) surrounded by forests and home to many kinds of animals and native plants. And the marine life should be rich; with starfishes, sea horses, crabs and fishes all thriving in a community amongst seaweed and sea grass beds that hug the sandy shore. A natural beach is a wilderness area full of "living wonders" waiting to be explored and discovered'. To a naturalist the answer seems obvious. A natural beach is indeed one full of natural wonders. We do have one wilderness beach that was discovered recently in Singapore - Chek Jawa. Surprise! Surprise!

Chekjawa—a natural haven comprising of six distinct habitats - coastal forest, mangrove, sandy beach, sandflats (lagoon), coral rubble and a tiny island (Pulau Sekudu or Frog island)—quietly tucked away at the easternmost corner of Pulau Ubin. Since its discovery late last year, Chek jawa has charmed and captivated all who dared ventured out along a two-hour (by foot) dirt track.

The list of wonders in Chek Jawa is incredible—stick insects, Flying Dragons, Oriental Pied Hornbills, junglefowls, wild boars, otters, Seashore Nutmeg Trees, Sea Anemones, Seahorses, nudibranchs, sea cucumbers, Cow Fishes, octopuses, stingrays, starfishes, decorator crabs, shellfishes, sea grasses, seaweed, and sponges, etc. And the list is ever growing! During low tide, everyone seemed to see something that others did not, especially in the sandflat at the lagoon.

However, let me point out something that you might not 'see'. Operating quietly around the lagoon are two high and protective sandbars that trap and regulate water during low tide. They are indeed the backbones of the lagoon. Without them, the ecosystem within cannot survive (see sketch map) . Water exits through northern tidal creeks and southern channels, only to be slowed down by the marine vegetation, which acts as an important refuge for animals and a trap for nutrients. It is a miniature forest below water!

Like blood, water needs aeration to he life supporting. Water movement creates that as well as regulating temperature and salinity in the shallow pools.

base map by Teh Tiong Sa and Yap Hui Boon

What cannot be 'seen' are also the millions of organisms in the sand and mud. These are tiny and microscopic, but highly significant in the chemistry and well-being of the lagoon. And there are the bigger marine animals—such as the sea horse, sea cucumber, tube anemone, sea pen, colourful sponges, etc which you don't need diving gear to see—just walk on the sandbars or around the 'touch- pools' within the lagoon during low tide! During your walks, you may even be greeted by a friendly resident wild-pig.

Chek Jawa is a unique nature heritage richly endowed in all things natural, located right at our own backyard. A midget in size, only about one square kilometre in area, but it packs a big punch in terms of biodiversity and having six natural habitats (communities) within this small area.

Chek Jawa's is rare and has an identity and character of its own—it reveals and transforms itself into a natural WETwonderLAND during low tide. When the tide comes in, it is fully submerged—its secrets and treasures are again hidden, waiting yet to be discovered another day.

Chek Jawa is an open gym and classroom, and a perfect poet's corner for "body, mind and spirit" all in one. Chek Jawa—a place in the heart—yours truly.
© Sungei Buloh Nature Park