pelagica (pelagica) wrote,

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Pulau Seribu!

It's been four weeks since my visit to the Thousand Islands (a.k.a. Kepulauan Seribu) in the north of Jakarta, Indonesia. Yeah, my blog's being neglected for a really loooong time and I'll have to write and stack everything haphazardly...xP no wonder why it is fossilized by now. Ok. Starting from the vacation then....(WARNING: the text itself is incomprehensibly long-winded). It's only for those who are curious enough for the details....

(If I am correct enough, there will be lots of typos in the text below. Ah well.)
The journey starts when my parents find it quite annoying to listen to my endless beggings on how I would (really) like to have some fresh air and seeing the natural world by myself. Luckily, our headmaster (Mr. Misri. hehe...) is a native of Pramuka Island, and he encouraged my parents to stop fretting on how dangerous and violent Mother Nature could be.

Leaving home at 05:00, we were having a pleasant (and somewhat wavy) journey to the destination island in a public transport boat. As we were getting nearer and nearer to the central cluster of the islands, the water changes in a perfect gradient from yucky dark green to limpid bright blue anyone would associate with clear oceanic water. We arrived in the hot, midday sun, and staying at Mr. Misri's family houses. The food was simply fantastic: spicy, fresh and definitely a great culinary experience; so does with his family: warm and open to such a rare visitor like me. It's as though the whole island owned by the whole (big) family as everybody seems to know each other.

Umm. Perhaps not biologically, but then we can consider them as a network of extended family.

The excitement began when our headmaster introduced the coastal water to my eyes. The sand is white, the water is turquoise and clear, and scattered on the sea floor are....hundreds of sea urchins (a.k.a. Diadema setosum). Black, long-spined and would puncture your skin  at a great efficiency. What's even worse, the tip of the spine would break off and stay in your living tissue. One traditional remedy is to beat the inflicted area till the piece inside your skin is destroyed, and the dousing it with a good splash of fresh urine. yuck. There are lots of other sea creatures that are much more pleasant in the waters of Thousand Islands, and this is the summary:

  • Sponges. while some are dull, others are bright orange, yellow and blue, and some left a burning sensation on your fingertips.

  • Corals. This is the main attraction. Pink, purple, lavender, neon green, green, orange, brown, powder blue, yellow, reddish. Staghorns, branches, clusters, tables, plates, fingers, leaf-like, boulders and discoid. Mostly are from genera Acropora and Porites, these magnificent reef-builders are sadly reduced to feeble shadows of their former glory. Fortunately though, some inhabitants of this island are starting to farm them by transplanting the broken living fragments to solid bases, and waiting for them to grow into the suitable size to be exported as an aquarium commodity internationally. I'm planning to build a coral farm in an affordable size and price on that island - my father has agreed to fund this project. My goal is, to restore and nurse the present coral reef back to its magnificence; 80% will be returned to the ocean, the rest will be sold to aquarium trading around the world. I hope this project will run perfectly....(amen). This is because coral farmers on the island would only return 20% of their corals to nature, which is insignificant compared to the damage done by local human impacts. A good portion of intact, beautiful reef can be found at the periphery of the island.

  • And uh, another reef hazard, the fire coral (Millepora sp.) can be seen growing under docks or in clumps. Beware of their *nasty* sting.

  • No medusa are sighted, by I do brush encounter with an intangible glassy shimmer of a comb jelly.

  • A few peacock worms can be found in the shallows. Also burrowing worms if you are dilligent enough to dig the sand. Some tiny, pale blue flatworms were gliding under a large coral rock.

  • Burrowing giant clams (Tridacna crocea) brighten the otherwise bare coral rocks in water about 1,4 - 3 metres deep. Their blue mantles peek timidly from their tight enclavement. Horse's hoof clams (Hippopus hippopus) were used to be found in great numbers - now, we found only three or four clams throughout the exploration. A drastic contrast if you compare them to the numerous dead shells of their own species in the island - this clam is obviously overharvested, and a group of people were seen hunting for this bivalve only for a few thousands rupiah. Sheesh >:(.

  • A surprising encounter with the squishy Indo-Pacific sea hare (Dolabella auricularia) in the seagrass bed. Usually found in pairs, and are able to eject purple ink in a similar manner of an octopus, hence the local name, cemar laut. Beware because they greatly resemble an algae encrusted rock and their presence sometimes could only be detected by swirls of purple ink in the water (due to the animal squashed under your feet). Some dark-colored phyllidid nudibranch can be found creeping on sand or coral rock.

  • Spider conchs, Lambis lambis, are greatly decimated in the same manner to that of horse's hoof clams. Yes, people are still hungry about them even though they would provide you only a tiny portion of meat. Sure, the shells are beautiful, but I really want them to be considerate about  fragility of the ocean itself.

  • Naaah, no cephalopods that day. Cuttlefishes are reported to be quite common in the deep water though. Also, my teacher mentions that a small species of octopus called gurita api ("fire octopus" - due to its glowing red or orange color) were used to be common, but rare nowadays.

  • Crabs are common, flashing here and there on sand flats. I've seen the tail of a mantis shrimp scurrying deep to its lair, but failed to observe the whole creature.

  • Sea stars. w00t. My fave. Lots of blue ones (Linckia laevigata) are found scattered throughout the deeper parts of the shallow (about 1.2 + metres or  at a very shallow depth, almost feet-deep in the morning) and usually favors protection in the middle of the day. However, at the morning, they seem to occur in a greater number and could be sighted here and there. Sand-sifters (Archaster typicus) of large sizes can be found digging beneath clean sand flats. A tell-tale star-like patterns indicate their existence below the sand.They seem to glide quite rapidly on your hand. Brown, warty species (Nardoa sp.) are seen in the morning. Two were found. Occasional blobs of cushion stars, Culcita novaeguineae (I found two individuals in the first day and another three or four in the morning) can be seen around seagrasses and patches of coral rock among the sand. Locals called them roti-roti (roti means bread) due to their thickness and pentagonal shape.  We were planning to see tiny red sea stars on living corals (their habitat) in the sunrise, but because the water is way too shallow, they don't seem to come out from their living castles.

  • Sea urchins. A perfect way to ruin your day. Diademas are the most prominent feature of the shallows, can be seen clearly from a distance on the shore. So does other three species, the white-spined and shorter ones, although much more uncommon.

  • Sea Cucumbers. Black ones, I guessed for the species Holothuria atra, occuring sparsely on seagrasses and coral crevices. Synaptid sea cucumbers are also quite prevalent, ochre-yellow with dark stripes, and locals call them perut raja ("king's stomach") due to their similarity to a piece of an intestine.

  • Feather stars (mostly Oxycomanthus bennetti, Comanthina nobilis others are quite ambiguous) in the color of black and bright yellow can be seen perched on coral heads and under docks, their sticky pinnules attach readily to my finger, almost unseparable. In the morning, I teased one specimen into opening their crown (not abusing them) and I found two small individuals of distinct species stranded in the shallows among coral branches, colored brown and coppery green.

  • Fishes ! finally the soul of the reef itself reached the discussion. Lots of sergeantfishes, juvenile parrotfishes, damselfishes and occasional butterflyfish swam past my head, and are most common around transplanted and natural coral reefs. I wonder if the benefit is alreadily visible and obvious, why don't they convert themselves from fishermen to environmental farmers ?

  • Also worth the remark is the Stonefish (Synanceia verrucosa) that is almost indistinguishable from an encrusted coral rock. They were reported to be occasionally common around corals and on seagrass beds, and locals who fell victim to this horrid species is more than your fingers can count.  The poison it  secretes in the gland in its sharp, thick spine is able to cause necrosis and death if left untreated. Beware, as the pain is immense and the locals are sure that not even the most powerful human could stand the pain. Douse the affected area immediately with really hot water as the toxin will be destroyed by heat. I know, it's a double torment for the victim. Also beware that in the raining season, portuguese man-o-wars (Physalia physalis; because the species washed to the island were really small and bottle-like, I would tentatively classify them under the possible Physalia utriculus) could be brought to the island's waters by the west wind.Thumb-sized blue bubble-like float with a metre-long blue tentacles, these creatures is an alternative if you wish to know how does it feels like if branded with molten iron.
  • In the shores plantations of mangroves are growing and a small turtle hatchery is located just behind a large grove of saplings. Unfortunately, this facility is poorly funded, and if you do visit the island, please donate an amount of money to the donation box - in the sake of those poor turtles!

Phew. That's it. xD

Lots of events are happening quite recently but I think I'll just post it in the next entry. I don't know when.
Tags: pulau seribu
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