Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Wild Wednesdays: Pottering around Pasir Ris

Ok, I initially wanted to upload a video of Junior J feeding himself (mainly for his grandparents in Penang), but I found out that Google Video no longer allows you to upload videos.  :(  I didn't want to upload it to Youtube for the whole world to see, so I've decided to just talk about something else besides the boy eating.  I mean, everything's still the same (except that he can now scoop food properly): Spitting when he's bored, not eating very much, which means he's still skinny and short.  So unless I find a great recipe for toddlers, or some magic method to solve all feeding problems, I'm going to move on to a happier topic: Little nature spots in the urban jungle of Singapore, that you can bring yourself (and your kids) to enjoy flora and fauna.

The number 1 spot that comes to mind right now would be my research site at Pasir Ris Park.  It's this little stretch of mangrove that borders the mouth of Sungei Tampines where it empties into the sea.  Its really smelly, and loads of trash gets washed up at low tide:

And it's well-known for being the dirtiest beach in Singapore, with its water deemed not safe to swim in last year, since it contains bacteria found in faeces.  Ah... so you'll ask, why bring the kids to such an icky place?  

Because the reaction I see from every single visitor (adult or child) that stumbles upon that little stretch is not about how stinky it is, or how much trash there is.  Its always (without fail, and I've seen a fair share of visitors) "WOW!  So many crabs!"  And most will then spend the next half and hour or so hanging around.

This area is teeming with hundreds and hundreds of little fiddler crabs.  These little critters are quite fun to watch, since the males love to wave excitedly at the female crabs to attract their attention.  How do you tell the males and females apart?  No need to peek underneath, since the males have one enlarged claw (what we term a cheliped), and a smaller claw...

...While females have equal sized claws (You could impress your kids by identifying them with ease!).

The mangrove has predominantly two species of fiddlers:

Uca annulipes, which have narrower black shells (or what we term carapaces) that have white markings, and the males have an enlarged claw that is coloured orange with white tips...

and Uca vocans, which have broader grey shells, with males having an enlarged claw that is mainly orange in colour, while the upper part of the claw may be white...

So if you've booked a weekend at the Aranda Country club or the Costa Sands Resort and have nothing to do aside from watching TV, you might want to take a short walk down the park connector running alongside the country club until you hit the beach.

But before you do go there, here's a list of things to take note (this applies to any outdoor trip I guess!):
1. Do wear proper footwear (avoid slippers), and watch out for your toddlers, since there's loads of trash they could trip on...

2. Do put on sunscreen and wear a hat if you're planning to hang around for abit, and bring drinking water.  

It can get really hot over at the mangroves (at 1030 hrs, the mercury can hit 34 degrees)!  (BTW, the park has a mangrove boardwalk that makes for interesting walks too!)

3. Don't disturb the researchers, if there are any.  They can be identified usually as they are the ones writing furiously on clipboards, or they may be armed with a video camera, or they may be mumbling away to themselves (it makes good sense to let anyone, for that matter, finish their internal conversations anyway).  If there are studies being done in that area, keep a wide berth since small movements from passerbys may send the crabs scurrying for their burrows.  

4. Don't catch the crabs or dig/destroy their burrows. It might a Singaporean tendency to think "food!" whenever the word "crab" comes to mind, but trust me, these little critters are way too small to eat.  Plus, they may carry flesh-eating bacteria which gets passed to you if they nip you (And trust me, nip you they will if you try to nab them.  I mean, if you were a crab and someone came and grabbed you from behind, won't you nip, and nip hard?).  Also, you actually need a permit from NParks if you intend to capture any of these animals.  Oh, and don't try to help the researchers mentioned above to catch any too.  I've had helpful adults and kids who've seen me running my experiments, and actually threw in crabs they had caught into my experiment arena, thinking they were helping... (Then, I didn't know whether to laugh or to cry.  I opted to give the kids a lesson in crab behaviour instead.  It's probably an occupational hazard!)

2 Uca annulipes males fighting

5. Instead of risking their fingers, encourage your kids to watch the crabs quietly (that's what enjoying nature should be about right?).  Challenge them to watch the crabs and list the behaviours they can see (feeding, maintaining their burrows, fighting, waving)... that'll help to improve their observation skills as well!

6.  Update to this post: Eeek!  I realized I forgot one of the most important tips of all... Check out the tide times for the day over at the NEA website, and time your visit during low tide.  The little fellows only emerge during low tide to feed, and if you want more "entertainment", go during the evening low tides, since they wave more at females then!

7. And finally, a quote that I think more or less sums up the ideal way to respectfully approach any place of nature: "Take only pictures, and leave only footprints." :)  Do bring your camera since the place sometimes does have spectacular sunrises and sunsets!

Oh, and the rest of the park's really great for cycling, roller-blading, or just long leisurely walks too.  

What are your favourite nature spots that you've visited?


  1. I love how you've turned a spot others might see as a bad strip of beach into a nature playground. I'd love to see all those crabs & I know my boys would, too. Hope to make it to Singapore some day! :)

  2. oh my god! These pictures are awesome!

  3. That's really interesting! My husband would love this -- he loves nature spots and adores harassing crabs :P Sadly we're not as adventurous these days, and always end up going to the Botanic Gardens!

  4. Hiya...Nice photos u have here and thanks for enlightening us about the crabs!

    I did not know of such a place :)

  5. MamaJ: When you upload a video in youtube, you have the choice to select only 15 persons to watch the video. I use it.
    Lovely pictures, by the way! Some of them are perfect for a moment of meditation.

  6. wow, i love the photos! and thanks for the writeup - v informative ... will _not_ touch the crabs =)

  7. Wooooo! Amazing pictures. And you should submit this whole post to a parenting magazine. Awesome tips.

    Anyway those crabs don't look the least bit appetizing at all, and that's coming from a crab-lover. Urgh.

  8. Great pictures like always. I really should bring Kyle there one of these days, he probably be so fascinated by the crabs. Our favorite nature parks so far are Dairy farm nature park + Bukit Batok nature park. All in the west, close to where I live. Thanks for sharing this, now I know there is a great place for nature walks in the east. Btw, which lens did u use for the crab pics?

  9. I love the photos! They are so beautiful...I just went to the board walk with my boys last week. The tide was really low and we saw like a 'gazillion' red vinegar crabs crawling in and out of their burrows. Looking at them gave me the 'heebeegeebees' I bet the boys would love to know how to spot the females and males. Thanks for sharing :)

  10. Debi: Thanks! Let us know if you ever come and we'll bring you around! ;)

    Sunflower: Thanks! :)

    Beanbean: Actually we like visiting Botanics too, so nice to walk around there!

  11. Ed: Thanks and thanks for popping by!

    Kira: I never knew that! ;) thanks so much, now I can share vids next time!

    Muminthemaking: Thanks! Heeeheee, they'll be grateful for that!

  12. Daphne: Thanks! Haha, yup, there's hardly any meat on them! :p Err, thanks for the suggestion but I'm not sure if parenting mags will be interested in these crabby fellas... ;) know any that might?

    Rachel: Thanks! I think Kyle might be interested! But check for low tide times, and try going in the evenings. These fellows wave more in the evening and are more entertaining then! Must try to check out those parks you mentioned... Oh, and i used the canon 70-200mm f4 lens. The crabs are really sensitive so a longer zoom's better...

    Eileen: Thanks! I know what you mean, that creepycrawly feeling! Happy identifying the boys and girls! ;)

  13. Jus, these photos are really beautiful.Thanks for sharing:)

  14. Hi Denesa! Was glad to. :) And thanks!

  15. Awesome photos!! wow this is a great place to bring our kids to, close to nature. =)

  16. Rachel: Thanks! Yup... its really quite a great place, if you can stand the smell!

  17. Pasir Ris Park is one of the places we frequent but I didn't even know there's such a spot there! Thanks for sharing. Will definitely check it out the next time we're there. Beautiful photos you've taken, love them!

  18. Ing: Was glad to! And thanks! Happy looking at the crabs...

  19. Hi there! I love that you captured such beautiful pictures of nature! We were there some months back & collected lots of seashells, but didn't see any crabs! :( where are they found? Btw, it is also quite relaxing to cycle along the track, I did that with my 3 & 5 yr olds. Definitely a spot I'd live to go back, wanna check out mangrove & the crabby crabs!! :)

  20. Sharon: I will PM you the map ok? Have fun with the crabs when you go!



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