Walk on the wild & wet side

SINGAPORE - Her alarm was set for midnight, and she had three computers turned on, ready to register for tickets.

Finance executive Sonu Chhina, who declined to reveal her age, was not hoping to attend a football match or concert.

She was trying to get a spot on a guided walk at Sisters' Islands organised by the National Parks Board (NParks). 

In its latest marine biodiversity conservation initiative, NParks has started organising introductory guided walks at Singapore's first-ever Marine Park on Sisters' Islands.

Within an hour of online registration beginning, all spots for the first such walk for the public last Thursday were snapped up.

Said Ms Chhina: "I was so excited. I waited until the day they released the spots online."

She went with her parents, both of whom flew to Singapore from India for a holiday.

They were thrilled at the chance to view more of Singapore's natural environment.

Her father, Mr D.S. Chhina, 75, is a retired agricultural scientist. It was the first time he got to see wild marine life in Singapore.

Ms Chhina's mother, housewife Narinder Chhina, 67, said she was so excited about the walk, she woke up five hours earlier than her family thinking that it was already time to set off.

Also in the group of close to 40 people on Thursday were Shin Rei, seven, and her sister Sze Shuen, four.

The girls have already had more outdoor adventures than most children their age.

Their dad, Mr Chung Swee Yit, 38, has taken them to the Rocky Mountain National Park and the Denali National Park in the US.

In Singapore, they have trekked through reservoir parks at Macritchie and Seletar.

The girls, like others in the group, were mesmerised by the diversity of marine life at Sisters' Islands.

Starfish

This included moon snails, sea anemone, giant clams and a collection of starfish nestled in the sand.

Volunteer guide Ria Tan, 53, said a guide would be able to spot small creatures and plants an untrained eye would likely miss.

Besides the starfish, she was able to identify a tiny jelly-like mass of cuttlefish eggs which no one noticed beneath a large patch of seagrass.

Not too hard to spot was the giant clam, a huge crusty creature with green and yellow patterns curling across its mouth.

"It's best not to touch anything that you're not familiar with, especially with marine life - the most dangerous things can look innocent," explained Ms Tan.

Deputy director of the Coastal and Marine National Biodiversity Centre, Ms Karenne Tun, 44, said seeing and experiencing marine life was the best way Singaporeans could understand the importance of conserving it.

"We have a rich natural heritage in Singapore and it's important that we don't lose this diversity so that future generations can access it too," she said.

Tips for great tour

Do

Wear covered shoes or boots as the water can get up to your ankles.

Dress comfortably.

Prepare for unexpected weather.

Join a guided walk as guides will be able to give you safety tips and more information on marine life.

Don't

Litter or leave anything behind on the island.

Touch plants or animals you are unfamiliar with as they may be poisonous.

Bring food as this will attract monkeys.

Don't carry plastic bags as the monkeys may associate them with food.

Intimidate or disturb any wildlife.

Spots still open for Nov, Dec guided walks

Guided walks at Sisters' Islands are conducted twice a month from August to December, except for October due to unfavourable tidal conditions.

Spaces for August and September have been filled, but places are available for the walks on Nov 23 and 24 and Dec 22 and 23.

Registration for the walks in each month opens on the first day of the previous month.

The walks this year are free and each session is open to a maximum of 45 people.

Register at www.nparks.gov.sg/sistersislandsmarinepark

yvonnepa@sph.com.sg

This article was published on Aug 18 in The New Paper.

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