I Have Been to Cyrene Reef! What a Gem of a Place...

Cyrene Reef - Group photo.
Our safe landing on Cyrene Reef.
Photo hotlinked from WildShores.Blogspot.Com.


On this page:

[How to Go There]

[Photo Tour]

[Why a Trip to Cyrene is Special]


How I Got to Cyrene Reef and How You Can Get There Too

I first heard about the Cyrene Reef from the Naked Hermit Crabs, a group dedicated to caring for our coasts. During an environment fair, they showed me a picture of a starfish on a shore against the backdrop of smoking chimneys. It was so vivid I couldn't get the image out of my mind.

I thought to myself...Heck! How can this be? That such vibrant reef life should be next to the heart of Singapore's heavy industry? Since then, I've been lurking around a network of nature websites, looking for opportunities to see our local reefs. Particularly, I wanted to see the Cyrene Reef.

Hence I was pretty excited to find a Facebook group set up entirely for this reef. They had a contest called 'I Want to Go to Cyrene Reef'. I wanted to see this reef quite badly. So I entered the contest, did a little write up, earned my right to go on the trip and came back with the following photos of Cyrene Reef.

A Photo Tour of Cyrene Reef

Threats to the Reef

Cyrene Reef - a panoramic view of how close it is to heavy industry.

(Picture above: my fellow Cyrene Reef fans scrutinising the reef life)

2 things struck me when we first landed on Cyrene Reef.

Firstly, the size of the reef - Cyrene measures about 60 hectares. This is pretty huge, considering that the reef is in the middle of a busy shipping lane!

Secondly, the numerous threats that surround the reef: endless traffic of passing ships, dredging, towering cranes, smoking chimneys, and even poachers in the form of small-boat fishermen. All these make Cyrene's existence all the more surprising.

Cyrene Reef - threats from industry, shipping and poaching (fishing).
This grim picture sums it all up - while a fisherman casts his net, fumes fly off the chimneys in the background. And yet, we were standing on a reef teeming with life.

Let's see what rewards Cyrene hold for those who visit her...

The Hidden Gems of Cyrene Reef

Cyrene Reef - soft corals. These soft corals dot the reef at many places.
Cyrene Reef - A mound created by an acorn worm.

Early on the trip, some wriggly movement on the sand caught our attention. We saw an acorn worm burrowing and throwing out tubes of sand.

We just squatted there and marvelled at his movements. I've never seen anything like this before.

These tube-like strands are supposed to be free from bacteria. The acorn worm 'cleaned' up the sand as it burrowed through.

Notice the yellow segment in the picture. That's the tip of the worm.

Cyrene Reef - Knobbly sea stars.

Knobbly sea stars. For some reason, I saw them mostly resting on the sea grass.

Hmm...got to find out why...

Cyrene Reef - a brownish knobbly sea star. They may be brown, pink, red or a combination of these colours.
Cyrene Reef - A pink knobbly sea star with an armed cut off.

This pink knobbly sea star has lost an arm and is trying to re-grow it.

It sheds an arm or two when it senses serious danger.

Cyrene Reef - A red knobby sea star. Put five of these sea stars together. Throw in an eel or some longish reef creature. And you get the parts of the Singapore flag!
Cyrene Reef - Knobbly sea star close up.

The veteran Cyrene Reef trippers were excellent commentators.

From them I found out so much about marine life, including how to classify knobbly sea stars by age.

You measure the distance from the armpit to the mouth (roughly the distance 'd' as marked in this picture) ...

< 3cm = Infant
3-4cm = Juvenile
> 4cm = Adult

Cyrene Reef - a flat worm.

It looks pretty innocent, just a 'lump of flesh'.

But this flat worm is bad news for a lot of prey.

It is so thin that it could squeeze into a shut clam and wreck havoc inside.

Cyrene Reef - a marginated nudibranch.

A marginated nudibranch (glossodoris atromarginata).

So how does one differentiate a nudibranch from a flat worm?

See the 'horns' near the right end of this nudibranch?

Nudibranchs have these horns called rhinophores. Flat worms don't.

Cyrene Reef - an octopus in camouflage.
Octopus! He is a master of camouflage. But we manage to spot him, a real treat just before we headed back to the boat.

Obviously, these photos don't do justice to what this reef has to offer. There are just so so many other things to see here... so I highly recommend a visit to Cyrene.

Why a Cyrene Reef Trip is So Special

My trip to Cyrene Reef was fascinating on 2 counts.

Firstly, I saw so much reef life without (really) getting wet! And this fact sank into me: there's so much of our natural heritage that's worth protecting, but that's under so much threat. I'd like to quote Ria Tan here... "Every time I come here, I just take photos of everything as if I might never see them again!"

Secondly, there's nothing like going on a trip with people who are totally passionate about their craft. I was shown around by a team of devoted nature champions:

Ria Tan (of WildSingapore.Com fame): She tirelessly coordinated the admin for this trip. And yes, you must ask to see her zoomed-in macro shots!

November, Vyna, Jerald: These kind souls were my guides, always pointing out interesting stuff to me.

And the rest of the trippers, who inspired me with their love for nature. I mean, who'd wake up at 4am to go on a trip like this?

Kudos guys! And thanks for making my trip to Cyrene so memorable.

Related to Cyrene Reef

Sentosa Beach Tour: More Marine Surprises

Lower Peirce Trail (gems in our forests)

Pitcher Plants in Singapore (in the wild)

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