|The forest trail in Big Sister's Island will culminate in a hilltop view deck, where visitors can see neighbouring offshore islands and birdwatch.|
|Artist's impression of the lagoon tidal pool in Big Sister’s Island.|
More about the Marine Park on the NParks website.
New 230m-long forest trail with viewing deck on Sisters' Islands will open to public in 2024
An existing lagoon there will also be converted into a tidal pool capable of retaining seawater during low tides.
Ashley Tan, Mothership 19 Jun 2023
Come 2024, Sisters' Islands Marine Park will open to the public with a new forest trail and lagoon tidal pool.
The island, which comprises Big Sister's and Little Sister's islands, has been closed since 2021 for enhancement works.
The Marine Park currently acts as a safe refuge for the rich marine biodiversity in and around the Southern Islands.
Thus far, around 250 species of hard corals have been documented in Singapore’s waters out of over 800 species worldwide, as well as over 100 species of reef fish, 200 species of sponges, and 12 seagrass species.
Announced by the National Parks Board (NParks) on Jun. 19, in conjunction with the 5th Asia-Pacific Coral Reef Symposium, the Ocean Network Express Coastal Forest Trail will span 230m.
Described as an "immersive and educational experience for visitors of all ages", the trail will wind through Big Sister's Island's coastal forests.
This will allow visitors to learn more about the island's coastal habitats.
Critically endangered coastal species, such as the Putat Laut (Barringtonia asiatica) and Penaga Laut (Calophyllum inophyllum) will also be planted along the trail to enhance the habitat.
At the end of the trail is a hilltop viewing deck which visitors can use to birdwatch or admire scenery of the neighbouring offshore islands.
The trail's development was supported by a contribution of S$1 million by Japanese shipping company Ocean Network Express.
ONE's donation will also support marine education programmes and learning resources at Sisters’ Islands Marine Park.
Lagoon tidal pool
Another enhancement is that of an existing lagoon at Big Sister's Island.
By next year, it will be converted into a tidal pool capable of retaining seawater during low tides.
This sheltered water body can thus help encourage the growth of mangroves and seagrass inside the lagoon.
It will also protect the lagoon beach from wave-induced erosion.
Parks foresees the lagoon to eventually "mature into a multi-habitat ecosystem" which can support a wide range of marine biodiversity.
The development of the tidal pool was supported by a contribution of S$1 million by Singtel.
Underwater cameras will also be placed in the lagoon.
Minister for National Development Desmond Lee shared during his speech at the symposium that these will "empower citizen science efforts, as students and volunteers will be able to access the livestreams remotely, and contribute to ongoing biodiversity monitoring programmes".
Increased accessibility to the islands
The public can access these new developments when the Sisters' Islands Marine Park reopens in 2024.
Prior to its closure, members of the public could access the islands via public ferry, or by chartering their own boats from West Coast Pier or Marina South Pier.
Speaking to the media, Karenne Tun, director of NParks' National Biodiversity Centre, said NParks will be working on increasing accessibility to the island when it opens.
NParks is in discussions with two ferry operators that currently operate out of Marina South Pier to bring visitors to St John's Island, and Tun shared that they are "very keen to extend that service to Sisters' Islands".
"We are working with them on the number of people that can be allowed on the island at any one point in time. So these are details that will come out closer to the opening [of the island] itself," Tun said.
Like other nature reserves and some nature parks in Singapore, Sisters' Islands will have opening hours of 7am to 7pm.
Coastal forest trail, hilltop views and lagoon tidal pool: Big Sister’s Island to reopen in 2024
The 230m trail leads to a hilltop view deck, which also serves as a birdwatching vantage point.
Channel News Asia 19 Jul 2023
SINGAPORE: Big Sister’s Island will reopen to visitors next year with new features including a 230m coastal forest trail that leads to a hilltop view deck, which also serves as a prime spot for birdwatching.
An existing lagoon on the island will also be developed into a tidal pool, with educational and monitoring programmes for the community.
These updates were given by Minister for National Development and Minister-in-charge of Social Services Integration Desmond Lee on Monday (Jun 19) at the opening of the 5th Asia-Pacific Coral Reef Symposium.
The symposium is co-organised by the National Parks Board (NParks) and the National University of Singapore (NUS).
NParks also announced new partnerships with Ocean Network Express (ONE) and Singtel to support enhancement works at the Sisters’ Islands Marine Park.
“These will enhance visitors’ experience and enable them to learn about the importance of conserving coastal and marine biodiversity,” it said.
Here are what visitors can look forward to:
COASTAL FOREST TRAIL
The Ocean Network Express Coastal Forest Trail will run through the centre of Big Sister’s Island, allowing visitors to learn more about the island’s coastal habitats.
NParks said habitat enhancement will also be carried out for the area bordering the trail through the planting of critically endangered coastal species such as putat laut and penaga laut.
The 230m trail will culminate in a hilltop view deck with panoramic views of other offshore islands.
The deck will also serve as a birdwatching vantage point. Eagle-eyed visitors may be able to catch a glimpse of the spotted wood owl, white-bellied sea eagle and the critically endangered great-billed heron.
The development of the trail is supported by a donation of S$1 million (US$0.75 million) from ONE, through NParks’ registered charity and IPC, the Garden City Fund.
“The contribution from ONE will also support marine education programmes and learning resources at Sisters’ Islands Marine Park, which will enable visitors to learn about the importance of habitat conservation and foster a greater appreciation for our natural heritage,” said NParks.
LAGOON TIDAL POOL
An existing lagoon at Big Sister’s Island will be developed into a tidal pool to retain seawater during low tides.
“This will create a sheltered water body that in turn can help to encourage mangrove propagules and seagrass to establish inside the lagoon. It will also protect the lagoon beach from wave-induced erosion,” said NParks.
The lagoon will mature over time into a multihabitat ecosystem, supporting a wide range of marine biodiversity, it added.
This may include marine flora such as the spoon seagrass and api-api jambu, as well as fauna such as the common sea star.
The development of the tidal pool is supported by a donation of S$1 million from Singtel, through NParks’ registered charity and IPC, the Garden City Fund.
A marine classroom will be created so people can learn more about the biodiversity at the marine park.
“Through the creation of an immersive and engaging 5G-powered marine classroom, we hope to foster greater awareness and appreciation of our remarkable local biodiversity and empower every generation to enjoy the unspoilt beauty and rich biodiversity of the Sisters’ Islands Marine Park,” said Singtel's Group Chief People and Sustainability Officer Aileen Tan.
PLANT CORAL, SEED A REEF
Organisations and individuals who are interested in habitat enhancement efforts at Sisters’ Islands Marine Park can support marine conservation under the Garden City Fund’s Plant-A-Coral Seed-A-Reef programme.
Those who want to support the transplantation of one coral nubbin may do so with a donation of S$200 under the Plant-A-Coral initiative.
Coral nubbins, which are small coral fragments, will be attached to wall plugs and allowed to grow to suitable sizes within nurseries and on the reef before being transplanted to a reef enhancement unit.
Those who want to support the installation of a reef enhancement unit can make a donation of S$20,000 under the Seed-A-Reef initiative. These units are artificial structures placed within suitable reef zones to enhance bare areas for marine organisms to grow and reef fish to seek refuge.
Donors under this programme will be entitled to a private guided walk at St John’s Island. They can also attend a coral workshop that includes a brief presentation on coral biology, threats and conservation efforts.
More information can be found on the Garden City Fund's website.
OTHER CONSERVATION EFFORTS
A new initiative to plant 100,000 corals in Singapore’s waters was also announced at the symposium.
NParks said this will scale up existing coral restoration efforts, to substantially improve the resilience of coral communities and reefs.
The initiative will see corals grown and nurtured from small nubbins in coral nurseries until they are large enough to be transplanted. They will then be transplanted onto degraded reefs for restoration purposes or be inserted into other areas to establish new coral communities.
NParks is working on the programme, together with academic partners such as the St John’s Island National Marine Laboratory, and with the support of the Friends of Marine Park community. The new initiative will be launched next year.
NParks also announced two projects that have been awarded grants under the first grant call of the S$25 million multi-stakeholder Marine Climate Change Science Programme to advance climate change and marine conservation research.
These projects, led by researchers from NUS, will go towards developing new knowledge and solutions to strengthen the resilience of natural ecosystems to climate change.
100,000 corals to be planted in Singapore waters, Big Sister’s Island to reopen in 2024
Shabana Begum, Straits Times, 19 Jun 2023
SINGAPORE – In the nation’s most ambitious reef restoration to date, 100,000 corals will be progressively planted and grown in Singapore’s waters from 2024 to beef up the biodiversity of the waters and protect coastlines from waves and storms.
Over at least 10 years, baby corals, or coral fragments, will be reared in nurseries until they are large enough to be transplanted onto degraded reefs or new areas that can hold coral habitats.
About 60 per cent of Singapore’s reef area has been lost to land reclamation.
The remaining healthy reefs are mostly found in the southern islands, such as Pulau Satumu – where Raffles Lighthouse is located – Pulau Semakau, Pulau Hantu and the Sisters’ Islands.
One of the Sisters’ Islands will also reopen for public visits in 2024.
Island hoppers can look forward to a more visitor-friendly Big Sister’s Island, which will have new features such as a forest trail that winds through the island, and a lagoon tidal pool that people can snorkel in.
The island, which is part of the 40ha Sisters’ Islands Marine Park, was closed from 2021 for enhancement works.
The 100,000 corals project, spearheaded by the National Parks Board (NParks), and updates on Big Sister’s Island were announced by National Development Minister Desmond Lee on Monday at the opening of the fifth Asia-Pacific Coral Reef Symposium at the National University of Singapore (NUS).
The 100,000 corals initiative will scale up the country’s existing coral restoration efforts, such as the Plant-A-Coral, Seed-A-Reef programme, which began in 2016.
The programme helped to expand the reefs of Sisters’ Islands Marine Park, with more than 700 corals planted and 16 artificial reef structures installed underwater, said Mr Lee.
The Republic’s waters are home to around 250 species of hard corals of various colours and shapes – about one-third of more than 800 species of the world’s hard corals.
“By introducing 100,000 corals, we hope that as they grow, they’ll increase in size and contribute to the overall increase in the spatial coral cover within the reefs in Singapore,” said Dr Karenne Tun, director of NParks’ National Biodiversity Centre.
Mr Lee said that work in the first few years will focus on growing capacity for coral cultivation, such as by expanding existing coral nurseries and exploring new methods to promote coral growth.
“This will provide us a strong foundation in subsequent years, when we significantly ramp up our efforts to transplant mature cultivated corals onto degraded reefs, and plant them in other areas,” he added.
While 100,000 coral babies will be planted, mature corals are tricky to count because the colonial creatures tend to grow and merge. Each species has different growth rates and they out-compete one another. As a rough gauge, four to eight coral fragments can be planted on an area of 1 sq m, giving the creatures enough space to grow.
Coral reefs here serve as a habitat for more than 100 species of reef fish, about 200 species of sea sponges, as well as rare and endangered seahorses and clams, among other marine life.
NParks is working alongside academic partners such as the St John’s Island National Marine Laboratory on this project, with the support of the Friends of Marine Park group.
The project comes at a time when warmer seas could be exacerbated by the looming El Nino climate phenomenon.
Elevated water temperatures and marine heatwaves can stress corals, triggering coral bleaching that reduces vibrant reefs to pale skeletons.
There is up to an 80 per cent chance of El Nino occurring in 2023, with signs suggesting that conditions could develop between July and September.
Past El Nino years of 1998, 2010 and 2015 saw mass coral bleaching affecting almost all corals here, said Emeritus Professor Chou Loke Ming from the NUS Department of Biological Sciences.
While most of the corals recovered eventually, about 10 per cent of them died after each El Nino cycle.
“What we observed is that corals appear to have developed some degree of adaptation so that they are less susceptible to the next sea-warming event.
“Transplants that we have put out in the field appear to have survived through these warming events,” added Prof Chou.
His colleague, Associate Professor Huang Danwei, will be studying ways to enhance the ecological resilience of coral reefs to climate change impacts, under the $25 million Marine Climate Change Science programme.
Prof Huang’s research is one of two projects announced by Mr Lee that received funding under the first grant call for the programme.
As for Big Sister’s Island, a new 230m trail will run through the island, allowing visitors to enjoy the coastal forest and birdwatch on a hilltop viewing deck.
It is called the Ocean Network Express Coastal Forest Trail, after the container shipping company that contributed $1 million to the building of the trail.
Another new attraction on the island will be a tidal pool developed from an existing wildlife-rich lagoon.
The pool will retain seawater during low tide, allowing mangrove saplings and seagrasses to take root.
Singtel, which donated $1 million to the development of the tidal pool, will also work with NParks to leverage its 5G technology and set up underwater cameras to help students and volunteers with biodiversity monitoring, said Mr Lee.
Since 2021, Big Sister’s Island has been undergoing works that include the repair of its seawalls and the upgrading of footpaths, toilets and shelters.
Small Sister’s Island is closed to the public, as it is used for marine conservation research.
The Sisters’ Islands Marine Park also includes the western reefs of St John’s Island and Pulau Tekukor which sits south of Sentosa.
Dr Tun added: “To ensure it is a sustainable marine park, we’ll be having solar farms, recirculating seawater to have fresh water on the island, and it should be, at the end of the day, a zero carbon footprint marine park.”
To get to Big Sister’s Island from 2024, visitors can either charter a boat or take a ferry from Marina South Pier. The frequency of ferry services and the number of people allowed on the island at any one time will be confirmed later, said Dr Tun.
Mr Stephen Beng, chairman of the Friends of Marine Park community, said: “I hope that the (marine park) will be another exciting destination for visitors to enjoy and appreciate the ocean environment... We want more to understand the many benefits marine protected areas provide, from safeguarding biodiversity and food sources to providing business and employment opportunities.”