Old Chek Jawa

By Ria Tan

Chek Jawa has seen some changes since the days before deferment of reclamation.
Here's some of Ria's personal views and stories of Chek Jawa in 2000, when nature lovers first started visiting it in large numbers.

(This hand-drawn sign was done by Loh Tse-Lynn for the first public walks to Chek Jawa before deferment)

Chek Jawa never fails to amaze, especially first time visitors. But it was particularly stunning for those of us who visited before deferment of reclamation. This is one of my first photos of this glorious shore!
It's no surprise that many of us just fell in love with Chek Jawa.

And this Joseph Lai, the man who first introduced many of us to Chek Jawa.Joseph Lai discovered Chek Jawa "by chance in January 2001. He was acting as a volunteer guide for some students from Raffles Girls' School, who were exploring the coastal forests in the area. They just happened to be there when the tide was low, and he remembers that Chek Jawa left him 'speechless with wonder'. from Pulling together to turn the tide for Chek Jawa Lydia Lim, the Straits Times, 29 Dec 01.

Since his discovery, Joseph Lai shared Chek Jawa with nature lovers and with everyone else through articles such as Chek Jawa—Wet Wonderland and Chek Jawa Days: A Father's Letter.

Joseph Lai also organised the first transect study of Chek Jawa in Aug 01 with an amazing bunch of volunteers. This transect has since become the basis of the study of the recovery on Chek Jawa in 2007 after the mass deaths following the massive flooding in Johor. The transect also inspired other similar efforts on other shores which eventually led to the formation of TeamSeagrass, volunteers who regularly monitor Singapore's seagrass meadows (Yes! We do have lots of these).

Joseph Lai continues to share his poetic inspirations on nature on his eart-h.com website.

More people started visiting Chek Jawa as 2001 went by. Here they are negotiating the old jetty that was at the entrance to the Chek Jawa shore.
And even more visited when the Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research started public guided walks with N. Sivasothi leading many volunteers in the effort.Here is one of the guide briefing sessions for the public walks before deferment. The shores were crowded with visitors. Standing knee-deep in water was the only place where the guides could gather for a quiet briefing.

Kelvin Lim's fabulous information sheets on Chek Jawa made a lovely outdoor exhibit.

Besides sharing the shores through guiding, many others started websites on Chek Jawa (this was the days before Blogger).

Tan Beng Chiak was among the first, with her Chek Jawa: our threatened heritage website. Other notable sites were Timothy Pwee's The Saga of Chek Jawa and Chim Chee Kong's Protect Chek Jawa: a pictorial tribute.

I also put up a quick photo tour of Chek Jawa as well as comments by visitors on the public walks to Chek Jawa. Together with Joseph Lai's Chek Jawa story in sand script, these and many other resources were kindly hosted on by NUS through arrangements by N. Sivasothi on the Chek Jawa homepage. Visit this homepage for more about the activities and news on Chek Jawa of old.

Here's my favourite old photo of Chek Jawa, the overgrown entrance to the shore.
With Priscilla the Pig, a tame wild boar who gently greeted all who came to visit. Sadly, she died in May 2004.

Do you have any stories and experiences to share about Old Chek Jawa? Just add them to the comments!

Links to more
Lots more photos and stories of old Chek Jawa on wildsingapore flickr

The Chek Jawa webpage prior to deferment of reclamation: with details of efforts including public education, scientific work, checklists, websites, galleries, guestbook entries by visitors, proposals to the authorities.

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