“Briskwalk Gang” on Coney Island
The weather was appreciative, and the rustic charm of Coney Island caressed the brisk-walkers from the Malay Activity Executive Committee (MAEC) of the Siglap Community Centre (Siglap CC) on Sunday, 14 February, as they rambled through the Nature Park on the island. It is an exciting place for anyone, young and elderly, to visit.
The MAEC brisk-walkers, fondly called the Briskwalk Gang, had also brought their family members and friends, totalling 61 people, to enjoy the sight, flora and fauna of Coney Island, an island on the north-eastern part of mainland Singapore, a Garden City. A wide no-vehicle concrete bridge allows visitors to walk to the gate of the Nature Park while enjoying the scenic view of the sea on both sides of the bridge.
Coney Island, once known as Pulau Serangoon and owned by a millionaire, boasts of having coastal forests, grasslands and mangroves. It is a narrow island about 2.3 km and about 500m wide at its middle. However, only about of half the island, running along the seaward coastline with a width of about 200m, has recently been turned into a nature park. This elongated shaped park is the home to 157 animal species, including 85 bird species, according to the information stated by the National Parks Board and the Nature Society.
The birds included wood owl, black-crowned night heron, hawk eagle, rusty-breasted cuckoo, oriental magpie robin and red-wattled lapwing. The white-bellied sea eagles and brahminy kites also come to prey along the coastline. What is more, this wildlife sanctuary is also a haven for migratory birds, such as the black baza (small eagle) and the large hawk cuckoo.
The Briskwalk Gang walked along the meandering earthen pathways of this “forest”, not briskly like they used to do weekly on Sundays in the vicinity of the Siglap CC but leisurely, enjoying the fresh air and lapping in the “jungle” sights while hoping to catch glimpses of some of the above-mentioned habitats of the island. They did with excitement whenever they spotted a moving creature.
A variety of butterflies and odd insects moving among the trees, shrubs and wild grasses also made the Gang stop to admire them. The park is dominated by casuarinas and there is also a small area of mangroves, all giving this rustic haven a worthwhile visit.
Many were excited when they spotted some monkeys.
A short distance later there were more monkeys, but suddenly excitement turned into fear when some half a dozen of them approached Ms Noorliah Hawdi and me. I was holding a bag containing a bottle of mineral water and an apple given by the organiser to each participant and probably the monkeys thought it contained food for them though no food was exposed or being eaten in front of them. It is to be noted that no food should be eaten while in the park, nor any bird or monkey fed.
Ms Noorliah let off a diabolic shriek that almost frightened all the animals in the “jungle”. “They are running towards us,” she yelled, and sheltered herself behind me while half a dozen of them, two of them even carrying their babies, approached us menacingly with mouths wide open and eyes fixed on my bag, ready to snatch it. Another family of four from our group were also shaken, and one of their daughters too took me as her shield from the ready-to-attack monkeys. Luckily two Filipino young men riding their bicycles came to our aid and escorted us to safety.
An official from the Siglap CC, Mr Imhar Said, told Ms Anom Aziz and me that he loved beaches when he was young as the three of us emerged from a path that led to a part of the beach. As we strolled along it, he said, “If only we had the time I would show you how to dig for plenty of remis from this very beach.” Remis are small shellfish which can be made into delicious soup. Yes, unfortunately we didn’t have the time.
Mr Imhar stopped when he saw a small area on the beach with sponge-like holes. Asking us to squat, he grabbed a small twig and twirled it in one of the holes. “Watch what will come out of it,” he said, and a few seconds later out came a small wriggling creature, not a small crab, but a creature that looked like a tiny caterpillar.
The MAEC had organised three outing-cum-exercise for its briskwalkers last year (2015): Changi Point in January, Marina Barrage in April and HortPark in November. “Coney Island is the first place for this year,” said Ms Sri Zuraida, a MAEC member. “In April, MAEC might organise a trip for the Briskwalk Gang to Johor near Batu Pahat for a 2-day, 1-night homestay.”
That is good. MAEC could also organise trips to nature reserves in Singapore like the Bukit Timah Nature Reserves and the Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve as many Singaporeans do not go to such places.
“Yes, it is good to discover Singapore first,” agreed Mr Yacob Hussain, Chairman of the MAEC. “That is why we organise such Discover Singapore trips at least three times a year to get the members come close together and, at the same time, make then learn more about Singapore.”
On the way back in the coach, Mr Najib Ahmad, another MAEC official, thanked the Gang for their participation in the Coney Island trip. He urged: “Those of you who are first-timers here, do join us for the briskwalk session on Sunday mornings at the Siglap CC. Also, do invite your neighbours and friends to join us for the weekly exercise activity. Keeping fit is the motto of Singaporeans.”
15 February 2016