Seahorse monitoring trip

By Wong Ee Lynn

In defiance of the floods in Johor, 15 MNS members, including our Marine SIG Co-coordinator Hui Min, made a trip to the Pulai River Estuary to volunteer with Save Our Seahorses (SOS) on the weekend of 22nd – 23rd December, 2007.

On Saturday, we made a trip to the Kukup Island National Park, which was gazetted as a national park in 1997 due to its research and eco-tourism potential.

We identified lesser adjutant storks, whimbrels, white-throated kingfishers, brahminy kites, white-bellied sea eagles, giant mudskippers, blue-spotted mudskippers, mangrove crabs, fiddler crabs and molluscs such as ‘lokan’, ‘kupang’ and ‘siput sedut’.

The boatman then took us to a floating fish farm not far from the shore, where visitors could view archer fish, giant starfish, jellyfish, oysters and other marine life.

We spotted a lesser adjutant stork on the beach. A wild boar made a sudden appearance, but the stork was unfazed. The boar ambled back into the thick foliage, leaving the unflappable stork alone.

We ended Saturday on a high note with a sumptuous seafood dinner in Kukup town.

The weather still held up on Sunday morning as we made our way to SK Tg. Kupang. The Green Living SIG conducted outreach activities and games with the schoolchildren. A very dedicated schoolteacher, Cikgu Bakhtiar, who had worked with marine biologist Choo Chee Kuang of SOS Malaysia on numerous occasions, had managed to corral 16 children to participate in the environmental education session despite it being the school holidays.

After lunch, we assembled at the SOS Research Centre to be briefed on our duties. We then left for the Pendas jetty, armed with our data collection tools. The film crew and host of 8TV’s ‘Step Forward’ joined us on the boats to document SOS’s activities.

We stopped at Pulau Merambong, an uninhabited island. Soft corals, sea cucumbers of prodigious size, mudskippers, fiddler crabs, and other marine and coastal life forms populated the island.

Soon it was low tide and our boatmen took us to the seagrass bed in the Sungai Pulai Estuary, where we were to commence work. We (TV host and crew excluded) were divided into 4 teams to start the search for seahorses and pipefish. There were many distractions in the form of thorny sea slugs, sea cucumbers, tube anemone, carpet anemone, marine snails, giant starfish, sea squirts, sea pens and other marine fauna.

Altogether, the team caught, tagged and released three Spotted Seahorses (Hippocampus kuda) and three Alligator Pipefish (Syngnatoides biaculeatus) on Sunday, 23rd December. The tagging was done via subcutaneous injection of elastomer. Besides that, two baby seahorses were removed for genetic studies from a pregnant male seahorse’s pouch using a pipette.

We returned to the Research Centre to clean our dive boots and equipment. Before parting, we had group photos taken and received T-shirts from SOS Malaysia as mementoes of our weekend stint with them.

Our weekend with SOS had enriched and educated us immeasurably and had heightened our appreciation of our vulnerable marine ecosystem.

For more information, please visit and sign the petition to save the Pulai River Estuary from unsustainable industrial activity and port development.


White-water Kayaking in Sg. Sungkai

By Sin Siew Fun, Jenny Yow, Beatle Yap, and Tong Wai-Hing
Photos by Mnsmarine

On a sunny Sunday morning (November 30, 2003), 14 participants (Group A) including trip coordinator Hon Yuen, traveled in a van from KL Sentral to Sg. Sungkai, Perak for our white-water kayaking trip. When we reached Sg. Sungkai, the kayak organisers – the cheerful and chatty Chan Yuen-Li, energetic Eddie, sociable Salim and active Akai, greeted us.

After a short briefing, we were equipped mentally (brief knowledge and tips on kayaking), physically (donning life jackets and helmets) and socially (pairing with our kayak partners). Excited and enthusiastic, we carried our colourful inflatable kayaks and paddles down to the river. We put into practice what we were taught at the briefing. While trying out our new found kayaking skills, we spotted a bright blue kingfisher bird flying past us, which then perched on a nearby tree branch.

Sungkai2Using our paddles, we moved forward, backward and sideways through the rushing rapids. When stuck on a huge boulder, we were advised to lean towards the rock (and downriver) for more stability and to avoid the kayak capsizing. If we fell into the river, we were also told what to do. We made several stops after each rapid. Everyone was helpful and the guides ensured everyone was safe especially when several kayaks overturned.

A few confident participants accepted the challenge of solo kayaking and they braved through the rapids. In my kayak, there was I, my partner Evelyn and Salim, the river guide. Initially, the guides felt that both of us were unable to steer the kayak through the strong currents. However, after much practice and guidance, our guide gave us his thumbs-up approval.

During the journey, we provided some afternoon entertainment for the Orang Asli. Imagine the whole village coming to watch us in amusement! Not wanting to miss the fun, the Orang Asli kids stripped and jumped straight into the river. They were natural swimmers, obviously enjoying themselves and laughing in delight while the smiling women sat by the riverbank as we paddled our kayaks past them.

Immediately after the last rapid, my kayak mates decided to overturn the kayak. As my partner said, “No wet, no fun.” After 2.5 hours of kayaking, the organisers treated us to a lovely lunch. We then met up with Group B members led by Jin Khoon before returning to KL at about 2.30 p.m. All in all, it was a “funday on a Sunday”, too short not a bore as it left us wanting more! – Sin Siew Fun

Also in Group A:

“White-water kayaking was one of the things that I wanted to do so when I saw the activity in the newsletter, I jumped at the opportunity. Looked forward to the day and finally landed in Sungkai. Kayaking down the river was divided into several sections. I went down with the river guide Eddie as confidence level was lacking and current was strong. First section: lost balance, kayak overturned and I fell into the water. Of course, the guide saved me. The first capsize was good as it killed the fear in me. After this, the thrills of beating the rapids were just fantastic. These were followed by a second and third capsize. My body still aches after the third capsize – hope no fractures. It is an experience that will stay with me for some time. Thanks to MNS Marine Group for a giving me a great time.” – Jenny Yow

“The most memorable is the three times the kayak capsized and surviving through it. The detailed instructions and tips given by Eddie and Yuen-Li were good.” – Beatle Yap (solo kayak).

“Being a first timer at kayaking, I really enjoyed myself on this trip. The trip was very well organised with no hitches. I was admiring the river – looks clean to me except for a bit of oil and mud at certain areas. My special thanks to Yuen-Li, Eddie & the two orang asli guides for taking good care of us by making everything easy for us! Surprisingly, I did not have many aches after this trip.” – Tong Wai-Hing


Note: The 13 Group B members also reported having a good time on/in the river. After their afternoon kayak, they had a snack before leaving for KL, arriving around 8:30 p.m.

Kayak fact sheet 5

Signalling in the water

These signals are used to communicate between groups of people on the river. Before embarking on a trip, take time to familiarise yourself with the signals and make sure that the entire group knows what the signals mean. When the first person in the group signals, it is the responsibility of others in the group to relay the signal. For communication to work, boaters must stay in visual contact.

This signals a potential hazard ahead. Form a horizontal bar with your paddle or outstretched arms. Move this bar up and down to attract attention. Those seeing this signal should pass it back to others in the party. Wait for “all clear” signal before proceeding. When this signal is used, paddlers should either pull to shore or catch an eddy.

Come ahead, in the absence of other directions, proceed centre. Form a vertical bar with your paddle or one arm held high above your head. Paddle blade should be turned flat for maximum visibility. To signal direction, or a preferred course through a rapid around an obstruction, lower the paddle 45 degrees toward the side of the river with the preferred route. Never point to the object you wish to avoid. Always point positive.

Assist the signaler as quickly as possible. Give three long blasts on a whistle while waving a paddle, helmet or life vest over your head in a circular motion. If a whistle is unavailable, just use the signal.

Used to signal that everyone in the group is fine or the situation is under control. Hand pats the top of the head.

For more info about paddling techniques, eddies, etc, visit

Kayak fact sheet 4

Before you kayak…

To decrease the likelihood of any muscle strain, warm up before you start kayaking. The following moves can be done with the help of a rock or a tree. With each of the first five exercises, begin with slow movements in a small range of motion and gradually increase to full range of motion as the muscles loosen up. Do each of the five warm up exercises for about a minute. Then transition right into the static stretches; hold each 15-20 seconds, keeping them pain free, without bouncing or jarring. Go just to the point of mild tension where you can feel that something is happening, but it’s still fairly comfortable.

As you start out, take it easy for the first 10-15 minutes or so, getting the body more thoroughly warmed up in the moves specific to your chosen activity.


1) Arm Swings (1 minute)
The first two upper body warm up recommendations are especially important for kayakers or anyone who is involved in an activity that extensively uses arms and torso. Stand with feet comfortably apart, knees slightly bent, and start with arms at shoulder level. Stretch arms straight out to the side and back behind you, contracting shoulder blades together, then bring them all the way across the torso, gradually speeding up the movements and increasing the range of motion until your muscles feel loose.


2) Shoulder Circles / Windmill Arms (1 minute)
Place hands on shoulders and start with small rotations backwards, gradually increasing the range of motion and then reversing circles and doing the same thing forward. Do both at the same time, or alternate one at a time. For greater range of motion toward the end of the minute, swing straight arms up overhead, forward and backward, in windmill fashion, as though you were going to swim the front crawl or back stroke. (Not pictured)



3) Partial Squats (1 minute)
This exercise will help you warm up the large muscles in your thighs and buttock, muscles used heavily in hiking, scrambling, jogging, and cycling, as well as any daily activities like sitting down and standing back up. Position your feet a little wider than shoulder width apart. Turn your toes out slightly so that your knees track directly over the middle toe of each foot. The wider your stance, the more turned out your toes will be. If you choose to use a wide stance and your toes remain facing straight forward, the torque on your knees may be a little uncomfortable or even painful; check alignment right away. Keep your back flat (not vertical, but flat from shoulders to hips) and chest upright, abs tight to support the lower back, arms in front to counter-balance. Lower your hips and torso to a comfortable spot for you then exhale, as you stand upright. Try to keep your heels flat on the floor. If you have any discomfort in the knees, then simply keep this movement in your pain free zone until you can have an expert assess any imbalances or problems with your muscular structure. If you have a difficult time keeping heels down, the frog stretch will help over time.

4) Elbow-Knee Touches (1 minute)
Stand tall with legs shoulder distance apart and arms stretched out to the side. Without bending forward at the waist, lift your leg up and bring your opposite elbow in front of the body to meet it, then alternate with the other elbow and knee. If you have difficulty doing this move without excessively bending the standing leg or leaning forward, you will greatly appreciate the hamstring and lower back stretch, the last one listed below. If you feel stiff in the back as you bend forward and rotate, the standing rotational stretch will feel especially helpful. This movement is important for anyone involved in torso twisting activities, such as kayaking, climbing, skiing, or even gardening.

5) “Butt Kicking” (1 minute)
This exercise will warm up the hamstrings in the back of the upper thighs. You may not be able to actually kick your own butt, but the goal is to try to get your foot as close to the butt as possible. If you like, you can do this as a high-footed jog, or simply keep one foot on the ground at all times. Keep your torso upright so as to prevent hyperextending the back. Play around with foot position – toes pointed, toes flexed – and see how different a single move can feel by simply changing one thing.

Once you are all warmed up, move right to the static stretches.


6) Tree / Door Jamb Chest Stretch (20 seconds)
A great feel-good stretch for climbers, kayakers, hikers, computer programmers, or any other people who typically have forward-shoulder posture or sedentary sitting jobs. Stand by a tree or wall and extend your arm out from the torso at a right angle, with elbow bent at 90 degrees. Place your forearm or hand against a wall (or both at the same time, if using a door jamb, as shown) and lean forward. For a more comfortable position, stagger your stance as shown with one foot forward to keep your balance. Hold the stretch on each side for about 10-15 seconds, and vary the angle (i.e. height of arms) depending on what part of your upper body is tight.

7) Hip Flexor Lunge Stretch (20 seconds)
This favourite stretches hip flexors and the rest of the front of the body simultaneously. Hip flexors frequently are tight in those people who spend lots of time sitting, (whether at work or in a kayak) and over extended periods of time, they can pull your body into improper posture, resulting in lower back pain if not resolved. Hip flexors are involved in repetitive motions that involve lifting the leg forward — such as hiking, walking uphill, and step aerobics. To keep them stretched out, try the following stretch using your body weight. Stride forward with one leg, coming up on the toes of the leg behind you, and lower your torso until front leg is at a right angle, knee just at or behind shoelaces. Hold onto a tree or wall, if you need help with balance. Keep your torso erect, and slowly extend both arms overhead, reaching fingers to the sky and looking up toward hands. Press the hip forward until you feel a good stretch right at the bend in your forward hip. An option is to turn the foot out, as shown (a modification of the Warrior posture in yoga) with insole of the foot flat against the ground.

8) Frog Stretch (20 seconds)
We use this stretch to help determine whether a client may have any lower body muscle imbalances. It’s a great stretch for thighs, hips, calves, and lower back. With hands out in front of you and feet and knees turned out so they remain in alignment, squat down as low as possible keeping heels flat on the floor. (If your heels pop up, try stretching your tight calves on a stair step with ball of the foot on the step and one heel pressing down toward the floor, hold 15 seconds.) Press knees open with elbows to prepare hips and legs for climbs that involve facing into the wall with legs spread far apart. Be persistent with this and with time you should see dramatic improvement.


9) Spinal Rotation Stretch (20 seconds)
Place left foot up on high surface (car bumper, rock, chair), hips and toes squared forward. Twist your torso to the left, right hand on left knee to give you a little extra leverage. Try to reach left hand toward right hip, so that you resemble a pretzel, or, to get an added stretch in shoulders and upper back, extend the left arm straight behind you. As you exhale, gradually twist farther behind you, eyes toward your hand. Repeat to the other side. Some folks may feel a very minor pop along the vertebrae when doing this — sort of like your own chiropractic adjustment. Be gentle the first few times you try it, and as always, keep stretches pain free and comfortable.

10) Lower Back and Hamstring Stretch (20 seconds)
This is an excellent stretch for the hamstrings and lower back muscles. Stand with feet a bit wider than shoulder width, and slowly bend forward at the waist. Grasp your elbows with hands and dangle your head between your legs. Keep this comfortable, and as you hold the stretch, you’ll notice the muscles lengthening as gravity helps you drop down even further. Keep the legs straight but not locked; reach hand and torso toward opposite calf, bending toward the knee, and then repeat other side. To get out of the stretch, place hands on the thighs and round the spine, exhaling as you stand up.

Info. and graphics are from

Kayak fact sheet 3

Learning the Lingo

Two-person canoe or kayak.

An open craft with pointed ends that is propelled with a single-bladed paddle. Also called an “open boat.”

Life Jacket
Also known as Personal Flotation Device. How to fit your PFD: First, zip the PFD and tighten the side straps. Be sure to fasten all zips, belts, snaps, and straps. The PFD should not rub your chin or around your armpits. Test the sizing on your PFD by holding your arms straight out and have a friend lift the jacket from the shoulder straps. If the vest slips upward, tighten the fit. The right hydraulic could rip an unsecured PFD right over your head.

Primary tool for propelling canoes/kayaks. The “blade” is the wide, flat area of a paddle, used for propulsion. The “shaft” is the area of a paddle between the upper grip and the blade.

Front of the canoe or kayak.

The back end of a boat.

The body of a canoe or kayak; the area that has the greatest impact on how the boat and water interact.

Draw Stroke
Used to move the boat sideways. Performed by placing the paddle into the water parallel to the boat at an arm’s reach away, then pulling boat over to it.

Forward Stroke
A good forward stroke allows you to move ahead smoothly with a minimum of effort and stress on your joints. It also keeps a large share of your body in motion keeping your back and bottom from getting stiff.

Sweep Stroke
Used to turn the boat to the off-side by reaching out and ahead, then “sweeping” in a wide arc fore to aft.

Grab Loop   
Short rope or grab-handle threaded through bow/stern stems of a kayak or canoe.

Side of boat opposite the paddle.

Side that you’re paddling on.

The starting point of a paddling trip; where the boats are launched into the water.

The ending point of a paddling trip; where the boats are finally taken from the water.

*River grading system (From the Outward Bound Survival Handbook 1997)

Grade I : Simple moving water without significant rapids.
Grade II : More rapidly moving water with occasional rapids.
Grade III : Some rapid water and short drops where accurate positioning is
necessary, or simpler rapids with considerable force of water.
Grade IV : Continuously fast water, with sections demanding accurate
positioning and a wide repertoire of techniques.
Grade V : The most difficult water, with considerable risk in the event of capsize.

* Flood conditions may change any of the above.

On the left side of the river facing downstream.

On the right side of the river facing downstream.

Walking ahead on shore to inspect a rapid or other stretch of river.

Information excerpts from

Kayak fact sheet 2

Are you kayaking, canoeing or rafting?

kay·ak also kai·ak n.

An Inuit or Eskimo boat consisting of a light wooden frame covered with watertight skins except for a single or double opening in the centre, and propelled by a double-bladed paddle. A lightweight canoe that is similar in design.

inflatable kayaks: The boats are part raft, part kayak. They provide the buoyancy of a raft, and the manoeuvrability of a kayak. Inflatable kayaks offer stability and comfort to neophyte kayakers. Because inflatable kayaks tend to be more forgiving than hard-shell kayaks, inflatables open up white-water opportunities for those who do not know how to roll or feel uncomfortable in a closed deck white-water kayak. More skilled kayakers are able to surf and run steep drops.

canoe \Ca*noe”\, n.; pl. Canoes. [Sp. canoa, fr. Caribbean can[‘a]oa.]

A boat formed from the trunk of a tree, excavated, by cutting of burning, into a suitable shape. It is propelled by a paddle or paddles, or sometimes by sail, and has no rudder. Webster’s Revised Unabridged Dictionary, © 1996, 1998 MICRA, Inc.

Canoes are great for cruising the lake, looking for the perfect fishing hole or taking extended day trips on larger lakes and rivers. It is also a very versatile activity – from canoe camping to whitewater canoeing.

raft1 n.

A flat structure typically made of planks, logs, or barrels that floats on water and is used for transport or as a platform for swimmers. A flat-bottom inflatable craft for floating or drifting on water: shooting the rapids in a rubber raft.

Information excerpts from

Kayak fact sheet 1

Compiled by the Science & Conservation Unit, MNS

What is a river?

A river is a mass of water flowing over the surface of the land. It originates from a spring, a marsh, or as the collected surface runoff of rain water and it reaches its mouth, which usually opens into the sea. In some instances, it can end up in a lake like Tasik Chini in Pahang.

There are more than 100 river systems in Malaysia with the largest being the Rajang River in Sarawak.

The largest river system in Peninsular Malaysia is the Pahang River.

River profile

An interesting feature of the river system is the emergence of various characteristics as they flow from the hills to the coast.

A river, as it flows across a landscape, will have a velocity where erosion and deposition are exactly balanced. Because of this, rivers tend to adjust its width and depth to the land that it flows over with regards to the flow volume available within a channel.

For instance, if the river enters a reach without much sediment load, it will tend to erode the bed. And if the river enters with a full load, which is too great for velocity, the deposition takes place. These adjustments may be clearly seen as one travels from the headwaters to the estuary.

In montane areas, it is the youthful stream, typified by high velocity flows with pool and rifle sequence and where stream beds are lined with boulders and gravels. Streams are frequently shallow but can rise up rapidly after a short but intense rainfall.

Further downstream, river begins to slow down transforming into a mature stage. As the river progresses further down the landscape, it begins to meander because of the gentler terrain.

In some instances, where the land is relatively flat, flows may occasionally spill over its banks creating floodplains.

Sometimes the river may change course brought about by sheer volume and force of the water carried across the landscape. Ox-bow lakes and new channels are the common features created after such spectacular events.

River regime

The regime or seasonal variation in volume tells a lot about floods and drought.

Construction of water supply facilities and flood mitigation projects require such information. For example, in ensuring adequate water supply to people, the authorities need to know minimal water flows during drought. On the other hand, in flood control, details on how far river flows can take place are needed.

In Malaysia and tropical countries, river flows closely following rainfall regimes.

River energy

The energy of the river depends essentially on a) volume and b) its velocity, which together are summed up by the term “discharge” (measured in litre per second – small streams and cubic meter per second – rivers).

The measurement of river discharge is accomplished at water level stations, which you can see at most major rivers.

River flora and fauna

The complete group of wetlands, rivers, marshes, nipah swamps, mudflats and peat swamp forests and lakes contain a rich biodiversity of aquatic and terrestrial flora and fauna.

Some of its fauna include endangered species like Proboscis Monkey (East Malaysia), Milky Stork and Lesser Adjutant Stork. It also supports Estuarine Crocodile, passage migrants such as pond herons, egrets and waders, endangered mammals such as Sumatran Rhinoceros, Banded Langur, a highly colourful fish fauna and many other aquatic and riparian plants.

The importance of our rivers

  • Main water supply
  • Irrigation for agriculture
  • Hydropower
  • Flood control
  • Water quantity and quality regulation
  • Seafood source
  • Recreation
  • Biodiversity

Threats to our rivers

  • Main threat – Pollution from non-point and point source. Non-point source examples include illegal river settlements, sewage systems and agriculture. Point includes landfill and waste from industries situated near river banks.
  • Compartmentalised management – the many different components of rivers are under different authorities. For example, river bank management is under state government (Town and Country Planning Department) and pollution control under the Department of Environment. This makes it difficult to take care of the river.
  • Dams
  • Development in highlands – source of river disrupted.
  • Non-nature species invasion – exotic species in rivers overtake local species and wipe them out.

Taking care of our rivers

  • The simplest step – do not throw rubbish into rivers or our drains because they end up in rivers.
  • Reduce usage of water – the less we use, the less strain we will put on these resources.
  • Be proactive – organise river clean-ups, act as the eyes and ears for the Department of Environment in checking on factories that default laws, write to your MPs or newspapers in support of preserving our rivers.
  • The need for an Integrated River Basin Management Plan for every river so that all components of the river can be taken care of under one jurisdiction. This is something that our federal government needs to pursue and implement as soon as possible. There is already some work into this but there is still a long way to go.