Pulau Hantu - A celebration of marine life

Secret lives and secret worlds hidden in Singapore's most popular coral reef.

Tuesday, March 23, 2004

Confessions of a Neophyte

Freshly carded with nowhere to go, I was cajoled into trying out Hantu. That first dive was brutal...

Thumbs down, okay sign, dump air and off we go. Instant disorientation.

What the ****! Where am I? Am I descending? Where the **** is my gauge! Oh … okay … I am going down. Calm down, calm down... 2m… 3m… equalize, remember to equalize …. 6 … 7 … bottom should be coming up soon… 10… 11… errr… why is it getting dark? Where is the bottom anyway!?! 12… 13… BUMP! Damn … didn’t see the bottom coming. Never mind, reef should be due west so I’ll just collect my buddy and… er… buddy? BUDDY!?

Having surfaced and reestablished contact, the rest of the dive was spent looking for the reef, never really sure if the patches of coral we found was really the reef. At the end of the dive, we climbed back up the bumboat, utterly demoralized and ready to bin the rest of the day.

Somehow we were coaxed back in with the assurance that it will get better.

That was 3 months ago and I’ve been back to Hantu for 14 dives since and yes, it has become a whole lot better. The visibility is still more or less the same. Yet somehow the reef seems to have changed.

I started seeing the corals under the dusting of silt.
I started seeing fishes instead of shadows in the murk.
I came across a beautiful patch of coral which I have since learnt is Debby’s Secret Coral Garden
I found the most beautiful starfish just sitting there looking like a leather mosaic.

Reality check. Compared to even Bintan, Hantu has piss poor visibility. As for amazing biodiversity... the poor visibility keeps it pretty much hidden.

Yet I will dive Hantu any chance I get.

There is a certain perverse pleasure in diving in that murk. Where the reef is your own and secrets and discoveries are revealed slowly and savored to their fullest. Yes, I’ll admit it – I have a soft spot for Hantu.

I would daresay Hantu has grown on me like that plain Jane who gets prettier the more you fall in love with her. So give her a chance, those of you who have been avoiding Pulau Hantu, she may just grow on you.

Anyone know where can I buy my “I Love Hantu” bumper sticker? It’s time to come out of the closet.