Pulau Hantu - A celebration of marine life

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

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Anniversary Dive (Much awaited!)

It's taken awhile, but here they are! Pictures and a log from the anniversary dive over 26 March (pix from 25 March will be uploaded soon!).

As some of your know, for the past 2 years, we've been celebrating the anniversary of the Blog by exploring Hantu with as much intensity as we can! With 3 day dives, and a night dive, we give divers and readers of our blog a chance to view the life that exists at this magical reef when the sun's up, and after its gone down.

Apart from celebrating the exuberant life that thrives in Hantu, we also celebrate a another year of successful education and increased awareness of our reefs. More importantly however, our anniversary is a reminder that our work remains crucial to expanding the knowledge of marine life in Singapore waters, and the constant threats and battles that have to be overcome to ensure its survival.

So please, continue to frequent this blog and tell your friends about it. Join us for a dive, or write us a letter. Let us celebrate Hantu today and in the future!

A tiny flabellina contrasts beautifully against a yellow-coloured ascidian.

A cautious crinoid seeks refuge under a piece of coral. These bizarre animals are capable of swimming clumsily across the reef in search of suitable feeding spots; they are also sometimes inhabited by the brilliant squat lobster.

A small reef cuttlefish puts up an offence when it realises it is no longer inconspicuous. It is able to contract or relax its body to create contours that mimic its environment, or make it seem more intimidating than it really is!

But once it realises that we mean it no harm, it relaxes its sensitive muscles and reveals its streamlined body.

This Phyllidia sea slug is ever easy to appreciate and thankfully there are several of them in Hantu's reefs!

Nudibranchs are seemingly benign creatures but they bring so much colour to the reef! Their size and pretty colours also conceal (or announce!) a vicious diet of poisonous corals such as hydroids.

With a name that does it absolutely no justice, flatworms are intriguing animals that plough the reef in search of food. This one may look black, but take a closer look and you'll realise it's actually an irrediscent purple! Sometimes you can also observe them swimming gracefully though the water from one reef to another, they do this by undulating their soft membrane that runs through the length of their body.

Another delightful and unusual nudibranch. We're sending this to sea slug expert Bill Rudman in Australia for identification! We'll keep you posted!

Tigertail seahorses come in a few colours from brown to brown and yellow or mostly yellow such as this one. But one feature will be distinct, and that is the bands that run along the end of its tail. We are fortunate that several of this species of seahorse continue to be spotted on a regular basis at Hantu's reefs. They are a favourite with divers and incidentally, make the logo of the Hantu Blog!

Moving at its own pace, some gastropods conceal themselves under silt and nasty hydroids but when inspected you will be captivated by their intricate beauty. This Murex shell may seem slow and harmless but they are a mean predator of other shellfish such as clams. Murex can also be observed in the mangroves and intertidal areas of Hantu!

A common inhabitant in our local reefs, file fish may seem less common in other reefs outside of Singapore but they are abundant here. They are shy and prefer to remain hidden amongst seagrass or coral rubble where they can be well camouflaged. Sometimes though, they can make for the best photography subjects as they are tolerant and patient, and I do think, curious to some extent, of our presence!

Some people (and I personally) think that it could be because Hantu has a good field of hydroids that we are able to find so many species of nudibranchs. Any one who loves nudis will appreciate diving in Hantu! They are abundant and varied. We shouldn't take this forgranted though, and ensure that we keep these reefs well and healthy so that more people can appreciate this amazing diversity!

When I pointed this out to divers, few knew what or if I was even pointing at anything! Beautiful sea cucumbers are literally the vacuum cleaners of the underwater environment. This is one of the less common species you can spot on the Hantu reef. With its posture as such, doesn't it look just like a piece of coral?!

Another seahorse! What did I tell you about the sweet population of these graceful creatures in Hantu! This one was holding fast to a rope that was fouled up by hydroids and seagrass which made photographing it quite a challenge! Hopefully we can secure the protection of their home so that more people can witness these enchanting creatures that call Singapore home.

After lunch, divers were taken for an intertidal and land walk to discover the otherside of Hantu that seems forgotten by most divers.

On our intertidal lagoon at Hantu, divers got a closer and topside view of gobies and their shrimps, pistol shrimps and fiddler crabs, seastars and tiny sponges, swimmer crabs and even an eel! Who says you have to dive Hantu to see its wildlife! And more importantly, Hantu is made of an intricate ecosystem that comprises not just its reef but its land, mangrove and lagoon which is also chock full of life!

Some animals are harder we see in the lagoon do not occur on the reef or may be difficult to photograph, so this walk served as a good eye opener to divers who are just used to looking through their masks for marine wildlife!

Back to diving, we spotted this False scorpionfish hiding in the crevice of a coral. If you're not sure of how they look like or if you've not seen one before, they can be almost impossible to notice!

And look what we found here! The beautiful Icon Seastar perched on the tips of its feet. Guess what it's doing? Laying eggs! What a marvel and privilege it was to view this natural spectacle!

Adorable mushroom coral polyps! Young mushroom corals remain fastened to the reef via a stem, but they gain independence and become freeliving corals once they're grown up! Unlike other large corals, mushroom corals are made up of a single polyp and not a colony, making it the largest coral polyp of all coral species!

A large pair of flatworms get into the groove during our night dive! I've seen them tons of times but each time they continue to fascinate me again and again!

A dazed swimming crab get caught in my flash. These shy crustaceans are capable of swimming exceedingly fast with their pincers spread out! A few species can be found on Hantu's reef.

There's still TONS more to be discovered at Hantu's reefs, lagoon and topside! So we're looking forward to more dives this year and continued discoveries! Thanks to those who celebrated our anniversary with us! you've made our dives and all these discoveries possible! Through you, those who didn't get to join us are able to enjoy the natural heritage that continues to exist here in Hantu, a realm that is so uniquely Singapore!