Pulau Hantu - A celebration of marine life

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

Thursday, September 30, 2004

Seahorses and Giant Clams

I recently had the chance to visit St John's island TMSI and i did really enjoy the trip. There, i did had the chance to talk to 2 really interesting people who were in charge of the seahorses and giant clams projects. Well, from what i understand is that they are trying to find ways to breed these 2 organisms in-house so as to replenish them back into their natural environment.

I do find this quite disturbing, first, all these organisms are found locally in our southern islands. They were poached and taken illegaly and now our aim is to provide these poachers another chance to go back and take them again indirectly. Again, from what i heard, they are too stopping the funding at the end of this year, and most of the organisms are going to be palced back into the natural environment.

I do see this as a very lucurative trade both economically and environmentally. I wonder who remembered me saying that if an organism is to undergo conservation now, the only way is to make sure that it is financially viable and worthwhile to keep them. Well, i do think that these 2 organisms do satisfy it. There is much more to study about them.

Monday, September 27, 2004

Things that go bump in the day!

*Bump! * I felt something crash into me as I was righting myself and clearing my mask. Thinking I had accidentally come up against some coral, I turned around and looked into the eyes of a bold damselfish! It was a fairly big specimen (around 15cm) and it was giving me a glare like it had the right of way and slowly swam away. If fishes could talk, I swear it would have gone ‘tsk tsk’ like some heartland aunty.

With vis being quite decent, schools of juvenile damsels, wrasses can be seen congregating around the coral. Numerous pairs of copper banded angelfish can be seen flitting around the various outcroppings. There was even an inquisitive one that hung around me for a while checking me out on the left then the right before it lost interest and swam away.

Honeyhead damsel

Camouflaged dusky colored gobies stand at guard, perched motionless outside their holes before an inquisitive diver approaches too near and sends them darting back to their holes in a cloud of slit. A pair of cardinal fish hides in the shade of kelp from the current, their dorsal fins erect. For their case, they allowed me to get close. Apparently they would rather deal with a nosy diver than fight the strong current!

Before you reckoned that all I saw was fish, there’s a whole abundance of different species of coral that were seen too. Impromptu pop quizzes on coral given by the dive guide ensured that we learnt how to identify some of the more common ones that populate Hantu. Tubeworms with their pompous plumage (feeding feelers) out were also spotted dotting the coral.

I’ll like to extend thanks to Jeff, Joshua and Debby for a good dive. And I’ll see the rest of you others (Yiru, MeiBao, Weiming and Choonyee) at the next Hantu dive!

Sunday, September 26, 2004

Hantu Blog Log: Sept 26, 2004

The great vis from last week held up! Being a little over 4m, sunshine through the water let everyone appreciate the massive coral of the fringe reef, schooling fish which usually lurk behind the low vis, and heaps and heaps of critters from marine worms and tube worms, to sea slugs and nudibranchs, crabs, shrimps and snails. We also saw white-bellied catfish working hard for lunch. Big damsels and anemone fish flashed their authority, bearing their teeth amidst the anemone. The Brahminy Kites and Little Terns that soared and flittered around the island during our surface interval were no-less appreciated!

"More corals and lifeforms than I expected! Quite an experience to be diving in waters with not so good visibility. Learnt to move slowly and see the corals." - Yiru, Hantu Blog Diver

Often over-looked during dives, corals are essential to the reef system and it is from them that all other reef creatures stem from. Which is why a visit to the Coral Garden at about 4-6m on the Western fringe reef was fabulous. It's really an outdoor classroom! Blooms and blooms of coral everywhere!

"Although not my first dive to Hantu, the dive brief was the best ever! Usually I receive no brief when I dive Hantu." - Weiming, Hantu Blog Diver

Dedicated reef guides also help make the trip more insightful and educational!

Thursday, September 23, 2004

Diving Tekukor Reef

Jani Thuaibah, a marine biologist with the NUS, visited Tekukor - a small island located in between Saint John's island and Sentosa in Singapore's southern islands - on Monday and met with a tropical paradise!

Read more about it at her blog thebluetempeh

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

ICCS 2004

ICCS 2004 was a success! Thanks to the spirit of heaps of volunteers!

Read about it on habitatnews!

Sunday, September 19, 2004

Rockin' hot dive! Sept 18, 2004

The vis at Hantu was incredible this morning! We hit the water at about 10am and managed a free descent with buddies in view (not in contact). Taking advantage of the great 5-6m vis, we stuck in the shallows of the fringe reef for the first dive and saw schools of damsels, rabbitfish, six banded and vermiculated angelfish, indian grouper, copper banded butterflyfish, scissorstail and bengal sergents, anchor tuskfish, fan-bellied filefish, marine worms (above picture), sandperches, spanish flag snappers, wrasses, gobies... the reef was alive! Not that it isn't usually, but the racing pulse of Hantu's reefs often remain hidden and its creatures made elusive by the low vis. So today was just perfect. Divers who took to the larger submerged reef for the first dive were well surprised by lionfish, and a lone diver on the smaller submerged reef logged a green turtle! Wicked!

Since I missed the turtle, I shortened my surface interval and spent 25 mins around the patch reef where it was sighted at apparently 8.7m. Unfortunately I didn't catch a glimpse of it, but I did catch an octopus as it slipped into a crevice beneath the coral, and a sneek peak at a pair of flabellina's mating (above picture), which was really cool.

On the last dive at 1pm, we thought we'd try searching for the bumboat wreck west of the island, past the sand bar. I was making my way along the channel between the big and little patch reefs when I got completely distracted by a pair of saddleback anemonefish (Amphiprion polymnus) (above picture). They are lovely fish to watch and I ended up just hanging out with them and their housemates - a swimmer crab, cleaner shrimp and heaps of anemone shrimp bouncing all over the place. It was a party! Good time passed and I began making my way back to the boat, crossing the sandflat Northward before heading East. That's where a Yellow-lipped Seakrait swam right into me! As it grazed the silt bottom, it left me in a cloud of dust and I wasn't able to give chase much farther. Back on the reef flat, I sent my regular greetings to the 2 false clown anemonefish (Amphiprion occllaris), before doing a slow descent to the surface, with a crazily-huge smile of my face. The perfect way to tie up the week.

I took heaps of pix of some really neat creatures, and also of gorgeous, huge, coral which would be usually difficult to photograph because of low vis. I'll reveal these to you over the week.

Talk "Coral Spawning: How do these animals do it?"

Date: 25 Sep (Sat)
Time: 3 - 4pm at the Singapore International Foundation Park Mall, 9 Penang Rd, #12-01 Everest & Kinabalu rooms

During this free talk and discussion on coral spawning, Dr. James Rolfe Guest (Research assistant, Tropical Marine Science Institute,working on giant clams) will share his exploits uncovering coral spawning and marine conservation issues. Previously it had been thought that the mass coral spawning would be absent close to the equator because of the lack of suitable seasonal environmental cues. As part of Dr Rolfe's PhD at the National University of Singapore, he looked at the corals around Singapore's southern islands and found that mass coral spawning does indeed occur in local waters! Singapore's southern islands are fringed by remarkably diverse coral reefs despite being subjected to relatively poor water conditions. All of these reefs are severely threatened by human activities, but none are formally protected. There'll be lots of time for discussion of this fascinating topic after the talk.

Contact: Dionne at mattebluewhite@yahoo.com.sg

Friday, September 17, 2004

Commemorating ICCS 2004: Moorings at Hantu

In 1996, The National Council on the Environment (presently called the Singapore Environmental Council, SEC) together with Raffles Marina, Singapore Underwater Federation (SUF) and Shell Pte Ltd, initiated the installation of mooring buoys at Pulau Hantu to discourage use of anchors and reduce damage to the reef. The SUF involved volunteer divers to help deploy and maintain the buoys, while Shell Eastern Petroleum sponsored project costs of US$25,000.

However, the buoys were recently removed from Pulau Hantu and current visitors would have to drop anchor if they intend to dive at the fringing reef.

Visitorship remains strong at the island. On weekends as many as three boats can be found anchored on the north and western channel. We believe that the presence of just one mooring on either side would make a difference to the damage caused by anchorage.

It encourages boaters to remain conscious of the effects of anchoring as well as gives them the capacity to be more responsible. We've learnt through interviews that some boaters prefer not to anchor but are left without choice.

The Hantu Blog is looking for volunteers to help construct and implement simple moorings in Hantu.

Sign up to be part of the effort!

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Asian wildlife tops WWF list of species threatened by trade

Nine of the animals or trees on the WWF's annual list of species suffering the most from unregulated trade are found in Asia, from yellow-crested cockatoos to the ramin tree and a reef fish called the humphead wrasse.

Full story...

The Hantu Book

The team that lauched the coffee table book, Singapore Waters: Unveiling Our Seas, has grown and is now developing a book to commemorate Pulau Hantu - a document that has been a long time coming!

The team is looking for individuals who have interesting topside and marine pictures, pictorial documentation of recreationists on land and sea (boaters/fishermen/picnickers), and for interesting stories that relate the pleasure and uniqueness of recreating on Singapore's most popular Southern Island.

If you've got pictures or stories to share, get in touch.

Pulau Hantu belongs to everyone, and it's time to share your story.

Thursday, September 09, 2004

18 Sept is International Coastal Cleanup, Singapore

18 Sep (Sat): International Coastal Cleanup, Singapore
(Beach and Mangroves)

The International Coastal Cleanup (ICC) is an annual event conducted in 70-100 countries, coordinated by the US-based agency, The Ocean Conservancy, a non-profit organisation. It aims to remove and collect data on the debris from the shorelines. This information serves to educate and encourage positive change.

Contact: For more details, see the ICCS website or email Sivasothi at iccs@sivasothi.com

Monday, September 06, 2004

Advocacy Fair this Saturday

11 Sep (Sat): "Artists and Other Animals" at the SubStation
Time: Fair from 3-7pm, Forum 10am-6pm

Animals are taking over The Substation in September!

A Visual Arts show, and an animal and conservation Advocacy Fair which includes environmentalists, conservationists, animal welfare groups, artists, writers and the interested public. You will get to meet speakers from Seashepherd, ACRES, Wildaid, WWF, AVA, the Zoo, Nature Society, AVA and more. wildsingapore will be having a poster exhibition featuring the wonderful wildlife that Singapore has.

There will be a forum about human-animal relationships. Join a lively dialogue with over twenty invited personalities: scientists (Siva is one of them!), artists, academics, activists, TV & media workers & public personalities in discussion of: Captive Animals, Captive Audiences & Captive Imaginations - Human-Animal relationships in Singapore & Southeast Asia.

In the afternoon, hang out in The Substation Garden to find out more about conservation and environmental concerns, and chill to music by Zai Kuning, EMOT, Yee Chang Kang and UBlues.

More details on the SubStation website and habitatnews.

Contact: email admin@substation.org or call 6337 7800

Thursday, September 02, 2004

Vis Data Out

Visibility data in Singapore's Southern Islands is out thanks to volunteer Lim Chen Kee, a Raffles Museum Toddycat, and to the Hantu Bloggers who have been making regular visits to Hantu island allowing for a regular collection of data.

Wednesday, September 01, 2004

Small crab bites Crown of Thorns

You might have encountered this tiny crab, Trapezia sp. on a night dive but never thought more of it as it is small and looks rather inocuous. This critter however, protects coral from being preyed upon by crown of thorns sea stars by breaking off their spines and nipping at their tube feet, discouraging the echinoderm from feeding on the crabs' home coral.

This individual was photographed on Hantu Kecil's North-facing reef on a night dive. They are most often spotted hiding in the nooks and convolutions of pocipollorid coral.