A Different Celebration Everyday
The first time I dove Hantu was part of an SSI Save Our Seas cleanup day. As a relatively new diver at the time, I have to admit I panicked a bit as I descended down the line and it started to get dark at 8m. Where's the bottom, I thought? Where am i going? Suddenly, a dark silhouette loomed from about a meter below my fins, and I realized I must be at the bottom. With our net bags in tow, we set out on our mission to collect as much rubbish from the reef as we could. I am happy to report we found very little rubbish. But neither do I recall seeing any fish.
I suppose many people have had similar first impressions of Hantu, and based on that, decided never to return. It's too bad, really, because they are missing out on a unique opportunity to really appreciate the beauty, and fragility, of our local marine environment. Everytime I return to Hantu, I see something I have never seen before. The discovery of the Comet a few weeks back, for example, kept me mesmerised for at least 10 minutes, because as far as I recall, I had never seen such a fish before. Or perhaps I had in other locales, like Tioman or Aur, but the better visibility there actually distracted me from taking notice of these more elusive creatures in the reef. On Saturday, the gorgeous black polyclad flat worm with the royal blue fringe took my breath away with its elegant beauty (see Debby's photo). I'm sure there are many similar flat worms in other places I have dived, but because this one was in Hantu, it made me take notice.
This is what is special about diving at Hantu. It is a unique and rewarding experience for those of us who are willing to shed ourselves of any expectations or comparisons with other dive sites. Rather than bemoan the poor visibility, we use it to our advantage to get closer, go slower, and take notice of things that we would normally just give a passing glance in other sites in Malaysia, for example. Like the coral. Hantu gives us the opportunity to take a closer look at the coral, something we seem to not talk about so much when we ascend from a dive at Tioman. Yes, the expansive wall of foliate corals on the SW side of the western patch reef really did look like a big salad to me on Saturday! And the bubble coral was draped so beautifully thick over the wall of the reef that it reminded me of a big, soft, woollen carpet. Everytime time I come across a tiny sea fan at Hantu it leaves such a huge impression on me when I consider its resiliency in the face of the harsh conditions imposed by all sorts of human activity and development on and around our local waters.
This is Hantu. This is one of Singapore's unique places. And this is why we celebrate it.