Pulau Hantu - A celebration of marine life

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

Monday, February 28, 2005

Blog Log - Feb 20, 2005

Copperbanded or Long beaked butterfly fish

It was outstanding. An incredible 6m vis brought on by cooler currents and a temporary halt in dredging. When the curtain of silt is raised, Hantu is given all the opportunity to perform.

On an encore: This gorgonian shrimp was on a whip much too small for it, which made it easy to spot!

Blog diver Marcel checks out the cool sea fans

In the depths or the channel, stong currents allow a crazy diversity of coral to thrive

Chromodoris bullocki: This icon of the 2004 Bunaken Marine Park pass is often sighted in our local waters.

Everyone was real excited to sight this rare Noble Volute, the only predator of mature Crown of Thorns seastars.

Alright! This was massive! Intentionally taken next to a piece of weight for prespective, this GINORMOUS flatworm was ploughing through the shallow reefs unintimidated by anything, even taking a swim before us to convey its invincibility!

A little spiral whip. These animals get gorgeous when they mature!

A fat and busy red swimmer crab

More great coral scape...

... and divers enjoying the view.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Is your Dive Operator an Eco-Operator?

The Hantu Blog recognises Dive Operators that go the extra mile.

Eco-Operators are a select group that pledge to conduct business according to Eco-Operator guidelines.

The guidelines include providing dive experiences that enhance visitor awareness, appreciation and understanding of the local aquatic environment, to participating in local conservation efforts and support established parks and reserves.

Which is why The Hantu Blog is proud to have the support of Seahounds Scuba, Singapore's only Eco-Operator. Apart from supporting local conservation efforts, Seahounds Scuba is involved in several education and awareness programs and Project AWARE Activities.

The Hantu Blog encourages divers to be informed and responsible in choosing their Dive Operators. Whether you're travelling locally or abroad look out for the Go ECO logo and the Project AWARE Go ECO Operators. These dive centres and resorts are committed to the Project AWARE Go ECO philosophy. By travelling with an Eco-Operator, you not only know that they implement the best environmental practices in their local area, but you can also be assured that your dive will be educational and have minimal impact on our aquatic ecosystem, whilst your support contributes to environmental, economic and cultural conservation.

Related entries:
Uncle Chua
Attitude Diving
Live from ADEX

Related sites:

Monday, February 21, 2005

Speedy the Sea Krait - Dive 1

Barely awake and longing for more zzz's, I drag my lazy a** out of bed on Sunday morning to dive Hantu. I figured this would be monumental since it is the first dive after this blog got its own domain, pulauhantu.org. It's the least I can do right? So with my vision blurred and my head throbbing from the lack of sleep, I can feel my resolve starting to wane... to dive or not to dive? After a heavy breakfast at Macs and some mindless banter with the founder of Hantu Blog, Debby, we made our way to West Coast where Uncle Chua usually picks us up.

There it is, the pier at Hantu. The water looks inviting. With the sun beating down on us and a slight cool breeze blowing... maybe it was worth the while afterall. Er, actually, the part about the cool breeze, I just made that up for effect. It was hot as hell! But really, I can't wait to get in the almost 5 meter vis water!!! "Andale Terence!" I thought to myself! "You're still not dressed yet?" As my sentiments echoed out loud to my dive buddy for the day.

13 meters later, I can make out the visibility. It was 6 meters! First thing we spotted was a Polyclad Flatworm - Phrikoceros, I think. As we headed westward towards the pier, a pair of flabelina was mating. There was another one moving away from the love site while yet another moving towards the pair. Hmmm, a common mating ritual for slugs, or they just love playing those crazy sex games!

It was already 32 minutes into the dive and we are still nowhere near our destination, the pier. Photo opportunities abound! Swimmer crabs, goat fishes, butterfly fishes, and then, the unexpected happened... while practising my photography "skills" on a nudi, unbeknownst to me, our friend the sea krait decided to sneak up on me. Let's name him Speedy. Face to face with Speedy, I could hardly contain my excitement. Talk about a shock and awe campaign! "MMMMMMMM!!!!! "MMMMM!!!!!", I signalled to Terence, who was equally excited. As Speedy, er sped away, I gave chase. At the same time, I switched my camera to movie mode as it was impossible, with my photography skills, to snap him going at that speed. I had shot up the surface without even realizing it. With standard dive procedures down the toilet and the risk of spending the rest of my life as a vegetable, I got a movie clip of Speedy!

"Sea Krait Sea Krait!!!!" I yelled out to the other divers who have surfaced. "Cool!", "Wow!", "Got a picture?" was some of the very encouraging response I had. Then someone had to say it... "Where's your buddy?"

Pulau Hantu

3 day dives and 1 night dive at pulau hantu on 19th Feb 2005.

Vis was incredibly good , around 5m. Even at 20m depth we have 4m vis.

Dive 1:

Whip gobies are just everywhere!

Dive 2:

This octopus actually found me as it swam past my mask.

Dive 3:

4-5cm long gorgonian shrimp

Rare sea spider

Dive 4:

Divers who walked on the reef to get onto the island. What a boo boo.

See more pics of stuff at hantu here!

Saturday, February 19, 2005

Recruitment drive and a NEW DOMAIN!

The Hantu Blog was invited to the Toddycats recruitment drive which was held at the Department of Biological Sciences at the NUS this evening.

Organized to get more people involved in Toddycat projects, this recruitment drive saw students and the public from and outside of the Science Faculty, turn up to learn more about what's going on with the environmental movement and how they can be a part of it.

During this presentation, The Hantu Blog raised the need for web programers, designers, and creative individuals to develop webpages and educational material in print and electronic media.

Through the year, we have found electronic media to be the one form most effective at communicating with the public in this savvy day and age. (In case you haven't realised, The Hantu Blog now has its very own domain! www.pulauhantu.org Bookmark it!) Print material is also necessary for placement and distribution at localities such as the RMBR and dive operations.

If you think you have the talents we're looking for, email us. We'd love to hear from you. We're always looking for dynamic individuals to assist in the development and dissemination of information - creative educators!

Monday, February 14, 2005

Pulau Hantu, A Celebration of Life Indeed!

This is my first post ever since I have been diving Hantu for the last 6 months. And DANG!!! What a dive it was last weekend at Pulau Hantu! And guess what, the vis wasn't even that great! 2 metres, tops. Nevertheless, the sightings were spectacular, to say the least. My first encounter with a Gorgonian Shrimp set the pace for the rest of the dives. Different nudibranchs and flatworms, leaving me breathless, literally, trying to photograph 'em critters. We also spotted a leather jacket, cleaner shrimp, swimmer crabs and clown fishes (Nemo and his dad, I think) and then some...

Gorgonian shrimp

Back in 1998, I thought Pulau Hantu was aptly named... a "ghost island" it seemed when I dived the open water for the first time. Needless to say, I was without a proper guide. The only things I saw was a coke can, some plastic wrappers and a s**t load of silt. Yes, I still get similar comments from folks who have been there once and swore on their mothers' good name that they will never dive Hantu again. To those divers out there, give Hantu the second chance it deserves. With an open mind and a little bit of patience, you might just uncover buried treasures of our seas.

Peacock anemone

See more of Edd Ong's pictures

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Blog Log - Feb 13, 2005

The season's cold currents have kept the vis good since the new year. We're also discovering new and amazing varieties in Hantu we thought never existed here. Divers have met up with creatures they've never seen in other dive sites, and the small size that is Hantu has allowed all to slow down and appreciate the environment often overlooked when presented in abundance.

Here are images from today's dive, beginning with those in variety and abundance: Sea slugs and Flatworms.

Then of course, there are the animals (yes! they are animals) that make our reef what they are: Corals.

And what is a reef without its inhabitants?

We're on a roll here... our eighth sighting... presenting, The gorgonian shrimp! Tozeuma armatum!

Come experience this enchantment for yourself. Pay Hantu a visit, join us for a dive. And if you've dived with us and had a good time, tell others about it. Share our natural heritage.

Saturday, February 12, 2005

Blog Log - Feb 12, 2005

For the past 3 weeks, not a dive has gone by without us sharing a moment with these gorgeous Gorgonian shrimp (Torzeuma armatum). Also known as the Needle shrimp or Saw blade shrimp, this crustacean lives an almost invisible life upon gorgonians.

They occur in a variety of colours, from red to blue, to white or translucent. So far, we've sighted three varieties in our waters, and in a varied levels of maturity. In our first post, we'd mentioned these animals breed easily as long as there is a healthy population of whips. We hope this holds true, and pray the present abundance of whips we have in our waters holds up for the better.

Apart from rare shrimps, Hantu's reefs also house an incredible diversity of nudibranches.

Today alone, we'd sighted several species of nudis, and over time, we've come across some really rare specimens as suggested by sea slug biologists.

Then of course there were other pretty things like anemones...

And crinoids! We don't know why all the crinoids we encountered during this dive were hiding in holes...

On the surface, as busy as it was underwater, barges and their little mighty tug bots were busy busy busy in the fairway... Reminding us that our bid to preserve Hantu Island is an ever urgent one.

Friday, February 11, 2005

Thrill me Hantu!

Another outstanding dive at Hantu!

The Hantu Blog went out with our affiliate, Sea Hounds Scuba last Sunday on February 6.

I was bummed that I forgot to load the battery into my camera (DUH!) but LUCKILY, there were others to depend on!

Here are images of Hantu via the viewfinder of Sea Hounds Scuba.

COMET! Yes! That's right! This is the Blog's second sighting of this extremely elusive fish. This individual was a mature fella about palm-sized and still it was difficult to photograph. Here is its rear end, face wedged into the crevice, just as in the books!

HORSESHOE CRAB! Living fossils of the sea reside right here in our local reefs! These animals like to burrow in the sand and have to come up to shore to spawn and mate.

On this dive we also saw (hang on to your seat) FOUR Gorgonian shrimp! And we're beginning to believe that there may be a healthy population of these beautiful and mesmerising animals on local reefs! This is outstanding because, though very little is known about this shrimp and its place in the ecology of the reef, it is at least understood to be a rare occurance, and considering the size of Hantu's reef, we think four is a very positive number. So divers, next time you come across a sea whip, please slow down and take a closer look!

Going on to more animals... Sunday's dive also featured...


SQUID EGGS! So we know our animals are working hard to keep on going... what's left is just a little help from us to ensure they always have a place to call home, and in return we add amazement, diversity and natural wonder to this developed and progressive nation. Who said development and nature couldn't coexist!

For more sights into Sunday's dive, swing into the Sea Hounds Webshots Gallery.

Saturday, February 05, 2005

Hantu flaunts it: Another super fantastic dive

Our dives are getting better and better each time we get out! On todays list were huge cuttlefish, palm-sized flatworms, a school of silver batfish and yellowtail fusiliers. There was also a small school of rabbitfish and snappers. Good vis reveals all.

There were heaps and heaps of nudis everywhere!

Exploring the deep of the north channel were gorgeous sea whips, and gorgonians...

...and their commensal shrimps and whip gobies like the one above. Several of these were spotted today. It was great!

The good currents that flow through the channel allows for a crazy diversity of animals such as crinoids (or feather stars). These brightly coloured species have long arms which trap food particles (that are carried in the current) that are sent along special grooves leading to the mouth located on the top of the small disc-like body.

Good vis allowed us to broadly view and be amazed at Hantu's rich and resilient reefs. Sergent majors, gropers, damsels, wrasses, butterfly fish and whiptails were all in the cast today.


More great coral cover! We're guessing that the momentary halt on dredging has really given our reefs a moment to breathe and have her beauty unveiled. We managed to do a good deal of coral and fish ID today, which was heaps fun! Nature is really resilient in that she'll fight to thrive and prosper as long as given a chance.

She looked beautiful from the surface - sargassum seaweed teasing the waters' surface. We could see several little fish from topside, brilliant!

Added to the great diving we had really good weather. A different realm, a great weekend, just 40mins from the mainland.

Friday, February 04, 2005

"Hantu coral life dying out fast"

"Hantu coral life dying out fast" By Radha Basu, The Straits Times, 04 Feb 2005 [pdf]. Silt churned out by land reclamation and dredging smothering corals, says expert.

Half of the coral life around a stretch of reef off Pulau Hantu has died over an 18-month span, according to a new survey which conservationists cited as another reason for new laws to protect marine life.

Conducted by enthusiasts from a marine conservation group known as Blue Water Volunteers, the survey, done in October last year, found that hard coral cover off the Hantu site, at a depth of about 3m, was down to about 30 per cent of the area surveyed.

When the same team had surveyed the same site in March 2003, the coral cover then was about 60 per cent.

Marine biologist Jani Thuaibah, 23, one of the two divers who conducted both surveys, said she was shocked at the extensive loss.

'Even if you take into account that observer errors may have crept in, given that these were volunteer surveys, the big loss of coral cover in that area is undeniable,' she told The Straits Times, adding that anyone who has been diving there regularly would have noticed it.

Experts estimate that Singapore has lost more than 65 per cent of its reefs since 1986.

Read more at Habitatnews.