Pulau Hantu - A celebration of marine life

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

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Xplore! Program, Practical 2 @ Hantu!

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Reef Friends XPLORE! get divin'

Finally, the trainees have a chance to get down for some dives! Everyone's excited!

The first practical was conducted at Kusu island. We departed promptly from Keppel Marina where the trainees promptly assisted in loading up the boat, and even had a go at giving an area and boat briefing!

We were blessed with great weather and very slack currents. The tide was high which gave us greater depth and opportunity to explore the reefs of NE Kusu. The objective of this trip was primarily to familiarise the trainees with the site. Though some of them had dived the site before, they might've done so with a line transect and had less chance to check out the reef proper. This time, with dive guides, more time, and good vis, trainees could at least mentally plot out the topography and scape of the reef, recall some natural landmarks, notes which all aid the future mapping of the reef that each guide will have to draft out at a later stage.

Xplore! trainee and certified dive master, Howard rigs up while our skipper looks on. We truly enjoyed being onboard with this skipper who understood the needs of divers and was patient and punctual!

Here some divers begin to make their descent with a reference line. The water this weekend was a tad cold! After 70mins... we were all racing to get out! Well, at least I was! Brrr...

With Xplore trainers Jani and Tse Lyn (Blue Water Volunteers), and myself from the Hantu Blog, there was many an opportunity for questions and discussions about methods of communicating and delivering info whilst guiding. The use of techniques during reef interaction was also much in dialogue, and some trainees whilst very competent at reef ecology and the identification of organisms, talked about upgrading their skills to make dives more comfortable and effective. The same was true for trainees, some of which were dive masters, to gain more skills in the environment department!

Yes, lots of smiles and questions that satisfied our enthusiam! It was really good to be out in the field, where it all happens, with the trainees! It was very motivating, but at the same time, a reality check for some when they came to realise the tasks that were at hand. This awareness fuelled more questions pertaining to reef guiding. The very fact that this activity requires a minimal investment of time and undeniable dedication and committment, also led some to have to give up their places on the Xplore! program as external committments could not allow them the time or energy to participate any further. But that's not the end! Because there are several other programs that they can participate in such as the BWV Reef Exhibitions and Reef Walks, and they can even join us again for the next intake if that is a better time! There's never an end-all situation when it comes to conservation and education!

Being in the field also gave more insight into the activities that occur around our southern shores. Here, a dredger harvests sediment from the seabed. This particular method causes significant leeching that stirrs up a plume of silt that can travel great distances to eventually rest of the reef and its inhabitants.

For a look at some of the critters and organisms observed that Kusu that weekend, check out Hui Bin's, Xplore! trainee, photo web.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Papers and Passes for Practicals

Yup, we're back in for another Friday night to talk about corals, Singapore, and diving. The final topic of the week was on The Principles of dive guiding techniques and dive safety, tutored by Jacki Ng of Gill Divers, and myself, representing the Hantu Bloggers.

In the 4 hour tutorial, we discussed issues such as what makes a good guide, of course including dive guiding tips such as reef interaction techniques, reef mapping, reading currents, navigation, and so on.

More serious and pertinent issues were also discussed, though not in as great detail as we would've liked it to be, but safety procedures, briefings as well as action plans (EMS) were also presented. Trainees got the chance to learn more about the real risks of DCS/I and how/what are the various risks or emergencies we are likely to encounter locally. Particularly in the safety section, but probably throughout the course, we had limited time to discuss in detail the intricacies of our subjects; but this is because what we're doing here is training you to be GUIDES, which means (as we have mentioned before) we expect participants to already fulfill a minimal level of dive competency because this is the mediumn in which the guiding will be conducted. For example, someone who's uncomfortable in hiking boots and chugging up forest trails, with low fitness, would probably not make an ideal forest guide. Same thing applies.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Letter from JTC

8 Feb 2006

Dear Debby and The Hantu Bloggers

1 We thank you for your interest in the Pulau Ular reclamation project. We share your interest and concern for the environment.

2 Since our last correspondence, we have been working on the final details of the reclamation project and studying reclamation best practices that we can adopt to ensure minimal environmental impact. We would like to assure you that JTC is committed to minimising any adverse impact on the environment and to ensuring the safety of the diving community here.

Minimising Impact on the Marine Environment

3 We have engaged a world-renowned hydraulic institute, DHI Water & Environment (S) Pte Ltd, as our consultant to carry out studies on the marine environmental impact for the Pulau Ular project and to advise on how to minimise any adverse impact to the environment. DHI has recommended on the measures to adopt. We are implementing their recommendations on silt control, and carrying out regular monitoring of the silt, current and water quality during the reclamation to ensure compliance.

Environmental Monitoring & Management Plan (EMMP)

4 To ensure minimal disturbance to the marine habitat around Pulau Hantu during the course of the reclamation works, we are also putting in place a rigorous Environmental Monitoring & Management Plan (EMMP), based on international best practice. The EMMP is a monitoring, feedback and forecast modelling system to manage the reclamation process. It will forecast and provide early warnings when certain environmental threshold is exceeded. This will allow the project team to take measures at an early stage to minimise any adverse impact on the environment.

Relocation of corals at Terumbu Bayan

5 Before we begin the reclamation, our consultant DHI will relocate the corals, which are directly impacted by the reclamation works at Terumbu Bayan. DHI is the same specialist consultant who carried out the Marine Environmental Impact Assessment study, and whose marine biologists have good experience with other major coral relocation programmes in the region.

6 The coral relocation exercise will start very soon. You can contact my colleague, Ms Tham Lai Pui (Manager, Marketing Communications) at Tel: 68833053 or laipui@jtc.gov.sg who will provide you with more up-to-date information with respect to this exercise.

Safety Measures for Divers

7 We are aware that Pulau Hantu is a favourite diving spot for many local dive groups. However, as reclamation works at the Pulau Ular site is expected to start in mid-February 2006, these reclamation activities may pose a danger to diving operators and recreational divers at the nearby Pulau Hantu. Therefore, it is of paramount importance that we put in place some safety measures during the reclamation period.

8 JTC will be working with the Maritime and Port Authority (MPA) to temporarily close off access to the northern shore of Pulau Hantu for safety reasons from mid-Feb 2006 to 1st quarter 2007. The northern jetty at Pulau Hantu will also be temporarily closed during the same period. However, divers can continue to use the south jetty at Pulau Hantu to access the island and diving can continue at the western part of Pulau Hantu. We seek your kind understanding on this matter.

9 There will be warning signs and marker buoys to mark the limits of the closed area. The notification about the temporary closures will also be circulated by MPA via their Port Marine Notices. Such temporary closures will be regularly reviewed based on the progress of the reclamation and the access corridor that is needed for the reclamation vessels.

10 In conclusion, we would like to reiterate our common concern for the marine environment around Singapore. I hope the above information is useful and helps to provide you with a clearer picture of the reclamation project and the steps we have put in place to reduce any environmental impact.

Yours sincerely
David Tan
Director, Specialised Parks Development Group
JTC Corporation