Pulau Hantu - A celebration of marine life

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

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Deepavali holiday at Pulau Hantu

Image source: Colourful Clouds Blog

See more of Chay Hoons FANTASTIC pix and read all about her spactacular dive at Hantu. All that and more on the Colourful Clouds Blog!

If you like nudibranches, you will LOVE this account!

Monday, October 30, 2006

Our boatman retires

Since the Hantu Blog began taking the public out to our Singapore seas, and in fact, on my very first local dive, the boatman I've enjoyed trading stories with and learning about our seas from was Uncle Chua, or Ah Chua, or Mr Loh. He goes by a few names, and I recall when we first began using him regularly, we'd debate about what his name was, and often ended up confused!

Though the Hantu Blog uses Ah Chua's traditional bumboat on a regular basis, our regular isn't quite regular enough for him. Over the past 3 years, he's supplemented his boat services with part-time technical jobs. The cost of running and maintaining a boat gets more expensive in Singapore, as the need for traditional bumboats such as Ah Chua's becomes obsolette; replaced by more sophisticated and speedy vessels, though which may be more efficient, have little if any character.

The traditional bumboat has given trips to Hantu, a special, nostalgic touch. Allowing divers that visit our seas an experience that's truly and uniquely Singaporean. Otherwise, we'd all be diving out of the same-old fibreglass boats, with so much less stories to tell.

"He was part of the Hantu experience." - Paul Cheng, diver with the Hantu Blog

Related story:
Uncle Chua

Review the plans for marine park in Sentosa's integrated resort

Letter from Suganya Naidu Straits Times Forum 26 Oct 06

The report "Showtime for Genting and Kerzner" (ST Oct 17) is a vivid example of ironic human practices. It shows the obession of the business community to meet the bottom line.

We are constantly reminded that companies are willing to take advantage of anything to reap the big bucks, with utter disregard for social and environmental implications.

To cater to the whims and fancies of people, the proposed Quest Marine Life Park intends to hold captive nearly 700,000 marine creatures, and create channels for physical contact with them.

It claims that such interactions would help propagate the idea of conservation to the layman. This is a gross misconception.

The whole concept of "captive conservation" is a contradiction in terms.

What would otherwise be impossible in a natural setting (such as swimming with sharks) is realised in the context of the oceanarium.

It is claimed that trapping the creatures for display is the only way to educate the public.

To the horror of conservationists, wild animals are increasingly being associated with playthings.

The stress that these animals experience when taken from their natural habitats is significant and many do not survive the trip. As a consequence of this sudden change in environment, some species are unable to breed successfully in captivity.

The physical degradation of the polar bears in the Singapore Zoo clearly illustrates the case.

When captive breeding fails, so do the progeny and all the hopes of protecting these remarkable creatures.

Therefore, it is necessary to re-evaluate the rationale for the marine park.

Is it merely another economic opportunity to maximise profits or is it a genuine effort in marine wildlife conservation?

If it is the latter, is a man-made glass tank the way to do it?

Read related articles:
Activists against having a whale of a time

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Blog Log Oct 21, 2006

Lots of nudibranches, and lots of fishes. We've always wondered how many times we'd passed a creatures by (or probably more precisely, creatures have passed us by) without either of us actually realising it. Well, to be fair, chances are the animals were aware of us, but us not of them. When the waters of Pulau Hantu ever so rarely clear up to reveal marvelous visibility, it's wonders and beauty can so easliy be appreciated. From the reef slope, schools of rabbitfish and yellowtail barracuda could be observed circling upon the reef flat. This would be the 2nd time the Hantu Blog has experienced such favourable vis this year, and just as well, because the video crew from last week joined us again for a chance to document more animals. Look out for the episode to be screened during the 1st week of December on Channel U.

Not only were the fishes schooling, but the sea slugs seemed to be schooling too! Divers and camera crew were understandably distracted by the numerous, brilliantly-coloured, and photogenic relatives of the garden snail.

Small or large, common or rare, sea slugs were sprinkled all over the reef slope and sea bed! Yes! Sea bed! We travelled all the way to the depths this time, taking full advantage of the great vis. And we were very appropriately rewarded ;)

Leather jackets, also known as Filefish, were EVERYWHERE. Some were skittish, but others such as this individual, were more obliging towards the camera!

Even this common flatworm appears vivid against the red encrusting coral!

This Gymnodoris nudibranch is so translucent you can observe its internal organs with the right lighting! There were 3 such nudis clustered together. Photographers were spoiled for choice!

Relatively common and unassumingly plain-looking in black, this flatworm dazzles with its cobalt blue margin.

Hantu Blog and Reef Xplore volunteer Gina Tan spotted this TINY little critter, no more than 3mm across! She has remarkable eyes, but what's more remarkable is that such a tiny little creature is actually a poisonous carnivore!

Another carnivore on the reef that's a little larger, well, MUCH larger, is the reef cuttlefish. Hovering quietly above the sea bed, even when there were 3 of us hanging over its head and firing flashes andhttp://www.blogger.com/img/gl.link.gif breathing noisy bubbles, this individual maintained its calm, keeping its camoufladge, and slowly, ever-so stealthily, sneaked away from right under our noses! This same cuttlefish later "bumped" into me, as I was hanging over a coral trying to catch a glimpse of a yellow-coloured Tigertail seahorse that crept into a crevice when it was spotted.

Other creatures we saw but didn't manage to get shots off included Bobtail squid, yellow-lipped seakrait, and bait squid. The most magnificent of part of the dive was when the school of Silver Moony arrived overhead... Their gorgeous silvery colours and their quiet yet awesome presence were a magical sight... Didn't manage to get any pictures unfortunately, but hopefully it will be cut into the Youth Decode episode due 1st week of December. So stay tuned to Channel U eh!

I also managed to get a video of a goby and the blind shrimp it shares its home with. Will load it onto the Blog soon! Oh! And I also shot this fun video of a Butterfly whiptail, a gorgeous fish and one of my favourite fishes on the Hantu reef... But my best fish for today must've been the rare Red Grouper. Before you say "YUM!" groupers though plain-looking fish (apart from probably the fantastic-looking Tiger grouper) are truly magestic fish that really look like they own the reef! There were also goatfish and snappers and tons of damselfish and HUGE six-banded angelfish and small schools of Kite and Copperband butterflyfish... and... SO MANY THINGS TO SEE!!!!

Monday, October 23, 2006

Cold Coral Deep

Cold Coral Deep

Monday 23rd at 0930 Singapore time, on BBC World

Less is known about the floor of the world’s oceans than the surface of the moon. Only recently scientists have discovered cold water corals at extreme depths in several parts of the world. Yet just as these scientists begin to map these corals they are finding huge swathes of the reefs destroyed. Earth Report investigates.

Excerpt from BBCWORLD.COM

Do love the oceans, but don't steal from it

[Excerpt] "As Genting Group CEO Lim Kok Thay he himself said, “All the attractions are experimental”. Now, experiments are not neccessarily a bad idea, but they must be well-designed and mmm, not so risky? This is part of a $5.2 billion project we’re talking about, and thousands of lives of supposedly free-living marine creatures. And gosh, it’s a long-term project so let’s not even talk about how sustainable this is. An experiment in what… alternate, novel ways of attracting tourists and generating revenue, and testing how well marine animals survive and reproduce in less-than-ideal captive environments? Conservation projects should always be founded on good, solid science, and should only be planned and managed in conjunction with other non conservation-oriented domains when avoidance and conflict is inevitable."

More comments on the Sentosa IR on the talfryn.net blog

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Oct 15 - probably the only Hantublog trip without Debby on it ;p

There are two things special about this trip. First, we have a team of three production crew doing a program on Channel U called Youth Decode series 2. Their intention is to interview Debby as a young woman who makes a difference. The second special thing? Debby is not on the trip.

Well, we figured that they probably need more than one trip to get all the footage that they require, so this would be somewhat a recce trip for them, and we try to entertain the crew without Debby (the spotlight) presence ;p
Probably we didn't entertain them that well, since most of us were pretty dumbfounded when we were asked questions on why we love to dive local waters, what is it about these waters that attract us ... not that we didn't know, but the tongues just get tied with the camera pointing at us! >_<

Visibility was a normal 2-3metres, and interesting things like juvenile harlequin sweetlips, chromodoris fidelis, armina and gymnodoris alba were spotted, just to name a few.

The whole Chinese talking thing for the programme got us into discussions into what should be called what in Chinese.. then came the question "What is Pulau Hantu called in Chinese?" Yeah it means Ghost Island, but you know how translation doesn't work like that every time.. thanks to Yan with a bit of internet search, we realised that it is called Han Du Dao ("Han" as in Korea, "Du" as in City)... Korea City Island??? And the most interesting thing that we discovered on the trip, told by Chay Hoon, is nudibranch is called tian yu in Chinese!~ Tian (2nd sound), Yu (2nd sound).. sweet fish???

*photos taken by Chay Hoon, Ming Sheng and Chung Yan

Friday, October 20, 2006

Sea Pens, Sea Mushrooms and Sea Slugs

Hantu Blog and ReefXplore volunteer Choon Yan, took his camera out last Sunday and grabbed a glimpse of Sea Pens, Nudibranches, and MASSIVE mushroom corals, all from the reef of Pulau Hantu! To see his amazing pictures visit his Yahoo album!

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Aquarium showdown: It's a battle of gallons

The Straits Times 18 Oct 06
full article

Front runners Kerzner and Genting are both claiming their fish habitats will be the world's biggest

THE one-upmanship between the two front runners in the Sentosa race began yesterday - over the size of the housing for their fish.

Asked to respond yesterday, Genting said its aquarium will have over 20 million gallons of water. That is enough to fill about 37 Olympic-size swimming pools.

The comment drew a swift return from Mr Prior, who trotted out a 24 million-gallon figure, counting in all the aquatic exhibits scattered around Kerzner's resort.

Mr Prior also offered a last word: 'It is not about having the biggest number of fish or largest volume of water attractions, but how we use these to develop the best experience.'

Mr Prior yesterday downplayed the role of robots at its Atlantis Sentosa. Kerzner unveiled these high-tech highlights on Monday, but the machines seem to have already overshadowed its core attractions.

Redressing this, Mr Prior said: 'Atlantis is all about the sea. The real emphasis is on the amazing fish of the sea - there will be a huge amount of real fish.'

Rethink idea of having whale sharks in Sentosa lagoon

Letter from Thomas Paulraj Thamboo Straits Times Forum 19 Oct 06
full article

I READ with great interest the various attractions that two of the
bidders for the Sentosa integrated resort have proposed to build
('Bold plans, big investments promised by IR bidders'; ST, Oct 17).

However, I was concerned by one of the ideas proposed by one of the

This is the proposal to keep whale sharks in a lagoon where visitors
could snorkel or dive with the creatures.

Whale sharks are majestic animals. They are the largest fish on the
planet, capable of exceeding 12m in length. They are gentle filter-
feeders, feeding on plankton.

Due to their size, filter-feeding habit and their observed tendency
to perform occasional deep dives, these creatures need to be in the
open sea, and a body of water the size of a lagoon (even a big
lagoon) would inevitably put constraints on their natural behaviour
and mode of living.

Some aquariums/oceanariums, notably those in Japan, have kept whale
sharks with mixed success.

There may be a certain educational value to having captive whale
sharks for visitors to observe and even interact with and this may
raise awareness of the protected species.

However, this may not outweigh the negative effects on these large
animals which ought to be able to range freely in open water.

I would love to dive with a whale shark, but not if it means keeping
one of these creatures captive.

The proposed lagoon can be populated by smaller fish species that
will not face space constraints in the way that whale sharks would.

More details on Kerzner-CapitaLand's Atlantis Sentosa

Sea creatures, robotics major players in Kerzner-CapitaLand's Atlantis Sentosa
By Yvonne Yong Channel NewsAsia 17 Oct 06

Aquasphere, the world's largest Aquarium at 10 million gallons, will blend the real with the surreal, containing 1000 species of coral and fish, whale sharks, the world's largest jellyfish exhibit, an 8m high fully submersed Aquadome, a 4D Theatre and Glass Sea Elevators.

The world's largest living coral reef, The Coral Lagoon, will allow
not only snorkellers and divers to get up close to underwater creatures and coral, but also those who prefer to stay dry by having a 'walk-through' experience at a depth of 10m.

Kerzner's sweet deal Bid promises jobs for 8,000, gourmet food at Atlantis
Jasmine Yin Today Online 18 Oct 06

Atlantis Sentosa is to house nine major attractions, like The Sails at Sentosa, a massive glass sculpture at the heart of the casino resort and a 10-million-gallon aquarium that is touted to be the world's largest and most technologically-advanced, as it combines real and robotic underwater life.

Examples of marine life that visitors can meet include giant octopuses, beluga whales, whale sharks and moray eels.

There will also be a 10-m-deep coral lagoon with 750 species of fish--the world's largest living coral reef exhibit--for visitors to snorkel, dive or walk through in glass-panelled tunnels. Full articles

Related articles:
Whale Sharks in Captivity

Sentosa IR plans - lively discussion on the fins forum

Another Humonguous Aquarium?? on the moo-space blog


On October 15, The Hantu Blog took out a production crew that's shooting a series for Channel U called Youth Decode.

Check out the pictures shot by Hantu Blog and ReefXplore volunteer Howard at his photo album, which include images of curious clownfish, crawling nudibranches, skittish butterfly fishes and cute little coral recruits!

Blog volounteer Ivy Lim speaks to a participant diver as the Youth Decode camera looks on.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Sentosa Integrated Resort plans revealed

Genting and Star Cruise plan

The Genting International and Star Cruises consortium has proposed to build four theme parks.

They include the world's largest oceanarium - the Quest Marine Life Park - with 700,000 dolphins, bat rays and open ocean fish.

At the 8-hectare Quest Marine Life Park, visitors can snorkel with some 200 species of aquatic animals, numbering 700,000 in total; dive with whale sharks--the largest fish in the world--or take a dip in an "extreme shark pool".

There will also be a pioneering interactive dolphin spa programme with Dolphin Quest providing spa therapies with dolphin interaction in specially created spa lagoons.

Full story

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Fabulous Dive at Hantu

Image: colourful clouds blog

Fabulous Dive at Hantu
great vis and amazing encounters
on the colourful clouds blog

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Take preventive measures to reduce silt from marine construction activities

Letter from Nature Society (Singapore) Straits Times Online 7 Oct 006
full letter

I refer to the article 'Silt in water: Harder 'whacks' planned' (ST, Sept 30).
We applaud the PUB's plan to impose better work practices and heavier fines on contractors who allow silt run-off from their worksites to pollute the waterways.

This is a timely initiative and we welcome the PUB's monitoring and prevention measures.

As far as we can see, this is essentially applicable to land-based construction activities and internal waterways.

How about marine or sea-based activities such as foreshore or land reclamation, trenching in seabed and dredging in Singapore waters?

These activities that include work on islands off Singapore are usually of a greater scale than land-based construction.

Uncontrolled marine-based activities can cause sedimentation that 'pollute' the sea with a tremendous amount of silt.

This is not only unpleasant and detrimental for diving, swimming and the many activities that we promote in our offshore waters, they also threaten our diminishing marine habitats such as coral reefs, seagrass beds, inter-tidal shores including mangrove.

Moreover, as we move into desalination as a source of water supply, excessive silt in Singapore waters is definitely not welcome.

We hope that the government agencies that have jurisdiction over Singapore waters will follow the good example of PUB and take preventive measures to reduce silt from sea-based activities.

More can be done to our sea as divers and boaters will testify.

Leong Kwok Peng
Marine Conservation Group
Nature Society (Singapore)

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