Pulau Hantu - A celebration of marine life

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

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Sea Turtle Seminar

29 Nov (Wed): IOSEA Year of the Turtle Seminar

Talk 1: "There's No Place Like Home: Investigating Nest Site
Fidelity in Leatherback Sea Turtles (Dermochelys coriacea)."

Talk 2: "Bintan Resorts Turtle Conservation Initiative:
identification of issues and preliminary results."

Time: 6.30pm
Venue: Multi-Purpose Hall, Pierce Road, National Biodiversity
Reference Centre, National Parks Board

more details on the habitatnews blog

Monday, November 27, 2006

Eight Wonder proposes world's largest living coral reef lagoon

By Wong Siew Ying
full article

SINGAPORE: Sentosa integrated resort bidder Eighth Wonder wants to take you into the heart of a coral reef lagoon, watch marine scientists at work or even experience a perfect storm.

Eighth Wonder and its partners say the proposed resort will not be place of superficial entertainment, but leans heavily on a message of conservation and research, especially at its multi-million-dollar Ocean Planet.

The 60,000 square feet facility will feature a living coral reef lagoon, where visitors can either walk through or snorkel in.

"It's a double helix design to go down into what would be the world's first living coral reef lagoon, to work with agricultural technology in collaboration with other organisation, research and university organisation, both here and abroad to develop
agricultural technology to grow that coral, fish and other animals in captivity so we don't have to take them out of water," said Philippe Cousteau, President, EarthEcho International.

Visitors will also be able to learn about marine life and observe scientists at work at what could be Asia's first Marine Mammal Rescue centre.

"Right now we have a unique opportunity with new technologies that are emerging around us; where broadcast facilities, all the other kinds of capacities that will be integrated into this resort will enable us to take these messages out to the world of learners, so we can foresee the ocean planet institute becoming a hub in a learning and education network that will go around the world and make Singapore a hub of marine education, research and conservation issues," said Robert Sullivan, Vice-President, Chora LLC.

Two research vessels, costing $50m each, will also be built to support marine exploration. Should Eighth Wonder win the bid, it will also work with media partners like Star TV and National Geographic to produce a range of educational programmes and game shows to further engage the visitors.

More about Eighth Wonder's proposal on their website

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Blog Log Nov 18, 2006

Last Saturday, the Blog took a bunch of enthused divers from the Singapore Prison Sports and Recreation Club to sample our local waters. Some were new divers, others more experienced, but for all it was the first time they could be treated to a guided tour of our local reefs. Here are some of the critters we encountered on out dive. Whilst it rained on the mainland, there was fair weather at the island and absolutely fantastic vis!
A brilliantly-coloured Flabellina nudibranch
We've been seeing this pufferfish recently around the island
It's always a pleasure to encounter Yellow-tail barracuda which occasionally school around the island
Reef Xplore volunteer and Hantu reef guide Gina Tan photographed this pipefish http://www.blogger.com/img/gl.link.gifthat we have yet to identify. This is the 1st time either of us have seen seen this species on our reefs. Do you know what it is? Email us!
Frillfin filefish
Seagrass filefish
Can you spot the small school of Razorfish floating across the patch of Goniopora coral? They are a common encounter on our reefs!
This is just one of the several flatworms on we saw that day
Before the dive commenced, and while the briefing was still going on, Gina with her keen eyes and quick reflexes, noticed and managed to steal a shot of this beautiful and less common jellyfish swimming close to the surface of the water. A small group of tiny fish trail after it, probably for protection from predators as well as to steal a meal from the jellyfishes' leftovers.

Would you like to organise a visit to Pulau Hantu for your company? Email us!

Marvellous Pulau Salu

Visit the Colourful Clouds Blog for a closer look at the critters of Pulau Salu.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Coral bleaching will hit the world's poor

Climate change puts at risk the livelihoods of at least 100 million people, mostly in developing countries, who depend on coral reef goods and services
IUCN 16 Nov 06
full article

Nairobi, Kenya: The bleaching of corals due to climate change may result in global economic losses of up to US$ 104.8 billion over the next 50 years, or 0.23 percent of current global GDP, the World Conservation Union (IUCN) said today at the United Nations conference on climate change.

These losses will occur in coral reef dependent industries and services such as tourism and fisheries as well as shoreline protection and medicinal plants, according to the estimates.

While the developed world is responsible for three quarters of the green house gases in the atmosphere, the world's poor will be worst affected by coral bleaching: 100 million people, most of which live in developing countries, depend on coral reefs for their survival.

40 percent of the world's poor live in South Asia, and most of them rely on natural resources such as coral reef fish for their livelihoods.

Coral reefs only cover 0.2 percent of the ocean floor, but contain an incredible 25 percent of marine species globally.

"Mass coral bleaching events will have similar consequences on the lives of people as droughts and oil spills--and require a similar response."

The World Conservation Union is therefore urging the parties to the UN climate change convention to limit sea surface temperature increase to two degrees above pre-industrial levels.

In addition to that, coral reefs need to be prepared as much as possible to those climate change impacts that are already happening. This means keeping other threats off the reef, such as destructive fishing and pollution, to make it healthier and thus more resilient to climate change impacts.

Another important measure is protecting so-called 'refuges' of particularly healthy and climate-change-resilient sites that may be able to help regenerate degraded coral reefs in the future; and monitoring of coral reefs before, during and after a bleaching event to raise awareness amongst managers and politicians.

"So far, only one percent of the world's oceans are protected--compared to 12 percent of the terrestrial surface."

Sunday, November 19, 2006

'S'pore will practically disappear'

Straits Times 18 Nov 06
full article

Two icons of the natural world, who were in Singapore recently, spoke about the drastic measures needed to curb rampant environmental problems. Tessa Wong talked to primatologist Jane Goodall and naturalist David Attenborough.

TELEVISION icon and naturalist David Attenborough has sounded the alarm - global warming is bad for Singapore's environmental future.

The 80-year-old TV presenter, who was in Singapore recently for a shoot, said that if the world does not reduce carbon emissions soon, 'we will change the face of the planet'.

Over the longer term, 'Singapore will practically disappear', he said ominously, referring to how carbon emissions from burning of fossil fuels directly contribute to global warming, which in turn leads to rising sea levels.

This is dangerous for an island like Singapore which has low-lying coastal areas that can be susceptible to flooding. Indeed, a recent British government report has warned of devastating droughts, flooding, epidemics and famines, because of global warming.

Sir David said that the biggest environmental problem in the world is the human population.

'We're devastating the planet, the atmosphere, the forest and the sea. It's time we changed,' he declared. His remarks are in line with his recent efforts at preaching the gospel of environmentalism.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Blog Log Nov 12, 2006: Frogfish & Harlequin sweetlips!

We had a bounty of critters surface during our dive at Hantu this weekend! Lots of adorable baby fish such as goatfish, 8-banded buttefly fish, and heaps of damsels! Our volunteer guide Gina Tan also spotted a tiny cuttlefish on the reef. Though it had rained on the mainland over Sunday, the weather out at the islands was fantastic - nice warm sun and comfortable waters. The crew was a little nervous at first because of the heavy and continuous monsoon rains we've been having before the weekend, that increases runoff and can influence the quality of our waters. But here's proof that visibility should never be a deterrance when visiting Hantu!

Juvenile harlequin sweetlips can be tricky to photograph. The video should show you why - they never keep still!
A large ascidian: I found out over the week that ascidians, echinoderms (i.e. sea cucumbers, urchins) shared the same ancestors as humans just 500 millions years ago!
Crinoids at Hantu tend to hide inside rock crevices. But with the currents that swept the reefs picking up during our dive, this large individual has creapt out for easy pickings!
The white patch close to the tip of this Mushroom coral is actually a custer of tiny ascidians. Mushroom corals are the largest single-polyp corals on the reefs and are freeliving, which means they have move themselves about on the reef albeit with much patience..
The prize find for this trip was this small, yellow-orange Frogfish we found hinding quietly in the sargassum seaweed. These fish are extremely rare on the reef and have only shown themselves to a few lucky people! With fins that resemble feet, these fish prop themselves against the coral substrate and attract prey to themselves by waving the lures perched on top of their noses. Can you spot the critter?
Egretta alba nudibranch
Flabellina nudibranch
This pipefish is one of 4 piepfish you can expect to encounter on dives at Hantu. This species is relatively common, and upon closer inspection, you will realise that this particular individual seems to have a significant bulge along its midsection. Could it be a gravid female? Or male???
Good vis allows us to appreciate Hantu's colourful coral scape
Icon Seastar
The ever entertaining False clown anemonefish

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Warming threat to earth's seas, marine life endangers mankind: study

By Lucie Peytermann Yahoo News 9 Nov 06
full article

NAIROBI (AFP) - Urgent and resolute measures must be taken to arrest rising global temperatures that increasingly threaten the delicate balance of marine ecosystems and human lives, scientists have warned.

In a study released on the sidelines of a key UN climate conference in the Kenyan capital on Thursday, they said climatic changes had sparked rapid rises in sea levels, temperatures and acidity that pose severe dangers to humanity.

In a study titled "The Future Oceans--Warming Up, Rising High, Turning Sour," Rahmstorf and eight other scientists warned that the world is witnessing, on a global scale, problems similar to the acid rain phenomenon of the 1970s and 1980s.

Unlike their terrestrial counterparts, marine ecosystems are far more sensitive to climatic changes that may, for instance, spark shifts in sealife populations, alter food webs and species composition, it said.

"Ocean acidification is a major threat to marine organisms." Fish stocks and the world's coral reefs could also be hit while acidification risks "fundamentally altering" the food chain, he said

Most of the world's reefs -- habitats for fish on which humans depend -- may be destroyed within the next 30 to 50 years because many corals cannot survive in higher water temperatures, it added. Thus, the survival of the fisheries sector is threatened with nefarious economic ramifications, it said.

"There is need to link nature conservation with coastal protection," said the study.

Nations must make plans to help tens of millions of "sea level refugees" if climate change continues to ravage the world's oceans, German researchers said on Thursday.

Waters are rising and warming, increasing the destructive power of storms, they said, and seas are becoming more acidic, threatening to throw entire food chains into chaos.

Many of the world's biggest cities, from Tokyo to Buenos Aires, are by the coast. Some rich nations might be able to build ever higher dikes, such as in the Netherlands, but poor nations were destined to be swamped.

The low-lying Pacific island nation of Tuvalu has already agreed a deal for New Zealand to take about half its 10,000 people to work in agriculture if it becomes swamped by rising sea levels.

And Rahmstorf also warned that further temperature increases risk touching off stronger hurricanes in the future. "If global warming continues, we will see stronger hurricanes in the future,"

Monday, November 06, 2006


The purpose of this week's dive was just to take one last look at Hantu with the boatman who's been with us, and at sea, since the days of his childhood. Uncle Chua has offered divers with the Hantu Blog a unique and affordable experience in local waters with the little bits that make the trip special, such as the stories of the animals he has sighted at sea in Singapore, such as Pilot whales, giant stingrays, dolphins and nurse sharks, days that today's generation will never encounter. He's recognised most for his onboard mp3 player loaded with Teochew songs, and his Magiver toolbox that seems to be able to fix anything from a busted engine to qurrelsome first stage. Here's one last snapshot with the man who's made diving at Hantu special: (left) Ah Chua, Xplore trainer and marine biologist Jeffrey Low, myself, and Xplore volunteers Gina, Hui Bing, Marcel.

This strange invertebrate which isn't quite a jellyfish was pulsating in the water right after I'd made my descent. Taking a look at the pix of the left you'll notice a beansprout-shaped structure within the animal. A moment later, this "beansprout" was literally ejected out of the organism (right pix). Observing it was absolutely bizarre but extremely fascinating. I'm not sure if the "beansprout" could've been fecal matter or something with a reproductive purpose.

Coral scape: We found a part of Hantu's reef that has extraordinary varieties of hard and soft coral.

A Phyllidia Seaslug sits on the neck of a long forgotten gladd bottle. Look at how wonderfully the bottle has become encrusted with coral! A note to make is while removing "rubbish" from coral reefs, it should be taken into account if coral has begun to colonise the formally unnatural structure. Removing such structures could actually do more harm than good. It's best recommended that a appropriately qualified scientific advisor be appointed for such garbage-retrieval operations.

A small jellyfish from the front and side, sorry it isn't too well focussed as the creature is tranlucent and my camera was low on batt! A terrible combination for taking pictures!

Flabellina nudi, common but still brilliant!

Pretty tube worm

I wouldn't have spotted this TINY Oreo-cookie nudibranch if it wasn't for our resident nudi-spotter Hui Bing! She's great with macro stuff. This little critter also happens to be in a very interesting posture as seen from the side...
... and from the front! Such tall rhinophores, almost looks like a rabbit from this angle!

We almost missed this Juvenile Tigertail Seahorse which was so well camoufladged when it had its striped tail curled under the coral bit.

This beautiful Flatworm was in a hurry to go somewhere. These simple animals look extremely elegant when they move whether in midwater or over coral. This one has a gorgeous orange margin along its skirting.

Our very keen-eyed reef guide Gina managed to run off alone on the reef and grab this shot of TWO small cuttefish hanging out face to face! This is a rare shot in my opinion and they have displayed a lovely colour with intricate contortions.

We also spotted groupers, rabbitfish, fusiliers and TONS of nudibranches. Unfortunately failing to charge my camera's battery and forgetting to bring a spare, my last shot was the flatworm. But with our luck, I'd say we'd bump into those animals again soon for another photo opportunity!

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Whiptails, gobies, shrimps and lots more!

One of the best ways to appreciate and take advantage of good vis occasions at Hantu is with a video!

Below are some clips shot on October 21, Deepavali 2006..

Butterfly whiptail
One of my fave fishes on the reef. This fish seems to have a curious nature, not fleeing from divers but often swimming up close almost as if to investigate. One of 2 known species of whiptail that can be found in local waters, this fish gets it name from the streamer at the tip of its tail. Intriguing!

Goby and blind shrimp
Gobies are good at their job. Too good infact. It can be challenging to approach gobies without startling them, making them difficult to photograph or videograph. Standing guard at their burrows, the gobies have a partnership with their poor-visioned shrimp roommates, flicking their tails to warn their invertebrate friends of approaching threats.

Kite butterflyfish, Yellowfin Angelfish and Yellow Emperors
Some of the common fishes in the reef of Hantu: Kite butterflyfish are generally less sighted than their Long-beaked (or Copperbanded) cousins, and can also be quite tricky to capture because they are also more jittery to large, bubble-producing, divers.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Star puffer and Silver moony

Two pairs of eyes are better than one. They're especially better if they are behind a camera's view finder. In my Blog log Oct 21, I mentioned missing some fishes because they are "too fast" for me, and sometimes creatures can disappear in a heartbeat if you're not looking out for them or simply looking somewhere else.

Here are some images shot by Hantu Blog volunteer Gina Tan on the same day.

Star Puffer Arothron stellatus

Silver Moony