Pulau Hantu - A celebration of marine life

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

Monday, April 30, 2007

"Hantu at it's Best!"

That's what Hantu Blog volunteer Marcel dan Herder from the Netherlands texted me on my mobile phone after surfacing from the 2nd dive at Hantu last Sunday. He was so excited from his dive as he had to tell me as soon as the dive was over that he'd seen a huge blue cod, which we also call groupers.

Down with a cold, I missed out on Sunday's dive but it seems it was one of the best days at Hantu since! Apparently 6m vis, which was very welcome for all. Even regular divers Chay Hoon and Wai were thrilled at the findings from Sundays dive, and they are out in local waters ALOT! So I get to experience the excitement vicariously though the wonderful and insightful Blogs of 2 very enthusiatic divers...

Apart from the common animals such as swimmer crabs and sea slugs and flat worms, the divers also spotted and photographed the elusive Gorgonian shrimp or Sawtooth shrimp, which we haven't seen in awhile! Good to know that they are back on our reefs! These slender shrimps live on sea whips and remain hidden by staying absolutely still along the length of the coral, much like whip gobies! Below are some pix taken by Wai on her Fire & Light Blog.

Chay Hoon also managed to catch a glimpse of "not one but THREE!" ceratosoma (pictured below). See her account and pictures on the Colourful Clouds Blog and check out the other amazing pictures and creatures that were observed last Sunday.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Ferry ticket prices to Southern Islands going up from May 2

Channel NewsAsia 11 Apr 07

SINGAPORE : Beginning May 2, passengers will have to pay $4 more for ferry tickets between Marina South Pier and the Southern Islands. The new charges for adults will now be $15, while children will have to pay $12.

The operators of the ferry services York Launch says there are two reasons for the increase - the low number of passengers on the routes to Kusu and St John's Islands, and the berthing cost of its ferries onto these islands. It says the previous operator, Sentosa Leisure Group, used to absorb the berthing cost which ranged from $5 to $10 for each boat, and 50 cents for each passenger.

York Launch takes over the operation of ferry services on May 2.

Full story

Tourism plans for Southern Islands put on hold

By Krist Boo Straits Times 12 Apr 07

Five months after announcing with much fanfare that the Southern Islands would be turned into the next big tourist attraction, the plans have been put on hold.

Although the Singapore Tourism Board wouldn't reveal why, industry sources say the Government is considering housing a casino on the six-island cluster. If this is true, the islands could remain asthey are for the next 10 years.

If the two IRs prove to be successful, the Southern Islands will command a premium, the tourism industry sources said.

The STB would not comment on the speculation, saying only: 'A premium destination, an eco-tourism resort, or an attraction
leveraging on the islands' existing cultural elements - all remain possibilities.'

The STB had, in November last year, said it would in the first quarter of this year come up with tender guidelines to transform the island into a tourist attraction, possibly for the well-heeled.

The board did meet potential investors in January to gauge their interest and listen to ideas, but the results apparently were not very encouraging.

In response to queries from The Straits Times, STB's assistant chief executive for leisure, Dr Chan Tat Hong, said: 'No decision has been made yet on a development concept, including whether an RFC (request for concepts) exercise will be launched.'

Full story

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Excited eel

On Good Friday, the Hantu Blog visited Hantu's intertidal reef. It was a refreshing perspective at Hantu's underwater life that sometimes lives a life between the zones. It's a harsh environment from a creature that needs water to survive, but we found out that the habitat is a bouty full of animals that know how to rough it out and find the means it needs to survive.

Here's a video of an eel found scurring along the reefs in search for a meal. It was a very efficient worker, scouring through every nook and cranny, not to mention all the goby burrows that were scattered throughout!

Eventually the eel found something worth slowing down for inside a goby's burrow. I finally got an idea of how deep a burrow could be. They always seem rather shallow burrows, but this eel almost managed to insert the entire length of its body into the hole! We stopped to observe it for awhile, and soon enough, a little goby showed up at the burrow entrance. Could that have been its home? Check out the video to see its reaction when it found more than a goby in the burrow!

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Sex on the Reef!

You don't have to go all the way down under to experience a mass coral spawning! The same thing happens right here in Singapore!

Scientists in Singapore have been trying to follow the patterns of the spawning every year in an attempt to predict when the mass spawning is most likely to occur. Marine biologists from the NUS and NParks currently station themselves at Raffles Lighthouse where there are some fantastic reefs that unfortnately not open to the public.

However, knowing that such spactacular reef life exists within our waters gives us an awareness of what there is to protect and why it is worth protecting! Swing by Wai's Fire and Light blog to track her survey of the reef during this very special period! So far, such a mass spawning event has only occured once a year, during the low tide, and during a certain lunar phase.

All the above photos were taken off the Blog.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Hantu Dawn

When we pulled into Hantu island on Good Friday morning, I noticed a silent bird on wing - a barn owl was just leaving the island, reminding me of the stories I've heard from the villagers that once inhabited the island, of owls coming to roost every night, eventually giving the island its name, as the word for owl in Malay is "Burung Hantu" or "Ghost bird" because of its nocturnal habits and stealth in the night. I knew it was going to be a good start to the day... The colours of first morning, were worth losing sleep for. Thanks to Ria for calling me along for this trip!
The beautiful colours of dawn kept all the photographers captivated till first light.
When we arrived the moon was still over the island and the sun had yet to rise.
At dawn, a Great-billed heron, the tallest sea bird to be found in Singapore at 110cm, stands along the reef at low tide. These birds are very difficult to approach. Their large size is not matched by an audacious demeanor and will quickly fly away when approached.
Good morning: The sun rises behind the Bukom refinery, casting light on Hantu island, and eventually letting us get to work!
A Goby has great camouflage.
There were HEAPS of seastars crawling all over the lagoon! Their footprints could be seen everywhere! The early seastar gets the mate! But it seems this morning, that there's more than one mate for everyone!
We had great weather that morning, check out the fair skies! Gorgeous!
Even a teeny tiny nudibranch is amongst some of the hundreds of animals you can encounter during a reef walk. This one was just grazing the surface of the water!
An eel gets an early start to the day, scouring every nook and cranny, not to mention every goby hole, for a big breakfast!
An Acopora coral braves the low tide
A large leather coral colony
Dr Chua EK photographs a green sponge colony.
As the tide comes back in, Hantu begins to look more like an island.
Fast food: A Cattle egret lands in the inter tidal pool in search for a quick and easy bite! He spent a good deal of time chasing around the fish with some luck. The fish in these pools are very alert and can be very fast swimmers! It's no easy meal!
Big fat Bubble shrimp on a beautiful, red-coloured magnificent anemone..
Was later found to have a house mate! Thanks to Dr Chua EK for spotting this!
Pulau Hantu formally had a great deal of mangrove trees lining its minute coast. Now 2 great big mangrove trees remain. Lots of small fish fry and be found amongst the air roots of the trees!
A swimmer crab is rescued from a discarded crab trap. We found it later to also be gravid. Hopefully it will live on to successfully spawn a new generation to succeed itself and its mate.
Great vis as seen from the Hantu Besar Jetty. Ooh, wish I had my dive gear!

See more pix of critters and of the reclamation scene just off Pulau Hantu on the Wildfilms Blog!

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Frilly Filefish!

Filefish are rather shy animals, they prefer to remain inconspicuous, camouflaged near or between corals or rocks, which they have a very similar colouration with. Also known as Leatherjackets (for reasons beyond my comprehension!) they can make a quick getaway with very little effort! So they have to be approached cautiously when being photographed. Here's a pair from the Hantu Blog Anniversary Dive...

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Jimmy's Pulau Hantu

Dive Instructor and Reef Check volunteer Jimmy Goh, joined the Hantu Bloggers for its anniversary dive. The "wannabe photographer", as he claims himself to be, should give himself far more credit! With his macro-equipped camera, he captured the detailed images of the allied cowrie and whip goby above. See more from though his macro lens at the ClubSnap Forum!

Monday, April 02, 2007

Greedy Goatfish

Goatfish often get mistaken for catfish because they seem to have a pair of "whiskers" sticking out just below their mouths. It's actually more like a goatee really, hence the name, as the feelers meant for helping it scavenge for food in the sandy sea bed, grow not on the side of the animals face like in cat fish, but below its chin.

Here's a short video of how they make use of their feelers ever so rapidly in the search for their food. We shot this during our anniversary dive, but goatfish are commonly encountered at Hantu's reef during the day time.