Pulau Hantu - A celebration of marine life

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

Monday, June 18, 2007

Blog Log! June 17

A nice coral head

Last Sunday wasn't too good a day for being outdoors. As you all might know, we had torrential rains almost all of last week, which probably accounted for the disappointing or rather, challenging visibility conditions at the island.

A phyllidia sea slug

To add to that, we thought that as we moved out of the marina, that the weather might clear up as we headed out to sea, but for some reason the clouds over Telok Blangah looked far brighter than they were looking Southwards! So we braced ourselves for a cool dive in warmer waters, because the strong winds that swept across the sea was absolutely chilling!

The day's first flabellina

We managed to pull into our first dive site with few problems and one of our divers clocked a dive time of 60 minutes as she drifted along the fringing reefs and spotting a Juvenile Sweetlips along the way!

A colony of sponges

Usually after our 1st dive, we'd anchor up at the 2nd dive site as we sit through out surface interval and chow down our lunch. But today, strong winds made that regular task very challenging. So we took refuge by docking at the Big Island jetty, and took a walk on the island, checking out its lagoon and mangrove. Despite the gloomy weather, the island still burst with tranquil bird songs.

Some sponges take on wacky shapes

Though the weather had worsened, the 2nd dive proved to me far more encouraging!

A seemingly innocuous-looking hydriod

Tons of fish took to schooling near the surface during the storm, and the wonderful sea whips and corals had all their tentacles out to take advantage of the increasing current.

Gloomy skies, rain, wind, and waves

ReefXplore guide and Hantu Blog volunteer Marcel, managed to turn out 2 seahorses and an eel during the second dive.

Trees swayed in the wind, as our boat did on the surface!

It's been awhile since we dived at Hantu in the midst of a storm. It was refreshing albeit more challenging, as sometimes it necessary to be reminded that nature doesn't always comply to our needs or wants, and that sometimes a change, even if for the worse, is good. It was all part of the experience of being outdoors - the choppy sea definately looked impressive and the rain made the day a whole lot cooler.

The jetty in the storm

The rest of the pix are for your viewing pleasure! As with most low vis times, it a good opportunity to look out for interesting coral instead of the usual hunt for queer fish!

An unusually-shaped neptune's cup (barrel sponge)
Whips favour sites with strong currents
A young sea fan
More whips reaching out into the current
A huge sea slug! Compare it to the size of the coral-encrusted glass bottle its resting upon!
A young crinoid (feather star) seeks cover in a crevice
Tube worms
A young soft coral colony
Various corals growing together
A red swimmer crab scavenges on a tusk fish
A closer look
The Tan and White cowry is often found in association with red encrusting sponges.
Red and Blue algae

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Animal release

White Manta Diving, a local dive operator will be conducting an "Adopt-a-fish" program over the weekend in areas that include the Johor Marine Park and the Anambas archipelago.

For an adoption fee of between $18-$90, tourists can release a frogfish, a pair of seahorses or a pair of mandarinfish into reefs close to the dive sites at which they operate.

According to the operator, the fishes in question have either been "donated by marine aquarists" or "liberated from aquarium shops". It is not certain what their origin is, apart from the fact that they are from the "Indo-Pacific region".

As a tourist/diver, here are 7 simple questions you should ask before participating in such an activity:

1. What is the objective of such a venture? e.g. Research experiment, marketing gimmick, welfare objective (i.e. setting wild animals free), event promotion (e.g. Earth Day, Environment Day, World Animal Day, Vesak Day etc.)

2. How sustainable and appropriate is the activity with regards to the objective? Can the adopted animals be monitored and with what methods and frequency? Are the methods credible? Is there a resident scientist involved? What are the impacts of releasing non-native species into new reefs? Who are the people that will conduct the follow up surveys?

3. What is the origin of the animals and what method was used to collect them? 95% of all marine ornamental fish are derived from the wild. Where these methods sustainable and socially and environmentally responsible?

4. What is the source of the animals? Which aquarium/s were they from? Are they environmentally and socially responsible companies? Have they traded in endangered species? Why are animals that could be sold for profit being released into the wild?

5. What is the agenda of the organisers and the donors? e.g. Profit making? Conservation? Pioneering study? Education?

6. How are the funds being used and generated? Are the uses of the funds publicly known/transparent? e.g. Educational projects, Donated to an NGO or marine research fund, Awareness campaigns, Profit

7. What is your objective in participating in such an activity? Is this a feel-good experience? Are you in support of the organisers objectives? For a chance to see these rare animals up close? Are you just doing this because its part of your holiday package?

The Hantu Blog urges all divers and marine tourists to be responsible and educated about the choices they make. If we seek pleasure from this amazing marine environment, it is crucial that our choices play a part in ensuring its sustainability for our future enjoyment and that of others.

Further reading:
Global Invasive Species Database
IUCN Invasive Species Specialist Group
Invasive Species Weblog
Invasive Species on the Conservation Science Institute

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Banded pipefish and stalky swimmers

Samson Tan joined the Hantu Blog for his first dive into local waters! He has guided and attended several reef walks with the Raffles Museum Toddycats and the Blue Water Volunteers, but taking the plunge gave him a new and unexpected perspective of underwater life in Singapore! Above is one of the many great spots and observations he recorded at Hantu with us on Sunday. Swing by his Manta Blog for more great pix!

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Ambiguous goby

The "goby?" photographed in last weekend's Blog Log on May 27th has been identified as Amblygobius decussatus. Zeehan Jaafar from the Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research, explains: "We have not seen this species although historically known, but not in the museum specimens, except once individual from Jeff Low's photo 8 months ago."

Monday, June 04, 2007

Star studded Sentosa

The Wildfilms crew made a visit to Sentosa's shores which are due for reclamation. Read about the dilemmas of raising awareness of our shores and view some of the amazing wildlife that can be spotted, such as mooncrabs (above) and Nemos, on the wildfilms blog.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Strange slugs and sweetlips

Ceratosama were amongst some of the critters I missed at last Sunday's dive. For everything else small, elusive, and totally invisible check out Hui Bing's site.