Created on Friday, 15 July 2011 00:00
Written by Steve Phua
Pulau Hantu is one of few islands along the Straits of Singapore, and also one regarded by most as a boring island. But little do they know that there could be tremendous treasures found beneath our wondrous seabed – especially if you are a scuba diver.
The Hantu Bloggers is a non-profit organization that does regular dive trips to Pulau Hantu, with the purpose to conserve our marine ecology, as well as to bring awareness to fellow Singaporeans of our own marine habitat – one that is precious enough to safeguard.
As a diver myself, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that Singapore’s seabed could be so amazing! I was told by my divemaster during the trip, that although visibility can at times be bad in Pulau Hantu, on good days, you would want to come back for more.
Throughout my dive career, this is the first I saw underwater litter. Believing or not, marine lives do not need to have a sip of our coke to survive.
Going up close to the corals and observing around, it would not be difficult at all find different types of nudibranch occupying our seabed. As colorful as it is, it does certainly makes our marine environment more vibrant.
Carpet eel blenny, is somehow or rather a look-alike of the moray eel. Contrary to its name, it is neither an eel nor a blenny, and likes to hide themselves under corals, similar to the moray eel. Unless you managed to get a heterosexual pair, it is not advisable to buy more than one to keep in your tank.
Seeing this pistol shrimp (left) and porcelain crab (right), relates me to an article on cave diving that I read before, that it’s not surprising to find white or transparent marine lives during a cave dive, or even some without eyes as the environment is so dark that they do not need any visual at all to move about. Its transparent body makes it look so fragile and pure. Well, we don’t see this type of crab or shrimp in the markets, do we?
A common thing you will get to see in Pulau Hantu, however, is the seahorse. It may not be visually appealing, but the creature is full of amazing facts, such as each species has different bony plates ringed around their body, and each seahorse has their own genetic coronet on their head. It’s almost similar to how we differentiate our different races, and DNA.
Many divers dive in Malaysia, Thailand, and other neighbouring countries, hoping to spot a shark for at least once in their life. Little do they know that, in Singapore itself, a bamboo shark can be spotted. But it is needless to stay away from this shark even in its full growth of a metre length, as it is harmless to humans. Besides, even if they were to bite, with their differentiated teeth structure from other sharks – bamboo shark teeth are structured to crush the shells of crabs – they will do much less damage compared to the rest of the shark family.
A significant feature of a toadfish lies on its enormous head with a small body. And as their name suggests, under distressed moments, they give off croaking sounds like a toad. Nevertheless, be aware of their sharp spines. They are capable of giving you painful pricks and may even bite.
The false scorpionfish are actually categorized under the grouper species. Other than its scorpionfish look-alike appearance, it does not possess any venom glands, but is still able to cause wounds with their prickly spines.
A common dish in Singapore – the famed stingray. Blue spotted fantail rays are often sighted by divers in Singapore, but sadly, it is many a time seen trapped in drift net rather than swimming about freely. And due to human destruction of their species for food and trade, they are now considered a threatened species.
Another common dish found on our dining table is the cuttlefish. The common instinct of living beings when being threatened tends to be to flee. But a cuttlefish does the opposite. Instead, it sticks closely to the corals and camouflage itself.
To conclude, divers who are into macro-photography, also known as "muck" divers, should find satisfaction in Singapore’s Pulau Hantu, by looking closely at the reefs and corals. Given its poor visibility as to Pulau Tioman, it’s a different experience to encounter. You might even come face-to-face with a cuttlefish without knowing it. Who knows?