Diving Singapore’s Military Islands

Date March 14, 2014

There’s always excitement when we get to visit places we are usually not allowed to go! Pulau Satumu is a small island south of main Singapore island, and is the southernmost island of Singapore. It is the island on which Raffles Lighthouse stands. Its name means “One Tree” in Malay, Singapore’s national language.

A tiny rocky island located just next to Pulau Satumu, is Pulau Biola. Both islands are generally off limits to civilian vessels due to military sensitivity. The visits to these islands were a part of the Mega Marine Survey that began in 2010.

There were many strange and beautiful flatworms

At the end of the reef slope were several long and spiraling colonies of whip coral

Some of the whip coral colonies appear to be encrusted with mollusks

Because these islands are off limits to the general public, the reefs receive minimal impact from visitors. Colonies of these table-like acopora coral are less commonly encountered in other more popular reefs such as Pulau Hantu.

We had a celebratory moment of oohs and ahhs and clapping hands in slow motion when we came across this Nembrotha livingstonei, a new record for Singapore! YAY! It looks like it’s got silt dusted over its body but that’s actually a part of its unique colouration.

There were a dozen or more varieties of nudibranches! Some of them were mating, and some of them were very very small.

To give you some idea of how incredibly small some of these sea slugs were, the picture above has a nudibranch against a single coral polyp. Can you see the nudibranch in the bottom right corner of the photo? It always baffles me how Chay Hoon, the resident nudi-hunter, can spot these specks of dust on the reef!

More gorgeous views of the reef and schooling fish!

We also had a cuttlefish encounter. The top photo shows it trying to mimic the appearance of sargassum algae.

A little basslet

Just before returning to the surface, I saw this cute little baby Tomato clown anemonefish in its host anemone that’s burrowed into a colony of brain coral. Whilst spending our surface interval on the island of Biola, we also saw several baby Blacktip reef sharks in the shallow rocky pools. It’s so good to know that they have a place to seek refuge and find food in. I feel so fortunate that we have some islands like Biola that are in their original state, so that we have an idea of what the other islands might have looked like before their coastlines were tamed and reclaimed. They aren’t white sandy beaches, but they are desperately beautiful.

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