Limelight on Pulau Hantu

Date July 6, 2015

Our Southern Islands have been getting plenty of attention lately. A recent article in Singapore’s Straits Times detailed the launch of dive trails at Sisters’ Island Marine Park and yet another shared about potential for quiet island getaways right here in Singapore! In June, the Hantu Blog was joined by a television crew shooting an episode for The 5 Show. For this episode, we took host Joakim Gomez (above) out for a dive at Pulau Hantu’s reefs!

Joakim does his blurp before jumping into the water!

Joakim spent most of his time exploring the shallow reef flat, where most of our corals are abundant. Sitting right in the open amongst the marine algae was this little toadfish.

A tube worm feeds amongst a colony of Pachyseris coral.

Hantu Blog diver, Laval Foo, who ventured into deeper waters encountered this Bullocki nudibranch.

Laval also discovered this well concealed Miliaris cowrie (Erosaria miliaris)

Leather coral (Sarcophyton spp.) look markedly different with their tubular polyps out (front) and in (back).

Along the reef flat, a Tomato clown anemonefish gets access to lots of sunshine.

Marine life in the shallow waters live within a delicate balance of having enough sunshine to make the food that they need to remain competitive on the reef, and being vulnerable to fluctuating sea surface temperatures. There are many reasons why corals could bleach, but there is strong evidence to suggest that unusually warm waters can cause the zooxanthellae (micro algae) living within the transparent coral tissue to abandon its coral host. This process is understood to cause the coral stress. If sustained for a long period, stressed coral colonies eventually die. (Above left) Goniopora coral and a colony of zoanthids (right) appear to be bleaching. [1]

We made a trip to the lagoon to have a look at Pulau Hantu’s topside.

We noticed this service barge berthed along the shore of Pulau Hantu Besar. It appears they were doing a beach cleanup. Pulau Hantu’s lagoon may appear barren to the casual visitor, but it is actually a habitat distinct from the reef beyond the sea walls. Here we can find Archaster seastars, fiddler crabs, oysters, gobies and snake eels that do not usually reside in the the reefs.

While the camera crew prepared for their topside shoot, Joakim stole a moment to Tweet live from Hantu’s shores!

While strolling along the shores of Pulau Hantu Kecil, we noticed many animal tracks on the sand. Some were created by large birds, perhaps a Great-billed heron, and smaller birds like sandpipers that forage for food along the beach. There were also trails of water monitors. Joakim remarked how untouched the shores were, and that tracks left by animals perhaps hours ago have managed to remain undisturbed.

On our 2nd dive Laval Foo grabbed this shot of a pair of White-faced pipefish. These species was only officially recorded during a survey last year. This goes to show that there is much to be discovered in our small reefs!

A large grouper prefers to hide from the other crowded reef inhabitants. Photo by Laval Foo.

Here’s a fish that’s very well hidden. A Blue-spotted stingray Neotrygon kuhlii remains perfectly motionless as we swim right past it, only its eyes and barb remained visible from the surface. Photo by Laval Foo.

Pteraeolidia ianthina, the “solar-powered” nudibranch

On the seabed were several hermit crabs and spider crabs.

A young Haekeli’s anemone Actinostephanus haekeli. It’s going to grow up to look quite scary.

A Long-finned batfish cruises past the divers. I forgot to colour balance my camera, hence the green hue.

A seapen with an elusive commensal crab.

Lots of fishies!

We’re really glad that in recent months, we’ve met many individuals who have expressed enthusiasm to become Hantu Blog dive guides! One such fellow is Nicholas Chew (left) who recently graduated from university in Australia and was eager to get involved in local efforts to discover and share about Singapore’s marine life! The training process can take a few months, and volunteers have to be able to commit to at least four field trips or road shows a year to remain current. Despite the demands, we get so encouraged to meet people who are motivated by their passion for our marine world.

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