17-years of Sharing Singapore Reefs

Date March 22, 2020

Today, we celebrate how our local community has come together over 17 years to recognise the wonders of our little reef!

17 years ago, when our tiny team of volunteer guides were haphazardly trying to pull a volunteer organisation together, divers sneered and scoffed at how anyone could have a desire to dive in “pea soup”. We were asked, “What difference can you make?” while others recommended, “Wouldn’t it be better to get ang mohs (foreigners) to be vocal about Singapore reefs since the government seemed to care more about what foreigners wanted?”

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It was difficult! But we soldiered on! Whether we had ten divers or just two, the Hantu Blog’s pioneer volunteers made a commitment to get a boat out to Hantu reefs every weekend, some weeks, even twice a weekend, just to SHARE the wonders of local reefs, DOCUMENT our local marine biodiversity, and TALK about the threats and uncertain future of Singapore reefs.

Chay Hoon

Our volunteers worked out at sea and in the middle of urban centers to raise awareness about our reef! Some of the people we met in the city had never explored Singapore shores. One visitor asked if reefs could be found in our reservoirs! There was very little exposure to what reefs were, let alone that you could find them here in Singapore!
Chay Hoon at Envirofest 2008.

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Our reefs are for everyone! Not just divers! Our volunteers took schools, youth and corporate groups to visit Pulau Hantu during the low tide. In this particular visit, our guide Lam Pei Min holds up a ghost fishing net that was entangled on our shallow reefs. Together with the students, they worked to slowly and carefully remove sections of the net from our reef, releasing any entangled wildlife they encountered.

tiger tail seahorse

It was a huge moment when we documented our first Tigertail seahorse. Before this post in 2004, that seahorses were an animal you could encounter in local reefs was comparable to a myth. This encounter helped spur a wave of excited divers who wanted to see one for themselves! In the years that followed, some guides became really good at spotting seahorses, and that got even more divers excited to join our trips to see one!

The Hantu Blog didn’t just put eyes on our marine wildlife. During crisis events, our volunteers helped monitor impact simply by visiting our reefs regularly. Up until the Hantu Blog began it’s volunteer guided dive trips, no other group visited our reef frequently and regularly.

Thanks to local champions like Kelvin Pang who started the SG Macro Photographers Facebook Group, this rapidly growing interest to photograph some of Pulau Hantu’s charismatic creatures had helped build a new community of reef enthusiasts that enjoy learning and sharing about local reefs! They started the hashtag #welovehantu on Facebook, and Kelvin Pang even published his own photo book! In 2004, few would have imaged there was anything worth photographing in local waters!

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Together, this diversifying community of local reef enthusiasts have already began to document more rare and wonderful wonders in Singapore reefs – from Saddleback anemonefish (above).

Tiger Shrimp

To tiny tiger shrimp!

Photo: Ann Tan, 2020

Beautiful Godiva nudibranchs, seen here on a hydroid with a tiny marine snail.

Lucky ones get to sneak a peek at mating octopuses!

And if you look in unexpected places, like right in the marina, you might be so lucky as to see a translucent elongated flounder!

We have come a long way! Hantu exists as a reef with her wildlife because people love her this way! But our work is not over!

Cuttlefish

Our reefs continue to face modern threats and she stills risks being forgotten unless we make Singapore reefs a part of our national consciousness. Perhaps in the future, even non-divers might be able to name a handful of marine creatures that can be found in Singapore reefs, like these cuttlefish which are common, but which also never cease to amaze!

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And know that several species of anemonefish call Singapore waters home! (Or perhaps the more discerning diver might take an interests in the host anemones instead!)

Frogfish

Whether you fancy the colourful or the camouflaged, whether you dive alone, with friends or with the Hantu Blog, keep DISCOVERING, SHARING, and TALKING about our reefs.

Compared to 10 years ago, there are so many ways the whole family can discover Singapore shores! Meet marine scientists in their office at Sister’s Island Marine Park. Local marine scientists help us understand more about our reefs, and establishments like SIMP help generate nation-wide awareness and opportunities to participate in the protection of our precious local shores!

Thank you to the wonderful volunteers, divers, students, parents, scientists, photographers and journalists who have been curious and committed to bring clarity to local waters. Keep exploring, and happy 16th Anniversary!

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