She dives to make a difference

Date July 9, 2013


SAVING GAIA: Ms Debby Ng off Pulau Hantu with a fellow Hantu Blog volunteer, Mr Khoo Min Sheng. PICTURE: The Hantu Blog

The New Paper
July 6, 2013
By: Jose Hong

When asked what her profession is, Ms Debby Ng, 31, has to think for a while before answering.

Not surprising, for someone whose work includes photojournalism, blogging, outreach in Singapore schools and education work in Nepal.

However, she said: “I think if you wanted to narrow it down to one thing, this is one common thread: Trying to build social awareness.”

With the benefit of hindsight, it appears a natural progression for Ms Ng, a Ngee Ann Polytechnic mass communication diploma holder who majored in Journalism and Documentary Production.

Her “profession” shows itself most clearly in what came out of her passion for diving. And not diving in the reefs off Australia, Indonesia or Malaysia but around the islands in Singapore’s murky backyard.

She started diving in Malaysia in 2001, but wanted to know if there wan anything in Singapore’s seas.

Upon hearing of a place off the southern coast called Pulau Hantu that apparently used to be nice, she wanted to try it for herself.

Her first trip, my her own admission, was “the worst experience ever.”

The only thing she saw in the whole trip was an icon seastar, but she did not give up.


She explained: “I knew from birdwatching that if you were in an unfamiliar environment and you didn’t see anything, it is because you are not familiar with the environment.”

Ms Ng was also determined to prove wrong divers who told her that there was nothing to see.

Sure enough, the more she dived, the more she saw. As she started sharing her experience on a diving forum, more people became interested.

Slowly, people started joining her on trips and she started a blog called The Hantu Blog. Ten years on, with the help of volunteers, she is still leading monthly dive to Singapore’s reefs.

She even had the opportunity to show Acting Minister for Manpower Tan Chuan-Jin the reefs of Pulau Tekukor in June.

When asked about her hopes for Singapore, she said that she wanted Singaporeans to understand the importance of the country’s natural environment.

She said: “Many people still don’t know what reefs are – let alone that Singapore has reefs, and that you can go and visit them whether or not you are a diver.”

1044363_10153081481715425_161776794_nIt is essential to understand the reefs’ role in the landscape and their intrinsic and economic value, especially for an island like Singapore, she said.

Despite this, and despite being invited to be a 2010 Duke University global fellow in Conservation Biology, she does not see herself as someone whose passion is just the environment.

She sees everything she does as aimed towards the community and society which inherently includes the environment.

“I like to think of it as holistic,” she said. But she does not see anything special in what she does.

She said: “I’m an ordinary Singaporean.”

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