Singapore is a country better known for its busy free port and its shores lined with container ships, not a place known for pristine waters or beautiful nature. Recently, I took my first big step and plunged into Singapore’s watery depths for the first time when I went scuba diving at Pulau Hantu.
I’ve scuba dived in many places around the world – at this point I’ve clocked over 110 dives mostly around spots in the South East Asian region, but also including Colombia, Galapagos, Mombasa, Japan and Taiwan. But I had never dived in Singaporean waters – all my certification had been done in Malaysia, but I was curious to know what critters lay hidden on our shores. Most of what I knew from other divers was that:
- The visibility in Singapore is pretty shitty. That’s not surprising given that we are a major port and our beaches and waters just aren’t very pretty, so it often makes much more sense to dive somewhere with amazing water like the Maldives or the Philippines
- Our waters are not particularly deep, so it is not a place to see awesome pelagic or large marine animals like whale sharks or manta rays
So when I saw that the folks from Pulau Hantu blog were organizing a dive at Pulau Hantu, I jumped at the chance to finally see for myself what Singapore’s waters are like.
What are Singapore’s waters like?
I had my expectations set very low, so I definitely wasn’t surprised by the low visibility and overall murkiness of the water. I imagine this is how a fish must feel like when it’s been swimming in a tank that’s not been washed for awhile, everything is kinda green tinted and washed out and there’s lots of sediment floating in the water. Our visibility that morning was about 1-2m, which according to my guides is a bit lower than usual because it had been raining a lot.
The Pulau Hantu seabed is a muck diver’s pardise. Sandy and silty and relatively flat, covered with a mix of coral and rubbish – I saw car tires and champagne bottles among other debris amidst the patches of coral. These are waters where you have to be careful not to stir up the sand especially if you want to take decent pictures. The waters are fairly shallow – we mostly dived around the Pulau Hantu Jetty area, which is a gently sloping area and we went to a max depth of about 15m.
A torch is a must – I forgot mine and it made spotting animals hard. The low visibility and greenness completely leeches the colour out of everything, making it hard to spot tiny elusive creatures with great camouflage. Seeing the actual colours of the creature under a torch light was quite a revelation.
Critter watch at Pulau Hantu
Pulau Hantu is a muck diving spot like Lembeh or Anilao, that makes it a prime location for little weird creatures, or what divers like to call macro diving because your camera is just perpetually set to macro mode.
I guess one good thing about the shitty visibility is that you won’t be distracted by potential pelagics swimming by so you can concentrate on poking around in the muck. There have been sightings of hawksbill turtles around here though if you are really lucky…
I didn’t have my camera with me so I have to give big props to my Pulau Hantu Blog Dive Guides Gina Tan and Ng Boon Leong for kindly letting me use their shots for this post.
This is actually a great spot for newbie underwater photographers because the one creature in abundance – Nudibranches and flatworms!
These underwater slugs are diversely colourful and relatively slow moving so it’s ideal for you to practice your photography. Some are really tiny and hard to spot barely the size of your fingernail, others are mutantly large. My dive guide Boon Leong tells me of a 20cm nudi he once came acrosss, the largest one we saw that day was perhaps about 10cm.
One of the more unusual nudibranchs on display was something called the Donut Nudibranch, which is super weird looking.
I also found out how nudibranches ‘swim’ or travel in the water, when I saw a random large blob float by me, land on the sand and unfurl into a pretty white nudibranch with furry tendrils.
My favourite find was the tiniest, cutest baby cuttlefish that was perched on an empty clam shell. It’s a little underwater alien hovercraft the size of your thumbnail, adorable!
Another resident creature here at Pulau Hantu is the seahorse, we saw 2 in total, a purple and a yellow one.
Cost and logistics
I paid $150 for 2 dives at Pulau Hantu. There were 4 divers that trip and we were paired off, and then assigned one dive guide each. We took a boat called the Dolphin Explorer from the Republic of Singapore Yacht Club near West Coast Park, it was shared with other dive groups who were also headed to nearby Pulau Hantu just 30mins away.
I had my own scuba diving gear so I only needed to rent weights – you can rent a full set of gear from them if you need. We spent the time travelling to the island gearing up and briefing, and once we reached Pulau Hantu, we could jump in quite quickly.
We did our first dive, came up for a break, went back down again for a second dive in the same spot though we headed in a different direction. After we surfaced, we spent some time packing and cleaning up before heading back to the Yacht Club at about 12pm.
Check out more details on Pulau Hantu blog. It’s not the cheapest diving but the money is going towards supporting the Pulau Hantu blog efforts I think they have a great cause.
Where else can you scuba dive in Singapore?
Another spot that I really want to check out is the Sister’s Island Dive trail where the National Parks has actually marked out an underwater trail with signboards.
Have you scuba dived in Singapore? Tell me about it if you have!