You can go scuba diving in Singapore? What on earth can you see? I’ve dived in many places around the South East Asian region like Malaysia, the Philippines and Indonesia, but I had never even thought about going diving in Singapore. I didn’t think there would be anything worth seeing in Singapore’s renowned murky waters. But over 100 dives later, I finally made that first plunge at Singapore’s southern offshore islands when I went scuba diving at Pulau Hantu with the folk from Pulau Hantu Blog and I was pretty surprised by what I found. Here’s a look at what my experience scuba diving in Singapore was like.
Why scuba dive in Singapore?
I did my certification in Malaysia’s Tioman Island and since then I’ve scuba dived in many places around the world, mostly in the South East Asian region, but including more far-flung places like Colombia, Galapagos, Mombasa, Japan and Taiwan – you can read more about my scuba diving stories here.
All I heard about Singapore’s waters from divers around me was that visibility was very, very low. Naval diver friends who trained in our waters said you could barely even see your own hand at times because the water was that murky. But ultimately I was curious to know what kind of critters you could find in our waters – after diving in macro-heavy places like Manado, I knew that sometimes you can find the strangest creatures even when the visibility is low.
Underwater conditions at Pulau Hantu
I had my expectations set very low in terms of expected visibility, so I wasn’t too surprised when I plunged in and found that I could see just about 1-2 metres in front of me and that everything was kinda greenish. I imagine this is how a fish must feel like when it’s been swimming in a tank that’s not been washed for a while, and everything is kinda green tinted and washed out with lots of sediment floating in the water.
My guide said that the visibility was a little worse than usual because it had been raining a lot that week, but he also said that it generally ranged around 3-5m, though if you are really, really lucky, you might get 10m clarity.
A torch is a must for anyone looking to scuba dive in Singapore waters – I forgot mine and it made spotting animals hard. The low visibility and greenness completely leech 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 torchlight was quite a revelation.
The Pulau Hantu seabed is a muck diver’s paradise – Sandy, 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 in the North of the island, which is a gently sloping area and we went to a max depth of about 15m. I dived again a year later and headed to the western reef area, which had less debris but fairly similar conditions. I dived for the 3rd time end 2020 and finally got some of my own photos.
What you see when scuba diving at Pulau Hantu
Pulau Hantu is what divers like to call a macro diving spot because it is home to teeny tiny creatures and your camera is perpetually set to macro mode to capture them.
I guess one good thing about the shitty visibility is that you won’t be distracted by potential pelagics (i.e. bigger creatures) swimming by so you can concentrate on poking around in the muck. There have been rare sightings of hawksbill turtles and even a shark around the area, but seriously don’t get your hopes up.
Some of the photos here are by my Pulau Hantu Blog Dive Guides Gina Tan and Ng Boon Leong who kindly letting me use their shots for this post.
Pulau Hantu is actually a great spot for those who love snapping shots of colourful nudibranchs and flatworms. There are plenty of them to be found down here in all sorts of shapes and colours, ranging from teeny tiny ones you can barely see, to giant palm-sized ones that look positively crunchy and I swear are mutants. You can apparently see some quite unusual and rare species here.
These underwater slugs are diversely colourful and relatively slow-moving, ideal subjects for newbies to practice underwater photography, though you will need a flash or torch to bring out the colours properly. You may need a macro lens as well for exceptionally small creatures.
One of the more unusual nudibranchs that we saw was something colloquially called the Donut Nudibranch, which is super weird looking.
I also found out how nudibranchs ‘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.
Cuttlefish and Seahorses
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 Jetty is the seahorse. We saw 2 in total, a purple and a yellow one.
Scuba Diving with Pulau Hantu Blog
I paid $150 for 2 dives at Pulau Hantu (This was the 2018 price, I paid $165 for 2 dives in 2019).
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.
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 headed to the north side of Pulau Hantu near the jetty where 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 Republic of Singapore Yacht Club at about 12pm.
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.
Looking for more unusual things to do in Singapore? Check out all my posts about Singapore.