Updated: Mar 23, 2021
Our local waters is not usually the first place that comes to mind when you think of diving. However, you will be surprised at the diversity of marine critters our local water holds. There's always a saying "Got things to see meh?"... I do love to give disbelievers a slight smirk and pose a challenge, "why don't you come and see for yourself?" Disclaimer: Please go with an experienced guide. I admit that the limited visibility does pose a challenge to spot marine creatures and it would need a few dives for those "clear water" divers to be acclimatized. Those who brave the first few dives will find it addictive and they keep coming back. After all, it's right at our very own backyard! #Supportlocal La!
Here's my version of the different diving spots in Singapore.
The most popular site for diving in Singapore is Pulau Hantu and is a 30-minute boat ride away from the mainland. This site comprises of two islands – Hantu Kecil and Hantu Besar. The names of the two islands—Pulau Hantu Kecil and Pulau Hantu Besar—stem from local legend. Two fierce warriors, locked in a violent and ceaseless battle, woke up a sleeping jinn (sea spirit). Angered, the jinn cast a spell that pulled the warriors to the depths of the ocean. Undeterred, they continued duelling. The jinn distracted one of them, allowing the warriors to thrust their swords into each other. The gods decreed that the jinn should not have interfered in earthly matters. Hence, the warriors were transformed into islands. It is believed that their ghosts still wander the islands.
Hello! No ghost on this island - The only one pulling your leg underwater is me!
Site 1: Pulau Hantu Western Reef
In my opinion is the best site for first timers diving in local waters. Currents are mostly very mild as it is a basin shaped dive site protected by the eastern and western reefs. For the first timers, it is super easy to navigate as you dive along the eastern bank of the island. The bottom of the basin at high tide is approximately 12m. If you are up for a bit of navigational challenge, head west in the western reef dive site.
What I love about this site:
- Easy to navigate
- Mild currents for an easy and lazy dive
What are some of the creatures to spot:
- Lots of Nudibranch
- Healthy corals and reef life
- Bamboo shark
- Pygmy cuttlefish
- Shaun the sheep nudi
- Blue spotted ray
- Giant grouper
- Orang Utan Crab
- Juvenile tiger tail seahorse
- Butterfly fish
- Various clown fishes
- Harlequin sweetlips
- Various flatworms
- Carpet blenny eel
... The list goes on... and on...
- First timers diving in local waters
- Open water diver course
- Underwater Macro Photographers
- Navigation Course
Site 2: Pulau Hantu North Jetty
This is personally my favourite dive site among the hantu dive sites! However, you have to dive only when the current is heading in the "right" direction or at slack tide, otherwise you will be busy fighting the currents than diving. That's also because of the funnel effect and the currents bouncing off the nearby Bukom island creating a whirlpool of currents in the channel. You definitely can see from the surface.
Some of the interesting places to dive to is the Shark rock. No surprises, that's where the resident Bamboo Shark lives. You may coincidentally also pass the batfish cleaning station! Just hope that the station is open for cleaning when you are there. You will know when business is open, with schools of big batfish will be hanging out there.
Nearing the jetty itself, you can visit the seahorse at it's home. Do say hi to the whirlpool of silver moonies and the resident giant pufferfish. Go shallow at the jetty and find some interesting corals and just maybe, you will spot what I call the "mother" of all cuttlefish.
Go deep, up to 22m, there is a large variety of fat and rare nudibranch! You may find the Kissing doto and Donut Nudi there too! No need to go Bali to look at these... Hantu has it!
Site 3: Pulau Hantu South Jetty
Iconic to the southern reef is the South Jetty. This dive site is affectionately known as the South Jetty Dive Site. No, you are not allowed to dive directly at the jetty as there are boats coming in and out ferrying passengers. Diving is better on the left hand reef/west of this jetty. The currents at this jetty will hit the island and split two ways, so don't be surprised you will feel the current change direction as you dive along the reef at the breakwater. Look out for fishermen casting their rods at the jetty too.
Underwater, you will find the usual nudibranch and reef fishes. There's a bit more structure underwater compared to the flat bottom of the other P.Hantu sites, with some pipes and bigger rocks making up the reef. However, the site is littered with lots of tangled fishing lines, several fishing rods and reels. Not sure if its the fishermen fishing or the fish fishing the men. lol. Ok fishermen guys, stop dropping your gear underwater!
My overall verdict for this site is good to visit once to explore but not a site we would constantly go. Much more critters to be found on the West and North site.
Photo Credits: Caleb Hiltgen, Divemaster
Pulau Jong or Junk Island is a 6,000 square metres conical shape isaland about 6 kilometres off the southern coast and is among our last untouched islands; it has not been reclaimed or developed.
According to a local legend behind the island's name, a Chinese junk was attacked by Malay pirates one night where the island now is. Just as the pirates were about to board the junk, the captain awoke. When the captain saw the pirates, he uttered such a frightful yell that the seaspirit turned the whole junk into an island.
Make no mistake, diving there must be planned carefully as the currents on this island can be very strong. Only on selected days could you dive at this site. But yes! the reef is beautiful with lots of "structure" compared to the flat beds on Pulau Hantu. Unlike its name, Pulau Jong is far from having alot of junk. Lotsa of nudis and corals. Do visit the kelp forest and you see a variety of fishes and soft coral. Our advice, if it's your first time diving there, please do a guided dive!
St John's Island
With its beautiful Mangroves and alluring blue waters, the Island of St John's has more to offer than the abundance of wildlife spread along its gorgeous scenery. The coasts of St. John's is an interesting dive site with many surprises and here's why.
Unique Seabed Layout
The coasts of St. John's is mainly a silty bottom with plots of small reef that garnish the smooth and even seabed. Upon descending down a mooring line, you will be greeted by a large rock decorated with corals. We recommend heading slightly north to 15-17m before pursuing a strong eastwards bearing. Do not be discouraged if you can't find signs of a reef, as you continue eastwards maintaining a depth of 15-17m, you will eventually hit small plots of rock and corals. These reefs are separated from one another by a flat silty bottom, what makes it so interesting and unique is that all the reefs are in a straight line!
Test on your buoyancy!
Due to the silty bottom, good buoyancy is especially important when diving at St. John's. If you are too close to the seabed you will risk kicking up all the silt and if you are too far from the seabed you won't be able to see the life below. Cuddlefish Divers offers the SSI Perfect Buoyancy Specialty Program which would help you gain more control over your buoyancy and make your future dives more comfortable. We recommend going with a Dive Guide as the unfamiliar terrain may pose a challenge to less experienced divers.
Due to the spread out layout of the reefs, most of the marine life at St. John's congregates around the little plots of rocks and corals. Look out for pipefish, nudibranchs, shrimps, cuttlefish and even lobsters! Even on the silty bottom u can occasionally see cute cuttlefish scuttling across or even pretty flatworms gliding through the water.
With a seabed unique to this dive site along with the exhilarating experience of low visibility and beautiful marine life, St. John's is a must-try for all divers regardless of experience.
Did You Know?
- St Johns otherwise known as Pulau Sekijang Bendera once served in the late 19th century as a quarantine station for immigrants infected with cholera.
- Devan Nair, the third President of Singapore was held prisoner here from 1951 to 1953 for subversive anti-colonial movement.
To be continued....