The History of our little Red Dot’s Diving
With the current covid-19 pandemic, divers in Singapore have endured a 3 month dry spell of no diving, and where do we go when circuit breaker ends? Hantu of course! The MOST beloved and accessible dive site in Singapore!
But what do we know about Hantu? How was diving like in Singapore back in the early 90s and how much of it has changed?
ScubaKnights met up with Singapore’s very own Pulau Hantu expert Robert ‘MRT’ Tan and we asked him how diving in Singapore was like in the early 90s and how much of that has changed since then.
Robert has an impressive 1122 dives in Pulau Hantu alone, making him the resident expert of Pulau Hantu.
Back then, it all started with the Non-Commissioned Officers(NCO) Club in the SAF with a bunch of diving fanatics. However, none of them owned diving tanks. Fortunately, the NCO Club had a few tanks and compressors ready for use, and with that, Robert and the gang started a Singapore diving club.
Countless Friday nights of tank charging and hoping onto a SAF 3-Tonner to transport all the gear and divers to Jarding Step or what we know today as Harbour Front Centre. From there, Robert and their members would board bumpboats and make their way towards Hantu or the other dive sites around which today are no longer easily accessible; Pulau Jong, Raffles Lighthouse, Sultan Shore Lighthouse, Malang Bay and Sudong.
The costs however, didn’t change much since then. It costs about SGD$1000 to rent a bumpboat for the day that would hold 12 divers and that $1000 was marginally worth more then than it would today!
During the early 90s,the diving scene wasn’t the same as it is today, spotting nudibranchs were not widely sought after by divers, frogfishes were only spotted in Singapore in 1995 and divers back then did not have ready knowledge with the various underwater critters unlike what divers today. But some things did not change. The sheer amount of boat traffic, the blooming industry around our Singapore shores, refineries and factories, water conditions remained the way it is since 1990s.
The 1990s diving scene was a laid back but tedious era for the veteran divers. 7 large buoys had to be tied up by Shell Petroleum company with the help of the Singapore Navy so that bumpboats and others alike could tie up without having to drop anchor. One could easily see 7 to 8 bumpboats tied up to buoys every single day over the weekends amassing about 100 divers at any one point of time. Enduring the test of time and nature, every single one of the 7 buoys including the large concrete blocks that were at the bottom of the ocean have been swept away and not a single trace of it can be found at hantu today in 2020.
Marine life at Hantu can be a said to be more lively today as compared to back in the late 90s or with lots of those fishes and creatures being more accustomed to having divers around their homes! Although we are seeing less of the turtles and bamboo sharks swimming around when diving there, they are still within the vicinity.
Since then, Robert has been filming videos of the life he has found in Singapore waters, rarer critters such as the Dotto Nudi, Kissing Dotta which are only found in 2 other places in the world, Papua New Guinea and Bali are found here in Singapore too along with a astounding 118 unique species of marine life, at least 70 of those being different Nudibranchs. Definitely a muck diving heaven and photographers sanctuary to document these wonderful creatures.
What about those other dive sites you say? Sisters island is still open for diving today but does require one to apply for a permit due to the island being protected by Nparks.
As for the rest, Pulau Jong, Sultan Shore Lighthouse, Malang Buoy, Biola the reefs are still there but due to restrictions implemented onto the areas allowed for pleasures crafts and the permits required to get there it is really hard to log yourself a dive at those sites but not 100% impossible. Where theres a will theres a way right?
Where does the future of Pulau Hantu and diving in Singapore lie though?
A little grim, a little dark but not at a loss.
When Jurong island was commission, along with a few divers, Robert attempted a last ditch attempt to move the reef and some of its inhabitants and corals to Sentosa, but due to logisitical isues such an attempt did not succeed.
Some of us have read about, heard rumors about it but there have been some talks that Hantu might close, and for the reason that they might want to fill the space between the islands to make more space on Pulau Bukom, similar to what they did with the 6 islands that today make up Jurong island. Will it happen in the next year or the next decade we don’t know for sure. But one thing we do know is that land is scarce in Singapore and that in order for our economy to grow and support the increasing population in Singapore, that is something that might be done in the near or far future unfortunately.
Carpe diem quam minimum credula postero is what they say right?
Seize the day, put very little trust in tomorrow for we do not know what it brings to us. So what you waiting for? Drop us a message if you want to find out more about our Hantu dives trips!