05 August 2023

Terumbu Hantu still thrives

Despite being next to petrochemical plants on Pulau Bukom and surrounded by heavy vessel parking, this little gem is one of our favourite sites.
Exploring Terumbu Hantu
Today, we saw lots of healthy corals and other amazing marine life. Kelvin flew the drone and got stunning views of the reef and surrounding area.

Kelvin flew the drone and his footage gave new perspectives with closeup views of a huge colony of Galaxy coral on Terumbu Hantu, which lies just off Pulau Hantu. From high up, the many boat strikes are also more obvious. Kelvin also got tantalizing glimpses of Cigar Reef - what the divers call it. From his close up fly-by, there are many Magnificent anemones, also large corals and many mushroom corals. We have never actually surveyed this small neighbour of Terumbu Hantu before. Check out Kelvin's drone videos here
Screen capture from Kelvin's drone footage.

On Terumbu Hantu, there remains many Giant carpet anemones and most had Clown anemonefish. I also saw a Halloween flatworm and a sea anemone that doesn't look like any that I commonly see. 
The rest of the team saw many more Clown anemonefishes from tiny to large. They saw two Cushion stars, lots of Diadema urchins, all kinds of fish and nudibranchs. Unfortunately, none of us saw giant clams or the Merten's carpet anemone.
Montage of photos by the team. Links to albums below.

In the bright sunlight and clear water, I managed to get a somewhat nice video of the Halloween flatworm.
Halloween flatworm (Pseudobiceros sp. 5)
The reef edge opposite Pulau Hantu has lots of large colonies of common corals. As well as a few less commonly seen ones. I didn't see any corals that were bleaching.
Large colonies of Acropora coral have been seen growing in the boat strike 'hole' since our survey in Jul 2020. Today, they are still doing well. There were also some special Horn corals and a coral that I couldn't identify. I also noticed some Acropora growing on the reef edge near the 'hole'. As well as a large colony of Galaxy corals (white because the polyps are retracted when the colony is out of water). 
There remains a wide variety of mushroom corals here, most were large and healthy.
I saw many medium-sized leathery soft corals, of various kinds. All those I saw seemed fine.
Today, the scattered clumps of Tape seagrass that I saw were mostly cropped short, although some were about 20-30cm long. This is similar to our survey in Aug 2022 and Jun 2018.
One reason we visit this submerged reef is that it has been damaged by large dive boats in the past. When these run aground on the reef, they gouge out a deep hole bare of corals.
Boat strike on Terumbu Hantu, Aug 2023

What is the fate of Terumbu Hantu?

Pulau Hantu and all the terumbus west of it are slated for massive reclamation outlined recently in the Long-Term Plan Review. Singapore's submerged reefs are often out of sight under the high tide and thus forgotten. Let's hope Terumbu Hantu stays safe until we can visit again.

The Singapore Blue Plan 2018

Pulau Semakau and nearby islands and submerged reefs have been recommended by the Singapore Blue Plan 2018 for Immediate Conservation Priority. The Blue Plan recommends the intertidal and subtidal marine areas of Pulau Semakau and adjacent Pulau Hantu, and Pulau Jong to be designated Marine Reserve.
Exploring Terumbu Hantu
Today, there was a group exploring Pulau Hantu too.

The Blue Plan highlights that Pulau Semakau and its associated patch reefs comprise many ecosystems: coral reefs, mangrove areas, intertidal sandflats, seagrass meadows, and coral reefs. The subtidal area of Pulau Jong is larger than the terrestrial area. Pulau Hantu is a popular dive site has seen increasing interest in the past decade due to biodiversity awareness. If protection is accorded to these three islands, zonation plans for use can be implemented to manage tourism and human impacts.

DOWNLOAD the Plan, SUPPORT the Plan! More on the Singapore Blue Plan 2018 site.

Photos by others on this survey

Kelvin Yong

Kelvin Yong's drone footage

Tammy Lim

Che Cheng Neo

Richard Kuah

Tommy Arden

Chay Hoon

James Koh

Jonathan Tan


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