The Blue Tempeh
Saturday, February 25, 2006
  A tribute to Singapore's coral reefs. PART 1.
It's been a year and a half since I started this blog, which actually began as a personal blog. But since my life practically revolves around coral reefs, diving and my work... well, you can see where I'm going with this. So this blog entry will be a tribute to the coral reefs that has given me so much since I started diving 4 years ago...

Coral Reefs of Singapore
Singapore once consisted of over 60 offshore islands and patch reefs, most of which are situated south of mainland Singapore. Land reclamation combined with coastal development, which began in the 1960s, has since drastically changed Singapore’s coastlines and islands. Singapore’s 268km coastline has been extended seawards - especially on the eastern, northeastern and western parts of the island, while most of her southern islands were reclaimed, merging some islands to form larger ones in the process (Chou, 2001). Singapore’s current combined land area stands at about 690km2, a >10% increase from her original size.

Singapore currently supports one of the world's busiest ports and one of the largest oil refining centers. However, this has not been without a great expense on Singapore’s natural resources, including her coral reefs. About 60% of the total coral reef areas in Singapore have been lost through foreshore reclamation (Chou, 1995; Chou & Goh, 1998). The reef flats of many islands e.g. Pulau Sudong, Pulau Hantu and Kusu Island were reclaimed right up to the reef slope. Many of the coral reef organisms were smothered by the reclamation, while others were severely affected by the resulting increase in water turbidity.

Characteristic thick layer of silt over our reefs

Results of the monitoring programme since 1987 show live coral cover of Singapore’s remaining reefs declining with both increasing depth and over time (Chou, 2001, data published on Coral Reef of Singapore website). Hermatypic corals generally do not occur beyond the 6m depths due to the high sediment load and high turbidity in the water that restrict light penetration. Hermatypic corals have symbiotic zooxanthallae (algae), living within the coral tissues, which provide up to 90% of food for the corals through photosynthesis. Sedimentation rates ranged from 3 – 6mg cm-2 day-1 in 1979 but increased to 5 – 45mg cm-2 day-1 in 1994 (Low & Chou, 1994). The higher was value obtained from localised areas close to land reclamation projects. This reduced visibility from 10m in the 1960s to 2m or less today (Chou, 1996). As a consequence, the reef is very compact, as opposed to reefs in clear waters, which can be found at depths of 20m and more.

Rubble covered with silt - characteristic of Singapore's reefs as well. Seen here are also coral recruits (young/juvenile corals) indicating that there is still potential for our reefs to recover given the right conditions.

While live coral cover in most localities declined steadily, some localities have even suffered close to 100% loss in coral cover. This is attributed to their proximity to sedimentation-generating activities such as dumping of dredged spoils and reclamation respectively (Chou, 2001). According to Reefs at Risk (2001), Singapore’s reefs cover an approximate area of 54km2. However, this figure is now thought to be an over-estimation and that the actual combined reef area left in Singapore is actually less.

Despite this loss in live coral cover, our reefs still support rich marine life. Singapore’s reefs still harbour 197 species of hard corals from 55 genera, comparable to nearby reefs of Thailand, Philippines and Malaysia (Lim & Chou, 1991). This is quite encouraging if one were to compare the extensive reefs found in the region and the size of the remaining reefs found in Singapore. This is probably due to Singapore’s locale: we are situated in southeast Asia and near the ‘Coral Triangle’, an area known to have the world’s highest coral reef biodiversity (Allen, 2000).

Reefs of P. Hantu (2006)

Reefs of P. Jong (2005)

Our reefs also still support over 20 species of soft corals, 130 species of fishes from 30 families, 250 species of mollusks, 30 species of echinoderms, 30 species of algae and over 800 species of crustaceans (Shoo, 2004; Chou & Tun, unpublished data). In addition, new records of various organisms have recently been discovered in Singapore waters.

Doryrhamphus janssi. New record of pipefish found on reefs of P. Jong in Nov 2005.

Amblyleotris pariophthalma. New record of goby found on reefs of P. Hantu in Feb 2006.

Numerous new records of nudibranchs, or more commonly known as sea slugs and much loved by divers worldwide, are being found on the reefs around Pulau Hantu. There have also been new records of fishes found just in the past year (2005) alone, and a suspect new record for hard corals. These new records suggest that there is still much not known of Singapore’s reefs that holds hope for these gems in our own backyard.


Allen, G.R. 2000. Indo-Pacific coral-reef fishes as indicators of conservation hotspots. Proceedings of the 9th International Coral Reef Symposium, Bali, Indonesia.

Chou, L. M. 1995. Effects to conserve Singapore marine and coastal ecosystems. Malaysian Institute of Maritime Affairs (MIMA) Seminar, March 1995.

Chou, L. M. and Goh, B. P. L. 1998. Singapore coral reefs – balancing development and conservation. In: B. Morton (Ed.) Marine Biology of the South China Sea, Proceedings of the Third International Conference on the Marine Biology of the South China Sea, 28 Oct – 1 Nov 1996, Hong Kong. Hong Kong University Press, pp. 355-368.

Chou, L. M. 2001. Country report: Singapore. International Coral Reef Initiative (ICRI).

Low, J. K. Y. and Chou, L. M. 1994. Sedimentation rates in Singapore waters. Proceedings of Third ASEAN-Australian Symposium on Living Coastal Resources 2: 697 – 701.

Shoo, J. 2004. Investigating the biodiversity of coral reef in southern islands of Singapore. BSc dissertation, Department of Biological Sciences, National Univesity of Singapore.
Tuesday, February 21, 2006
  RF Xplore! explores Pulau Hantu...
Right! Am BACK in the waters! After what Siva calls a hiatus. Heh, well, to see what I've been UP to (pun intended), my SO non-marine escapade, take a look HERE

Well, how it began was like this: It was another Reef Friends XPlore! training dive, and this time round, we were going to have familirisation dives for the guides at Pulau Hantu's western reefs (fringing AND patch).

What was that you asked? Reef Friends Xplore!? Well, sorry pardon me for not explaining earlier...

Reef Friends Xplore! is actually a new local waters dive guiding programme. A collaborative effort between BWV, the Hantu Bloggers and Gilldivers, Reef Friends Xplore! aim to better showcase our local underwater marine life to divers, increase awareness and educate the public about marine conservation issues in Singapore.

Currently, training is still ongoing for the volunteer dive guides for this programme. See the action during our training dives and classroom sessions HERE!

Anyway, back on track, let me... tell you... the MOST EXCITING dive I've had this 2006! Well, have not had THAT many dives this year yet, but MAN! WHAT A WAY TO START THE YEAR!!! LOOK AT THAT!!!!!

BETSY THE BIG HAWSKBILL TURTLE! (we just named here Betsy because she was aunty-like)

I was just diving along with Wai, my buddy for the day, and she was taking FOREVER filming this little sap sucking slug (related to you nudibranch). So, I went on ahead for a bit on my on... you know... recce the area a bit. Wai had brought along URSULA, the WILD FILMS video camera, so it was choice time to try find something cool to video...

Sap sucking slug!

So I went on ahead and WHAM!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Her CARAPACE was about 1m! From head to tail, she was about 1.5m!

IT WAS SOOOOO COOOOLLLL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! OH MY GAWD!!! I MEAN! WHAT LUCK RIGHT! But... Wai took literally FOREVER to film that slug and she was left with only FIVE MINUTES on her tape!! WHAT THE....!

ARGH! We stayed with her for quite some time... watching her... taking photos... filming... it was SO COOL! She even let us get close to her... but as any good divers, we did not touch her and moved very slowly and purposefully around her. In the end, when she's had enough of us, she sloowwlly sauntered away... leaving us to go hide under another boulder further up...

We found her a second time, and decided to call more people to see her... but she's smart that Betsy! She was probably thinking "Oh no.... not again... those girls are going to call more huummaannnss.... I got to mooovvveeee away agaiinn...."

She moved... and we moved on too... and WHAM BAM!!!! HIT ANOTHER JACKPOT!!!


MAN! WHAT A DIVE! But.... by this time, there was no more tape left in the video camera!!! ARGH!! We stayed and watch the couple for some time and let them go about their business...AMAZING...

And then we encountered MORE!


Huimin spotted this little beauty's eyes just popping out of the silt... MAN! Her eyes are SHARP! Spotting small little nudibranchs and critters! More of her photos HERE.

And ALSO found at HANTU is a NEW RECORD of GOBY for Singapore!

Ambleyleotris paraphthalma

Goatfish commonly found foraging for food on the sea floor of P. Hantu...

Not only were there a LOT of stuff found on the seabed, the colours and critters found around the shallower parts of the reefs are really just AMAZING too!

Foliose corals!

False anemonefish

Jerona funebris

Cushion star

After so many dives at Hantu, the reefs still manage to surprise and surprise and surprise... AMAZING STUFF! And the GREAT VIS of 3.5 - 4m WAS JUST AMAZING! Let so much light and brought out such colours in the reef! Wow... What a great way to start a new year of diving! Heh...

See more photos HERE and Howard Lee's photos HERE.
A Marine Conservation Journal of Events and Sentiments.

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  • Current Posts

  • In search of Bluey...
  • Singapore Sightings! DOLPHINS & DUGONGS!
  • Diving in Singapore: A tribute part II
  • A tribute to Singapore's coral reefs. PART 1.
  • RF Xplore! explores Pulau Hantu...
  • Forty winks and more!
  • Island hopping: Saint John's, Lazarus & Semakau!
  • Saint John's ROCKS!: Nudibranch dive
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