Singapore's Secret Underwater Gardens Singapore's Secret Underwater Gardens

07 Dec 2016

Singapore's Secret Underwater Gardens

Singapore is known to be a Garden City but did you know that there are also secret underwater gardens in our surrounding coastal waters? Just off our shores are flourishing world-class reefs teeming with an incredibly diverse and dynamic marine ecosystem!

Debby Ng, founder of The Hantu Bloggers, a non-profit, volunteer-run dive organisation, knows our secret underwater gardens well and wants to let you in on a not-so-little secret: Don’t be surprised to find Indo-Pacific humpbacked dolphins swimming off the shores of our little island.

For more than a decade, Debby, 34, has been unwavering and steadfast in championing awareness for Singapore’s marine environment, working in her own little way to safeguard our natural marine heritage. Through regular educational talks and organising diving tours to Pulau Hantu, an offshore island known for its sheltered and biologically diverse reefs, Debby hopes more can appreciate and respect Singapore’s unique marine environment.

You started The Hantu Blog in 2003. How have you been able to keep this going for so long?

It’s about what doing what I can for what I care about. Community interest is also important to keeping the initiative going – we have a group of volunteers, who make time to do that extra bit for what they care about.

We also try to make sure what we are doing is useful by involving our volunteers in gathering data for agencies such as National Parks Board. We train volunteer guides to identify different coral lifeforms and measure these corals’ sizes as an indicator of the reef’s health. This data becomes very useful when you collect it consistently over time using the same method. Mapping trends about the health of the marine ecosystem that we care so much about justifies our existence and keeps us going.

Tell us about your community of volunteers. Where are they from?

We see our core group of volunteers once a month. Many of them have been volunteering with us for more than nine years.  As a cosmopolitan country, it is nice to see people living here take an interest in our environment. Though all our volunteers come united by a passion for marine life, each brings with them their own skillsets. Our main activity is diving, so we tend to attract more volunteers who dive. But really, the work isn’t limited to divers. For instance, we also have volunteers who are good at public speaking engage people at roadshows and give school talks.

Singapore's Secret Underwater Gardens

Singapore's Secret Underwater Gardens

Singapore's Secret Underwater Gardens

Singapore's Secret Underwater Gardens

Singapore's Secret Underwater Gardens

With The Hantu Bloggers, what do you want people to know about Singapore’s marine environment?

Many Singaporeans don’t expect to find marine ecosystems in our local waters when they have in fact been flourishing for hundreds of years despite all the development we see on land.

We hope our work will help Singaporeans visualise the secret treasure trove just outside our urban coastline, and inspire them with the knowledge that it is our responsibility to conserve this biodiversity. There are spots in local waters where we can go to at night to see flying fish, squid, cuttlefish, octopi, sea turtles and sharks. Too few of us associate coral reefs and coral fish with Singapore, which is a bit of a shame since we have about half as many coral species as Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, even though our reefs are less than 0.02 percent of its size.

Although more people care about the environment now, we still need to do more work to make people care enough to actually make a difference. We started with awareness, because once people know about something they care about, they become proactive in protecting it.

What more can we do?

Individuals who enjoy diving in the reefs, going for walks in the forests or treks in the mountains all have a role in protecting these places. People should see themselves not just as visitors but as stewards of this natural environment that they seek pleasure from. Too many people go away with the mindset that someone else “more skilled” should look after it but really, any individual effort to make a difference in protecting our environment goes a long way. If we take the first step to protect our environment, the culmination of individual efforts will result in the continued flourishing of our rich biodiversity for generations to enjoy.

Singapore is known to be a Garden City but did you know that there are also secret underwater gardens in our surrounding coastal waters? Just off our shores are flourishing world-class reefs teeming with an incredibly diverse and dynamic marine ecosystem!

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