Written by: Matt Newkirk
Visited: October 2018
Pulau Hantu (Ghost Island in Malay) is made up of two tiny islands located just off the southwest coast of Mainland Singapore. The islands, only 20-minutes or so out of Singapore Harbour are popular with fisherman and divers due to the calm waters and relatively mild currents that can be found there. Pulau Hantu is in no way a world-class dive destination, but for divers in Singapore looking for a fix to support their diving habit, the island offers just the thing.
The islands of Pulau Hanto are quite picturesque, with patches of healthy greenery, and white sandy beaches, they look like a great spot to hang out for a day and have a picnic. Unfortunately, the islands are currently closed to the public due to the discovery of asbestos. They are also just across from a pretty sizable tank farm, where tankers from around Asia unload chemicals and fuel into large holding containers.
Once upon a time, Singapore was probably home to some truly spectacular coral reefs. Decades of landfill and reclamation activities, and proximity to one of the busiest shipping ports in the world have unfortunately decimated the vast majority of Singapore’s reefs, and today all that is left are a few corals desperately struggling to hang on in the sediment and muck that remains.
Nudibranch, Pulau Hantu Singapore
Jumping in the water at Pulau Hantu can be pretty disparaging at first. With only 1-4 meters of visibility, and a thick layer of brown silty detritus covering the seabed, I found myself wondering why anyone bothers to dive here. It didn’t take too long for my attitude to shift, there is indeed life to be found at Pulau Hantu.
Nudibranch, Pulau Hantu Singapore
Close inspection of the muddy bottom quickly revealed a pretty sizable population of small nudibranchs and gobies. Crabs and shrimp are still hunkering down in the mud, eeking out an existence in the wasteland.
In some ways, diving here is encouraging. Every lifeform that you find is a testament that life is resilient and continues to go on despite the damage that humans have done to it. I am told that seahorses are commonly seen here under the abandoned jetty as well.
A realistic view of the reef at Pulau Hantu
You can arrange trips to Pulau Hantu with several Singaporean Dive Shops. We dove with Cuddlefish Divers, and I highly recommend them if you are planning a trip to Pulau Hantu, or want to book one of their group diving trips around Southeast Asia. Kiwi, our dive guide, was super friendly, great to hang out with, and made us feel comfortable and welcome. The shop’s gear was brand new, and top quality including lightweight backplate/wing style BCDs (a definite upgrade from the typical rental).
+65 8292 6684
If you have your own gear and prefer to dive in a private group or buddy pair, you can contact Dolphin Explorer. They operate a fleet of brand new dive boats that take groups of divers and dive companies, including Cuddlefish, to Pulau Hantu weekly. There is even a rumor that they might expand to run trips to Sisters Island and other Singapore locations.
Dive boats meet up at the Republic of Singapore Yacht Club on weekends at 7:00 and depart around 7:30 for Pulau Hantu. After two dives, including surface interval, you will be back around noon.
Singapore Harbor on the way to Pulau Hantu
Scuba diving at Pulau Hantu probably will not be a life-changing experience that you will remember until the end of your days, but a trip to the tiny island is a great way to spend an afternoon exploring for the small creatures that inhabit the surrounding waters. It also provides an excellent opportunity to share in the comradery of the thriving dive community in Singapore.