Singapore’s First Marine Park
Singapore, a tiny city-state in the heart of Southeast Asia, evokes images of streets that are clean and safe, Formula 1 racing under the stars and unforgettable eclectic cuisine. Singapore is home to the second busiest port in the world, which is now just a footnote in its curriculum vitae as this small island continues to glitz itself up. Singapore’s southern ocean, long the perennial lifeblood of the nation, is about to have its day in the sun again, for an audacious project is taking place just five kilometers from the mainland: setting up a Marine Park right within the port limits.
Photo: Courtesty of Discovery Networks Asia Pacific
Photo: Courtesy of NParks
Aerial view of the Sister Islands. Photo: Courtesty of Discovery Networks Asia Pacific
A marine park next to the shipping lanes. Photo: Courtesty of Discovery Networks Asia Pacific
Sisters’ Islands Marine Park
After close to 20 years of lobbying by marine activists, Sisters’ Islands Marine Park was finally announced in July 2014. Centering around two islets that comprise Sisters’ Islands, it also includes the western reefs of Pulau Tekukor and St. John’s Island. At just 40 hectares in size it could well be the smallest Marine Park in the world! Furthermore, the Marine Park is situated in a precarious location: Sisters’ Islands lies right at the crossroads of major shipping lanes, while just a few kilometers to the west lies a vast oil refining complex counted among Asia’s largest. The challenges are immense, but having a Marine Park come to life presents a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to give back to the ocean, and I have had the fortitude to be able to chronicle this journey in a documentary, titled Birth Of A Marine Park, to be shown on Discovery Channel in Asia.
A cuttlefish camouflages itself in Singapore's new marine park. Photo: Victor Tang
Undiscovered to many divers in Singapore, its turbid waters hold a treasure trove of marine life that would rival more illustrious macro havens in the region. While acquiring underwater footage around the reefs of Sisters’ Islands Marine Park, there was just so much macro to document that often times my video lights went flat before I could finish! If you are a lover of nudibranchs, the Marine Park promises a “nuditopia” with as many as 40 different species recorded on one dive alone. The reefs around the Marine Park will also act as a test bed for marine biodiversity research, as plans are in place to reintroduce locally extinct marine species into Singapore waters.
Giant clams can be seen in Sisters' Islands Marine Park. Photo: Victor Tang
Nudibranchs abound! Photo: Victor Tang
On Creating the Sisters' Islands Marine Park
Budin Aris, founder of Singapore’s premiere scuba diving forum ScubaSG, echoes the sentiments of many local diving enthusiasts:
The Marine Park is a terrific initiative to save whatever is left of our reef. Besides educating the public, it ensures the preservation of our marine biodiversity for our future generations to appreciate.
William Tan, arguably Singapore’s most famous underwater photographer, sees the Marine Park as a shot in the arm for the local underwater photography scene:
It is always exciting to hear about establishments of Marine Parks, especially of one right at your own backyard that comes with two designated dive trails for the public to explore.
Although located just outside the Ring of Fire, Singapore has its fair collection of unique marine creatures, many that even I have not encountered before. Gone will be the days when you need a long weekend to travel to either Malaysia or Indonesia to do any kind of serious underwater photography. Now I can plan for day trips, setting out in the morning with my camera to search for the rare Bornella or Goosefish and still be able to make it home in time for dinner!
There are many great macro subject in Singapore's new marine park. Photo: Victor Tang
What Makes Singapore's Marine Park Unique?
What makes Singapore’s first Marine Park truly unique is its commitment to outreach and education. There is no Marine Park Fee levied on visitors, and in its efforts to make it as inclusive as possible, with guided tours hosted by volunteers, brings members of the public to the intertidal reef - an often forgotten aspect of a marine ecosystem. An area on the beach between high and low tide waterlines, the intertidal reef can be accessed at low tide, allowing anybody willing to get their feet wet to wade into the shallows to get up close and personal with members of the reef community. In this short window, you get to see clownfish in a comatose state as well as a huge variety of corals, sea slugs, crustaceans and octopuses (yes!) all patiently awaiting the return of the sea.
Walking the tidepools in Sisters' Islands Marine Park. Photo: Courtesty of Discovery Networks Asia Pacific
Having travelled extensively throughout Southeast Asia to capture the best that the oceans have to offer, it is with some irony that the best action might just be occurring right at my doorstep. I have had the extreme privilege to change perspectives of Singapore’s underwater world with Birth Of A Marine Park. It is my greatest hope that in future, whenever one has the chance to catch a glimpse of the waters around Singapore, it is with the knowledge that despite the supertankers and cargo containers dominating the coastline, life has found a way to coexist, and that we are trying our best to give them every chance.
Watch Birth of a Marine Park on Discovery!
Birth of Marine Park premieres on Discovery Channel in Southeast Asia on Thursday, 13 August 2015 at (8pm Indonesia/ Vietnam/ Thailand), (9pm Singapore/ Hong Kong), (10pm Philippines), (11pm Malaysia).
Neptune's Cup Sponge: Extinct in 1908 and rediscovered in Singapore. Photo: Victor Tang
Dive Singapore on Your Next Trip
About the Author
Victor Tang is the founder of Wodepigu Water Pixel, an adventure dive company and photography consultancy with a nose for off the beaten track dive destinations. When not stranded on shore with other pursuits as a musician and TV producer/director, Victor is on the prowl around Southeast Asia searching for new pristine waters to explore. His sister will always tease him for taking an oath never to take a camera underwater again after his first try in Malapascua, but lately he carries a camera anywhere he goes. Victor has embarked on his journey as an underwater filmmaker, his first effort "Birth Of A Marine Park" broadcast on Discovery Networks Asia Pacific.
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