Hantu Dive Sites
Hantu didn't seem to have names for its dive sites. Very generally the area in which we dive, there is a fringing reef along the embankment, plus three other patch reefs or mounds all within a sheltered lagoon area. The embankment reef goes in a north-south direction. It is a very gentle, sandy slope which ends up as the embankment. The seabed in between the patch mounds is about 13-14m deep max, and the mounds are about 6-9m deep. The seabed is very sandy and silty.
Hantu's Fringing Reef
The best place to dive is at the reef crest, or the upper part of the reef slope (about 6-9m). Not that there's nothing to see at the bottom - you will still see a lot of whip coral, shells and bigger fish. Sunlight penetration is much less due to the sediment, so that life forms at 15m here would be like life forms at 30m in Tioman (more or less).
Here's a rough map of Hantu with the various reefs. It seems that no proper survey seems to have been done or sanctioned and none of the names seem to stick.
Dive 1 - Fringing reef along embankment
Dive 2 - The southern two patch mounds + seabed connecting the two
Dive 3* - Goodwill Wreck at Pulau Sudong (this isn't part of Hantu, but it's part of the Southern Islands)
Dive 4 - Fringing reef along embankment
* Dive 3 (Goodwill Wreck) was all of 8 mins because the current was too strong. But I'm including it in my log for the record, and also because it was one helluva experience. As a fellow diver put it afterwards, the dive was like being immersed in a controlled nightmare. Other than the dive-leader and his DM buddy, everyone thumbed the dive. I can handle EITHER a strong current OR poor visibility, not BOTH. If you have nothing better to do, read my report on this memorable dive below.
Dive 5 - Somewhere near Hantu
Dive 6 - Near the coastline and jetty
Dives 7 & 8 - Near the coastline and jetty
Dives 9 & 10 - Near the coastline and jetty
My husband and I signed up for the usual half-day dive trip to Pulau Hantu, which started with Pulau Sudong's Goodwill Wreck. When we got there, the dive leader said that there was a current of so many knots. I can't remember exactly but to my un-nautical mind, because it was single-digit, it sounded on the low side, and I didn't realise that 2 knots can be already quite strong. Anyway, because of the current, we were to hold on to the line immediately upon entering the water. As we watched the other divers do this before our turn, this seemed to be a really difficult task. When it came to our turn, I did my giant stride first and almost missed the line, but managed to grab it. My husband made the smart decision to just sit on the platform and then slide in instead of doing a giant stride, and that proved easier. He was handed his camera and then we began our descent.
The current was so strong that we were in superman mode as we descended along the lines. It was hard work going down because the current was so strong, and I had to tell myself to control my breathing before I started to take short shallow breaths. What's more, as this was my first dive wearing my new hood and gloves, the sound of my breathing was magnified under my hood, and this new Vader sound created some anxiety.
Visibility was zero. The only thing I could see was the blurred outline of my husband and the super-strong beacon of his camera's modelling light.
My husband signalled to me, asking if I wanted to ascend. Stupid me, I ignored my instincts and signalled no, let's continue with the descent. Must be hero, cannot rugi.
At a certain point, we signalled that we would leave the line and go towards the wreck which was somewhere in the murky depths. We released the line and in a few seconds I lost sight of my husband. I was looking for him on the same plane, not realising that he was right above me because I was sinking faster than him.
I told myself to stay calm, and continued looking for the modelling light. I didn't see it because I never thought of looking upwards! At this point, I was beginning to panic. I couldn't see anything, I thought I was all alone, and I thought I had lost my best friend. I thought I was going to die. I was thinking that if I had to die, why did it have to be at unglamourous Sudong whom nobody has heard of, and why couldn't it be somewhere spectacular and respectable to the diving community, like Maldives. I knew I was beginning to panic, and I knew that it was a matter of time before I would start to cry, and I knew I had to pull myself together, and It took a lot of willpower to force all the fear out of my mind and focus on breathing.
I was in the middle of trying to decide if I should wait for 3 whole mins before ascending (3 minutes like very long leh), and was wondering if that was what my husband would do too, and what would I do at the surface if he didn't, when all of a sudden something hauled me upwards. I looked up and there was my husband with his super beacon light. The relief I felt was indescribeable.
He immediately signalled that we were going to ascend and I agreed meekly. At that moment, I seriously considered quitting diving. One year later, I can tell you that I haven't had that thought again, but I can still remember what it felt like. I'd lost my buddy for only 10 seconds, but that was enough to leave a huge crater of an impression on me. So, what Open Water lessons apply to this scenario? Always agree on a What To Do If You Get Separated Plan with your buddy before your dive. Always bring an SMB. When you start to feel panicky, focus first on maintaining a steady breathing rhythm. Then think.
Anyway, going up was just as hard, battling the current and clinging onto the line. When we surfaced, my husband said that if we had gone down and next to the wreck, we would have been out of the current. But being separated was just too much to handle, and I'm glad he decided to abort the dive.
Our dive lasted 8 min, I had consumed 40 bars of air, and we had gone down to 11m. Average depth 7.5m. End of Sudong Adventure. Never again I might add.