More shores!

  • Does Singapore have reefs?
  • Can an ordinary person see Singapore’s marine heritage?
  • What’s so special about Singapore’s reefs?
  • Why should we save our reefs?
  • Do Singaporeans care about our reefs and shores?
  • What are some of the challenges in conserving Singapore’s reefs and shores?
  • Is co-existence/a balanced approach to development and conservation possible?
  • How can one person make a difference for our reefs and shores?

1. Does Singapore have reefs?

Even though development has decimated Singapore reefs and only an estimated 10% of our marine natural heritage remains, the answer is an overwhelming YES!
11 out of the 23 seagrass species that can be found in the Indo-Pacific region.
Dolphins and sea turtles are regularly spotted by boaters and divers. Dolphins are usually seen around the Sisters / St John's islands and also off Pulau Satumu (Raffles Lighthouse). Adult sea turtles are regularly seen around Pulau Hantu and Pulau Satumu, and newly hatched baby turtles have been encountered on a regular basis (about 4 sightings a year, at East Park Beach, Sentosa and West Coast Park Beach).

2. Can an ordinary person see Singapore’s marine heritage?

There are many options for the public to see the reefs of Singapore. For divers, volunteers from the Hantu Bloggers offer regular guided tours of the underwater diversity of Pulau Hantu.
But you don't need to swim or dive to see our reefs and shores. There are many regular guided walks of our shores. These are regularly updated on wildsingapore happenings.

3. What’s so special about Singapore’s reefs?
In addition to the astounding biodiversity that exists on our reefs, they are also easy to get to! Where else in the world can a visitor quickly go from a high-level business meeting at a world class hotel, to visit a living reef in under half an hour? It only takes 15 minutes to reach the nearest reef by fast boat.

4. Why should we save our reefs?

Worldwide, reefs provide a range of services. They are a food source for millions of people, and many reefs are also important tourist attractions, making them a critical source of livelihood and income for many coastal communities and industry players. They also provide vital ecosystems services - acting as a carbon sink and shore protections are just two such services.
In Singapore’s current effort to attract global clients of high net-worth, offering a full spectrum of natural attractions in close proximity to world class living conditions would be uniquely Singapore. A higher premium would accrue if Singapore develops urban living in a sustainable manner with sensitivity to existing ecosystems.
Singapore can excel in sustainable development, with the accent on sustainability, and also champion biodiversity conservation. Becoming not only a green, but also a blue city, and a more rounded global hub for environmental studies, research and practices.

In addition, the knowledge and expertise in all of this knowledge and databases can potentially generate revenue in environmentally friendly and sustainable developments overseas.

5. Do Singaporeans care about our reefs and shores?

Yes! Thousands volunteers work to provide guided walks, guided dives as well as conduct regular monitoring of seagrasses and reefs, help with scientific work and clean up our shores.
Even larger numbers of Singaporeans, residents and visitors (to the tune of 100,000 annually) join these walks to view our shores and reefs. All regular guided tours on reefs are quickly booked within days of being offered.

6. What are some of the challenges in conserving Singapore’s reefs and shores?

Coastal development vs conservation

Singapore has lost much of its natural coastal habitats to development. Ports and container terminals and offshore refineries have resulted in a distinctive, but urbanized skyline. Through mergers and expansions, the once over 60 offshore islands and patch reefs around Singapore have been reduced to about half in number, and many lagoons and public facilities are now scattered through out the existing ones. The coral reefs in Singapore have lost up to 80 to 90% of their live coral cover as a result of the direct and indirect effects of these developments.


The most significant cause of reef degradation in Singapore is sedimentation, affecting the reefs by causing a slow but steady reduction in live coral cover and by reducing the lower depth limit of coral growth on reef slopes. Sedimentation studies in 1979 and 1994, show sedimentation rates ranging from 3-6mg/sq cm/day in 1979 to 5-45mg/sq cm/day in 1994 (the higher value obtained from localised areas close to reclamation projects). Surveys since 1986 indicated that live coral cover decreased by up to 80% on some reefs, although other reefs registered less impact. The reduction in sunlight penetration has reduced the lower depth limit of coral growth. In the 1980s, coral growth extended to 10m down the reef slopes. Today, growth is restricted to 6m although some coral species still occur at the 8m depth. Visibility has reduced from 10m in the 1960s to 2m or less today. As a consequence, coral growth is restricted to the shallow depths, as opposed to reefs in clear waters, where coral may be found at depths of 20m and more.

Careless treatment of our reefs and shores

Other activities that also have an impact on the reefs include recreational and tourist-related use. Negligent or inexperienced reef-users without proper buoyancy control, can leave a trail of broken corals. Improperly dropped anchors can uproot large coral heads, and indiscriminate collection of marine life on our shores depletes already strained plant and animal stocks, and destructive fishing practices can leave behind abandoned drift nets and fish cages.

7. Is co-existence/a balanced approach to development and conservation possible?

The Semakau Landfill, Singapore’s only existing landfill, was developed and operated in such a way that half of the original Pulau Semakau remained relatively undisturbed. The coastal habitats on the western side of the island are still intact, and nature walks there are an eye-opening discovery of wild mangroves, vast seagrass meadows and amazing coral reefs!
This know-how will be much sought after as other countries seek to manage the disposal of solid wastes and develop with minimal impact to their large natural reefs and coastal habitats, for tourism or other purposes. Sustainable coastal development can be exported in the same way Singapore has exported the technologies, policies and processes, for dealing with limited water and other natural resources. Habitat restoration and enhancement successes, will also be sought after.
Every development near the shore should be seen as an opportunity for Singapore to prove that it has the know-how to develop and operate first-world facilities without wiping out natural habitats.

8. How can one person make a difference for our reefs and shores?

Simply "Explore, Express and Act".

Explore our shores

Check out some of the latest sea shore events on wildsingapore happenings.

Express for our shores

Share your experiences, your hopes and your knowledge about our reefs. Tell your family, your friends and your colleagues! And tell us about it, too!! We'd love to hear from you!

Act for our shores
  • Dispose of rubbish properly. Do not support mass balloon releases. Marine litter is a serious problem impacting our oceans and entering our food chain. Jellyfish are among the favourite food of sea turtles. Sea turtles that mistakenly eat floating plastic bags and balloons may eventually die. 
  • Don't discard fishing nets and fishing lines in the sea. Sea turtles, dugongs and dolphins breathe air. If they are trapped in abandoned nets and fishing lines, they may drown. And we DO still have these magnificent animals in our reefs.
  • Don't buy reef products: Trinkets or products made from reefs. Food and medicinal products made from threatened reef animals: sea turtles, corals, seahorses, abalones, sea cucumbers, sharks' fins and more.
  • Know where your seafood comes from: Learn about overfishing and unsustainable seafood such as prawns, eat less of overharvested marine life, don't throw any food away.
  • Be a responsible boater: Be careful when travelling near reefs and seagrass areas.
  • Be a responsible diver: Do not break corals or harass reef creatures.
  • Be a responsible tourist: Visiting a beach famous for its reefs? Support reef-friendly businesses there.

VOLUNTEER for the reefs

Be a volunteer! If you have a passion for nature, make the time to help out with local conservation groups. Most have activities to suit any contribution of skill, time and energy. Every contribution, large and small, short-term and long-term, can make a big difference. Check out on-going volunteer opporunities on the wildsingapore website.

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