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A dive in Lazarus, Singapour

You want to dive in Singapour ? 10 things to know.

1. Location: Singapore is not known for its clear waters and there are only two alternatives for diving, namely Lazarus / St-John's and Puala Hantu.


2. Weather conditions: a Saturday in December 2020, mix of rain and sun. In other words, typical Singapore weather but warm (winter doesn't exist here).


3. Visibility: what is worse than disastrous? Horrible? Imagine a visibility of one meter. I could only see the fins of my buddy in front of me. If I blinked twice, I lost him.


4. Brightness: dark to very dark. You can convince yourself that you are in space.


5. Current: low to medium although it varied during the dives. There were times when we found ourselves going against the current, forcing ourselves not to blink or we would have lost each other.


6. Equipment: beside my standard equipment, I had a torch to help me navigate in the dark. The water temperature was around 27 degrees, so a light protection and a pair of shorts is enough. The full wet suit is not necessary.


7. Water temperature: remember you are in Singapore. This means that the water can only be between hot and hot, which translates to 25 degrees and above. If you've lived in Singapore, you're probably used to it. If you are from Europe, you will be sweating underwater!


8. Underwater attractions: nothing but rubbish! Ok, I saw two lost fish… highlight of the dives.


9. Price: SGD 150-200 for two dives.


10. Time: 07.30 (meet at the port) to 13.30 (return to the port).


Dive 1: 9.30 am, 43 min, maximum depth 12.2 m.

Dive 2: 11.15, 40 min, maximum depth 20.5 m.


On the map: Singapore Strait, coordinates 1 ° 13′20.1354 ″ N 103 ° 51′19.296 ″ E.

In short, south of Singapore.


A bit of history...

Known as Pulau Sakijang Pelepah (apparently "palm fronds" in Malay), Lazarus is the name given by the governor during colonial times. Why this name? No idea. From what I read, it was once a place for pirates in the area (yes apparently there were pirates in Singapore, isn't that unexpected?) Later during 19th century, it has been used as a prison as well as a burial place for those who died of infectious diseases on St. John's Island adjacent to Lazarus. In the 1960s', Singapore used it as a radar base (civil use). The last natives were moved to Singapore in the nineties. Lazarus Island is connected by a bridge to St. John's Island.


You will not only see divers, but people who come for a day or a half day walk outside Singapore city to enjoy the beach and a small forest.


In details


You must be wondering how you can dive in Singapore. There are basically two options.


Option 1: organize everything on your own, rent a boat, a captain, chose dive spots, get the equipment.


Option 2: find a local dive shop to get you there. Much simpler.


Even though I am the diving bear, I can be a lazy bear when it comes to planning a dive. Therefore, I took the easy route and opted for a package with GS Diving (see their website at the end of this article). I dived with GS Diving and Gary (the boss) in the past and it was a positive experience. Since I haven't had a dive in 2020 (thanks to Covid-19), I decided to contact him to see if there were any local diving options. Gary is kind, helpful, experienced and organized, that's what you need.


The package costs SGD 150 and includes two guided dives, round-trip ferry ticket, lunch and snacks. This excludes the rental of equipment. GS can rent you what you need as necessary, the full set or only few parts.


Complete equipment: SGD 50 (without torch).

Regulator: SGD 15.

Stabilizer vest: SGD 15.

Combination: SGD 10.

Mask, fins, snorkel, shoes: SGD 5.

Dive computer: SGD 10.

Torch: SGD 10.


If you only need few things don't worry. You can ask Gary and he will always give you a reasonable quote. I know the above prices seem expensive but this is Singapore ...

How to get there

I met GS folks at 7.30am on a seemingly lovely Sunday at Marina Bay South Pier. This pier is also the departure to several outer islands of Singapore. The day started off with a blue sky but it's Singapore so the weather can change pretty quickly.

The boat took about 15 minutes to reach the island of Lazarus. It's fast and the sea was calm.

While we were unloading the equipment (yes you have to work a little bit) I saw a group of (young) divers finishing a dive. Apparently they arrived at 7am for their first descent. As much as I love diving, you won't get me out of bed at 5am unless I have a good chance to see a whale shark!


We split into three groups, an Instructor with a couple, a Divemaster with another group of two, and I had VIP service with another Divemaster.


First dive

8.12am, we were ready for our first dive. I was excited. My buddy was honest and gave me a warning ... don't expect anything.


However, when I was told not to expect anything, I didn't expect it to be really nothing. Think about the worst dive you have ever done, it was worse than that! I'm always happy to get wet, and wanted to dive just to be under water but it was shocking. Rubbish? Plenty. Personally, I think I was very lucky to see a little pufferfish after half an hour. This poor guy seemed lost between plastic bottles and car tyres. After diving 10 minutes, we faced a relatively strong current during 20 minutes. I must have burned 300 calories fighting it.


I mentally conveyed to him (the fish) that I probably wouldn't dive here again and he understood. After a touching farewell to my new friend, we turned the dive.


After 40 minutes I ended up with half a tank because we haven't dived deep. The average depth was 8 meters, the maximum 10 meters. Overall there wasn't much to see. After the dive we received a Nasi Lemak. It is a Malay dish made of fragrant rice cooked in coconut milk and pandan leaf. The dish is a little too fatty for the diving bear's diet, but it's too delicious to resist.

Second dive


As we were getting ready for the second dive, I was tempted to skip it. However, I decided to gear up and stay optimistic.


My buddy suggested diving in a different direction, crossing the waters between Lazarus and St John's. You have to dive deeper to avoid the boats. I hoped to see something different. We started our descent from the shore (a pebble beach). The descent was quick and we reached 15 meters. Down there is only sand and the visibility was very poor, very dark. I had a hard time keeping buddy in sight despite the torch. The current was pretty strong and before we knew it we were bottoming 20 meters. At this point we had a spectacular encounter, another juvenile pufferfish!

Yes, another puffer fish but this one was younger than the previous one. I suspect they were swimming together and got separated by the current. I imagined him giving me a high five and helped me find my direction. Unfortunately, he couldn't help me because he was lost too.


Never mind, we continued our journey. The only thing to look forward to was the end. The current was strong and my air level was heading south. At some point my no-deco time dropped to 10 minutes so I started climbing a few feet to have some buffer. For those who are wondering how to save a little air, other than by controlling your breath, here is something that I do regularly; stay a few meters above the buddy or the group in order to suck little less air. It can quickly make a difference depending on how deep you are. Not too far of course, stay close enough to reach someone in the event of an incident.


After 40 minutes, we stopped the dive (left with 20-30 bars). Overall this dive would have been difficult or painful, I think, for less experienced divers. Although you are only following the shore while diving, the combination of current and poor visibility is very unpleasant.


After packing the equipment, we left Lazarus just before the storm arrived! The boat brought us back to Marina Bay South Pier around 2pm despite rough waters.

Overall

This dive is useful for training in poor conditions, to boost your confidence level and your navigation skills.


Thanks to Gary and his team for organizing and, despite everything, having a great time.


Sincerely yours.


Ciao.


The diving bear.

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