Bali and the Maldives may be your preferred island destinations, but you can enjoy the sun, sand and sea while staying safe at one of several unspoilt islands located a short boat ride away from mainland Singapore.
Kusu, in Hokkien, means ‘tortoise’ or ‘turtle’. The story goes that two fishermen — a Chinese and a Malay — were out at sea when their ship was wrecked. To save them from drowning, a giant tortoise turned itself into an island — hence, the island’s name. The men were so grateful that they built a Taoist shrine and a Muslim keramat (‘shrine’ in Malay). Over the years, the island has become the site of an annual pilgrimage that draws hordes of devotees to Da Bo Gong, a Chinese temple, and also to the Malay keramat. In case you’re wondering, a sanctuary for different breeds of turtles does exist on the island.
Getting there: Take a ferry ride from Marina South Pier.
What to do: Pay a visit to the Da Bo Gong Temple and make a wish at the wishing well. If you have children in tow, you’ll want to drop in at the turtle shelter, after which you could go swimming or snorkelling. Thanks to marine biodiversity conservation efforts, the waters surrounding the island harbour tons of coral reefs, fish and other marine life.
ST JOHN’S ISLAND
Located roughly 6.5km south of Singapore, St John’s Island is home to a range of wildlife and marine research centres. These include the Marine Aquaculture Centre and St John’s Island National Marine Laboratory, both of which manage areas that are restricted from public access. However, visitors are welcome to drop in at the Marine Park Outreach and Education Centre. The island is popular with anglers.
Getting there: Catch a ferry from Marina South Pier.
What to do: St John’s Island boasts different types of coral, reef fish, sea sponges and seagrass. Check the tide forecast to pick a time for an intertidal walk to experience these natural wonders.
NParks also organises a curated trail showcasing the biodiversity and history of St John’s Island and Sisters’ Island Marine Park. However, there’s only one tour a month and slots are limited. For more information, log onto https://www.nparks.gov.sg/gardens-parks-and-nature/parks-and-nature-reserves/sisters-islands-marine-park/st-johns-island-trail.
To get away from the crowds, St John’s Island has accommodation you can book for an overnight stay.
Shaped like a boomerang, this 1,020-hectare island is home to some of Singapore’s last kampungs as well as the Chek Jawa wetlands, one of Singapore’s richest ecosystems.
Getting there: Take a short bumboat ride from Changi Point Ferry Terminal.
What to do: Boasting lush greenery and abundant wildlife, Pulau Ubin has a lot to offer
nature lovers. You can go birdwatching, visit the Ubin fruit orchard and
explore abandoned quarries. Head to the eastern part of the island to check
out the old restored houses and the Chek Jawa wetlands. As you stroll the
boardwalk, keep an eye out for fiddler crabs. Sports enthusiasts can take on the island’s
challenging biking trails or kayak around the island.