Most of people when being asked on interesting places to visit in Singapore might think of Singapore Zoo, Garden by the Bay, Universal studios or new attraction like Singapore River and SEA Aquarium. It’s not wrong, as those are most advertised and visited by people when visiting Singapore.
For you who are bored with bustling street of Orchard road or city life of Singapore, you might want to consider St John and Kusu Island on your next destination, a short journey from Singapore minus immigration’s procedures. Many might not be aware on those islands, even though have stayed in Singapore for long times, include my best friends when I raised the ideas on visiting the places at the first.
How to Get There ?
You can first take MRT to Marina Bay station and then take bus 402 to Marina south Pier. When I visited the island at 28 December 2013, the bus stop was exactly at the exit A of Marina Bay station, however there is notification that the bus station will be moved on the next day to somewhere near exit B of the station. The bus journey only takes about 7-10 minutes, however the frequency might not that frequent, hence it’s better for you to come early should you plan to continue your journey by bus else just take cab for short ride to the Marina south Pier. Marina south pier is located nearby the Marina bay cruise centers.
From Marina south pier, you can then take the ferry operated by Singapore Island Cruise and Ferry Services Pte Ltd. You can check further information include camping license in the website here. The return ticket for adult costs 18 SGD, meanwhile 12 SGD for children. The ferry will stop first at St John’s island and later continue to Kusu Island before back to Marina South Pier. For weekdays (Monday to Friday exclude Public holiday), the frequencies of the ferry are only twice, three times for saturday and five times the most for Sunday and public holidays.
It takes about 45 minutes to reach St John’s island. You can do camping in the island prior obtaining the license first. For accommodation, there is accommodation you can rent but limited, hence better to book first if you want to stay overnight.
There are no stores or restaurants in this island, hence you need to bring your own water and food. You can do BBQ in the island, as there are several BBQ pit available to be used. St John’s island was named before as Sekijang island or Qi Zhang Shan/ Mount Qi Zhang due to small hill in the middle of the island. It was used as quarantine place for cholera in the past and later world’s biggest quarantine center in 1930s. Afterward in 1950, the place was being used place to hold political detainees and secret society ringleaders. Later converted to rehabilitation center for opium addicts before develop into holiday escape currently.
The place is suitable for people who would like to have quite and pleasant break from city life. There are tables and huts around, which you can use for your day picnic. The island itself is also cleaned and equipped with public clean and good public toilet and shower.
Afterward, we take the ferry to Kusu Island included in the ticket. Kusu means Tortoise island in Mandarin. It is also known as Peak island or Pulau Tembakul in Malay. There is legend that a tortoise had turned itself into and island to save two shipwrecked sailors. As tortoises are known to live long age, there is belief that touching the tortoises can bring good fortune and longevity.
The temple itself was built for the honour of the Merchant God or God of prosperity or Da Bo Gong. The temple was built on the donation of wealthy businessman, Chia Cheng Ho in the past in 1923. The other main deity in the temple is Guan Yin.
You can swim in the island peacefully without waves, as the areas are protected by concrete surround. The sand is finer compared to St John’s island. The only minus is the view of the Ships with the containers around which you won’t find at St John’s island.
In the middle of the island, there are stairs going up to Malay shrine for praying Datuk Gong. It’s kind of mix between Malay culture and Chinese culture. Nearby the shrine, many people write down their wishes on the stones.
It’s indeed pleasant day spending times relaxing in the islands.