What is the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Singapore?
A fast-growing Asian economy with towering skyscrapers; great dining experiences with a mix of international and local cuisine; and comfortable shopping malls along Orchard Road offering the latest fashion apparels for sale.
While Singapore may have a reputation as a dynamic and cosmopolitan city, it isn’t all concrete, shopping malls, and skyscrapers; the Little Red Dot is actually "laced with a necklace of blue."
Did you know that Singapore actually plays host to some 63 offshore islands? Teeming with corals and other marine wildlife, a few of them offer a quick escape from the hustle and bustle of the city.
If you find Sentosa too commercialised and crowded for your taste, let the team at PARKROYAL on Kitchener Road introduce you to Singapore's most beautiful islands.
Your island-hopping adventure begins at St John’s Island. Nature and history buffs will fall in love with this laid-back island in Singapore’s Southern waters, with a past as colourful as its coral reefs.
St John’s once served as a quarantine centre for diseases, a detention centre for political prisoners, and a rehabilitation site for opium addicts.
Today, the only things to get addicted to are the island’s beautiful shallow lagoons, clear beaches, and marvellous array of marine fauna and flora; they include fiddler crabs, sea grasses, sea anemones, and hermit crabs. You can also try to catch a glimpse of the coral reefs growing along the sea-wall. (Do remember to put on footwear for safety when you’re exploring the lagoon at low tide.)
If you’re lucky, you may even spot an Indo-Pacific hump-backed dolphin frolicking in the waters beyond. These cetaceans are regular visitors to the waters around Singapore’s Southern Islands.
Pay a visit to the new Sisters' Islands Marine Park Public Gallery for a close-up look at Singapore’s marine biodiversity. Featuring the rich and diverse marine life in Singapore's waters, the Gallery provides an overview of the Sisters' Islands Marine Park. This includes a vivid 3D diorama of its dive trails.
A free 90-minute guided tour of the island is held on the first Sunday of every month. Slots are quite difficult to secure, as they are snapped up within the first minute of their release! But fret not, there is still a DIY trail guide which you can download.
Getting there: Hop onto a ferry from Marina South Pier. The journey takes approximately 30 minutes.
- Bring your own water and food as there are no amenities on the island.
- Check the ferry schedule before you make your trip. And remember to get back to the terminal in time for the last ferry back!
- Avoid visiting during the Kusu Island pilgrimage period during the ninth lunar month (around the October-November period).
Get directions to Marina South Pier
Jewish author Etty Hillesum once wrote, "Sometimes the most important thing in a whole day is the rest we take between two deep breaths."
There will be many deep breaths taken once you’re lazing on the white sandy beaches of Lazarus Island. In this part of the eight islands that make up Singapore’s Southern islands, a beach romp here can be done in peace and tranquility. Once here, you’ll feel like you’ve been magically transported to a private beach with turquoise lagoon waters placed there just for you.
Wish to add a touch of luxe to your secret island rendezvous? Splash out by renting a yacht and organising a private beach party right at the sunkissed shores of Lazarus Island.
Getting there: Take a ferry ride from Marina South Pier and turn left at the jetty to get to Lazarus Island. The walk will take about 15 minutes.
- As there are no toilets on Lazarus Island, be sure to use those on St John’s Island before walking to Lazarus Island.
- There are no rubbish bins, so be eco-conscious and pack your own rubbish when you leave.
Do you know that some 250 species of hard corals can be found in Singapore’s waters, making up 32 per cent of the hard coral species found worldwide?
One of the best places to visit in Singapore with kids, Sisters' Islands also house the nation’s first marine park. An aquatic treasure trove of rich and varied coral reefs, Sisters' Islands Marine Park was established to conserve and support our fragile marine ecosystem comprising rare species of seahorses, clams, crustaceans and other marine life.
You can swim and snorkel around the reefs found on the island, and catch a glimpse of Anemone Shrimps, Giant Clams, and other interesting marine life species. For the adventurous, the perfect way to explore the island is to sign up for a dive trail.
Marine life enthusiasts will also be in for a treat when the nation’s first turtle hatchery is completed by the end of 2018 at the 3-hectare Small Sister's Island. Unknown to many, Singapore is home to the Green Turtle and the Hawksbill Turtle. Both species of chelonians are regular visitors to Singapore’s sandy shores.
Getting there: The best way to get acquainted with the marine wildlife on Sisters’ Islands is to sign up for National Parks’ monthly guided walk. It includes transportation to and from the island. To prevent disappointment, book your boats early as tickets are usually snapped up quickly. An alternative route is to charter a ferry from Singapore Island Cruise.
If you wish to experience what Singapore was like in the 1960s, head to Pulau Ubin. With gravel roads, curling forest walks, and abundant wildlife, Pulau Ubin is one of two surviving kampongs (Malay for village) in Singapore, the other being Kampong Buangkok in Yio Chu Kang.
One of the most visited islands of Singapore, Pulau Ubin is best explored by bicycle or on foot. From the jetty, you can hire a van or rent a bicycle to get to Chek Jawa wetlands, widely considered as a national wetland treasure and one of the most interesting places to explore in Singapore. The intertidal flats at Chek Jawa Wetlands are brimming with marine life, including knobbly sea stars and carpet anemones that stand out at low tide, "like colourful candy."
The best time to visit happens when the tide is low (0.5 metres and below). You can check the tidal times here.
You can also book a guided tour of the Chek Jawa wetlands. A group booking of a maximum of 15 people costs only S$60. Click here to learn how you can book a group tour.
You can also climb the 20-metre tall Jejawi Tower to take in the panoramic views of the island’s lush forest canopy. It’s the sweet spot for some bird-watching, and you just might chance upon the Oriental pied-hornbill or the Red Junglefowl.
Getting there: Take a 10-minute bumboat ride from Changi Point Ferry Terminal. There are no scheduled timings as the bumboat sets off whenever 12 passengers are ready.
Get directions to Changi Point Ferry Terminal