The Island Life
Think Singapore and a bustling business city with towering skyscrapers comes to mind. But if you have a little time between meetings, take a break and explore the pockets of nature on its charming offshore islands. After all, the island state does have 63 offshore islands. A short ferry trip will bring you to some of the country’s best biodiversity, hiking trails and beaches, as well as a more leisurely pace – a perfect reprieve from the frenzy of the work week.
If you only have time for one island on your visit, this is it. The island boasts a former granite quarry and is also home to the last authentic kampong (village) in Singapore, with its water fetched from wells and power supplied by diesel generators. A short trek to the northeast is Chek Jawa, an intertidal flat that features some of the widest varieties of marine flora and fauna here, from mangroves and carpet anemones to Oriental pied-hornbills and mudskippers. At the village centre, rent a bicycle to explore the rubber plantations or tuck into hearty home cooked-style seafood at one of the family-run eateries.
Getting there: From Changi Point Ferry Terminal, board a bumboat for the short 10-minute ride to the island. Each passenger pays $3; bicycles at $2 extra. The bumboat, which leaves when it fills its 12-passenger capacity, operates between 7am and 7pm, with after-hour services by arrangement.
St John’s Island, Lazarus Island and Pulau Seringat
These three islands are common stopover points for luxury yachts – and it’s not hard to see why. Connected by boardwalks, the trio offer the clearest waters and most powdery sands in Singapore, with amazing views of Singapore’s city skyline to boot. Laze on the beach under the shade of palm trees or take a dip in the sun-drenched lagoon. When the mercury soars, quench your thirst with a freshly cracked coconut. For an extended getaway, book the self-catering holiday bungalow that sleeps up to 10.
Getting there: From Marina South Pier, catch a ferry to St John’s Island, which departs twice a day on weekdays and up to five times a day on weekends and public holidays. Return fare costs $18. Note that the ferry does not run every October due to resources being diverted for the pilgrimage to Kusu Island.
Local legend has it that the two outcrops that make up Sisters’ Island were formed where inseparable siblings drowned while escaping from pirates. Today, the islands are part of Singapore’s first marine park, home to more than 250 species of hard corals (a third of all such species found worldwide), 100 species of reef fish and 200 species of sponges. Bring your snorkel for a dive trail located at the larger of the two islands, or take part in one of national agency NPark’s free bimonthly intertidal guided walks.
Getting there: There are no regular services, so charter your own boat from West Coast Pier or Marina South Pier. Rates are negotiated directly with the operator. Boat transfers are free for participants of NParks’ guided tour.