Singapore’s best kept secret – a trip to St.John’s island
Days go by and we keep dreaming about the day when we will travel, explore and experience all the wonderful things nature has to gift us. Caught in a web of studies, work and other responsibilities the dreams we talk about on Friday nights over a few drinks merely remain dreams. We make plans only to get busy and forget about them the moment the night is over and we are pulled back into our daily hectic schedule. Thus, it was on a completely random day that a normal girl like me decided to actually take a step towards my dream – just one tiny step to begin with.
Since childhood, nature has always calmed me, fascinated me and left me spellbound. It touches a corner of my heart that no man-made wonder can reach. Nature in its pristine form has always been my favourite and the places less explored by tourists have always grabbed my attention.
It was during my search for such a place that I found out about St.John’s island, Lazarus island and Kusu island. Hence, while everyone was crazy about chilling in Sentosa, I decided to find my happiness somewhere else.
On a Thursday morning, I woke up with the help of multiple alarms praying the prevailing haze doesn’t hit a new high on this day or the sky does not burst out into showers. If there is a God, I would say my prayers were answered. Therefore, on a bright, sunny and almost non-hazy day I made my journey to these two islands.
On reaching Marina South Pier by MRT, I quickly grabbed a ticket for the two islands and in the meantime also made a quick round of the Maritime Gallery of Singapore in the 2nd storey of Marina South Pier. The ferry barely took 30 minutes of our time and thus with a group of random people- a group of friends, some couples, some families and some travelers (presumably) I stepped into St.John’s island. The excitement of visiting a new place quickly offset the effect of lack of sleep and I begun to explore the island.
After taking a few pictures and meeting a group of friends who wished for a picture to be taken, I started to walk around. It was at this time when a kind passer-by stranger (who appeared to be Indian) directed me to the opposite side of the island to find the main beach of Lazarus island which is a short walk from St. John’s.
Quickly, I was on my way to this beach and was pleasantly surprised to find some mangroves on the way.
The unexpected little joys life offers you are indeed worth appreciating.
The walk itself was a pleasant one, with water on both sides of the path. Upon reaching the wonderful beach, I was relieved to find a big group of tourists leaving the beach. I guess I wanted my little time with nature to be undisturbed.
After debating for a moment whether I should give in to the temptation to get into the water or not, I decided not to let go of this opportunity. The next one-two hours will always make me smile whenever it enters my thoughts, not because it was something special but because it was so soothing, relaxing and wonderful.
I joyfully played around in the water and walked around the beach with not a single soul in sight. Then, I sat on the sand to let the small waves crash against my legs and experienced the change of tide. As I stared all around the serene beach, I was mesmerized once again, by what nature has to offer us.
Over time a few more people entered the beach and I decided it was time to leave. After freshening up in a not-so-well-maintained washroom, I sat down at a spot to just be among nature and forget all my worries for a while. It was then that I realized I was indeed starving and this island does not have any food joints (at least none that I could find).
After a while, a cat began to bother me (I guess I never was fond of cats) and I decided to walk around a bit. I realized that in the rush of getting to the beach, I had missed out on the tiny houses surrounded by greenery and the random benches that adorned the front part of the island.
The kind stranger appeared again only to tell me that if I walk for 10 minutes I would find a small gallery about Sisters’ islands. Sisters’ islands is one of the places I wish to visit before I leave Singapore. It is the only island in Singapore that boasts of a coral life and conducts dives and walks. I found this tiny gallery which shows the different type of corals which are found on the island and noted down the website for more information.
Sadly, the next place the stranger had told me about was a fish-breeding lab which I was not allowed to access. As I made my way back to the ferry, the stranger caught up with me on his bicycle and told me about his life. I also learnt that there are only about 12 people who stay in the island and they visit the main city of Singapore every week for their daily requirements. He also offered to catch fish from the sea and cook it for me the next time I come to the island. He insisted I contact him so that he can show me around completely.
Time was running out and it was time for me to bid farewell to this kind stranger, only by now he had become an acquaintance. I walked down the road, pass the pretty little houses to reach the ferry and climbed aboard to make my way to Kusu island. Kusu is a tiny piece of land in the middle of the sea with two temples- a Chinese temple and a Malay Temple.
We were given one hour on this island before the last ferry departs. Nothing special about this island except the water was calmer and the island hosts Kusu pilgrimage in the month of October.
Legend has it that in order to save two shipwrecked soldiers, a giant tortoise had turned itself into an island. The sailors were forever grateful and had returned to give their thanks to this island. Thus began a tradition. On the 11th month of the lunar calendar, many devotees visit this place to give their prayers (Kusu pilgrimage).
After a quick visit to the Chinese temple where people burnt incense sticks, I walked up a flight of stairs to reach the Malay temple. It was a bit of a disappointment to see the temple by itself was nothing grand or beautiful. However, a lot of people had scribbled their wishes on yellow-painted rocks.
A religious man was performing small ceremonies for people who wanted blessings. Not being a religious person, I slowly made my way to the beach instead.The beach was calm, calmer than the one at Lazarus. Nothing special. Just quiet, calm and emanating peace.
I also found a small area where turtles were lazing around. Alas, time and tide indeed wait for none and hence I had to be on my way to the ferry again. Silently, my heart bid an almost nostalgic goodbye to the islands and soon I reached where I had started off.
The small trip thus came to an end but the heartfelt like it was opened up to a new world. A world where you can let all your worries go and feel light, a world where new joys await you- a world of travelling this beautiful planet.
Plan your journey to St. John’s, Lazarus and Kusu
- It is only a short distance from Singapore, a ferry ride of about 30 minutes from Marina South Pier station. Tickets can be booked on spot but do remember to start very early.
- The ticket (both ways) costs around 18 SGD.
- The trip is normally a day trip as overnight stays are not allowed unless you go for camping. However, there is one accommodation which allows you to stay in the island and reservations can be made with LTA.
- Remember the island has no shops. Make sure you carry water and food for your journey along with sunscreen.
- Changing rooms are available, although they are not in the best conditions. So, you can take a dip in the calm water.
- Don’t miss your ferry. The ferry ticket includes st.john’s as well as kusu island and it has specific timings. Make sure you reach on time even if you are on the other side of the island.
- There are agencies that provide cruise services for exploring these islands. So, if you have a group of friends and are willing to spend a little, this is a great option too.
- There are meet up groups that kayak through these islands. You will probably need a 2-star kayaking certification.
- The beach is the not the cleanest or most spectacular beach you will come across but it is certainly a welcome change from the city life. A great place for a one day trip and some relaxation by the beach.
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