If you’ve not yet been to Singapore’s Southern Islands, or you’ve not been for a while and need a refresher, read on. The Southern Islands are made up of St John’s Island, Lazarus Island, Kusu Island and Sisters’ Islands – all barely touched by development – and very different to Sentosa. Singapore Island Cruise’s island-hopping ferry to St John’s Island will allow you to explore Lazarus Island (which is connected by a bridge) and Kusu Island as well. There is also an option to make an additional stop at Sisters’ Islands on weekends.
Kusu Island’s name translates to “Tortoise Island”, owing to a rather fascinating bit of mythology. It is said that a magical tortoise transformed itself into the island to save a pair of shipwrecked sailors. The island is also famed for its trio of keramats (holy shrines) as well as a Taoist temple – both popular sites for pilgrimages. Beyond its cultural curiosities, the island is known for its untouched beaches, lagoons and tranquil setting.
Things to do: temple visits, swimming, picnicking
Editor’s tip: Visitors should pack essentials like food, water and sunblock as there are no stores on the Southern Islands.
St John’s Island
It might come as a surprise to most visitors that St John’s Island has had a rather dark past. In its history, the island has been a quarantine station for infectious diseases, a penal colony and a drug rehabilitation centre. Visit the island today and you’ll find it’s a lush paradise with a pristine lagoon and beach.
While certainly not developed, the island still offers amenities like toilets and showers and also has a walking trail and a Marine Laboratory with a public gallery. The island also offers several chalets and bungalows as well as barbecue pits for overnight stays. You’ll also have the option to explore neighbouring Lazarus Island which is connected by a causeway.
Things to do: swimming, picnicking, cycling
Lazarus Island lies just a hundred metres from St John’s Island and is the largest of the Southern Islands. The island idyll was once the planned site for a beach resort before plans fell through, leaving us with one of Singapore’s most untouched beaches – and best kept secrets! Lazarus island is connected to St John’s Island by bridge, so you can explore both by bicycle. The island is also a popular spot for family picnics by the large, white-sand lagoon.
Things to do: swimming, picnicking, cycling
The final island of the chain is the furthest away and actually two small islands – Little and Big Sisters’ Islands. The pair are the most rugged and undeveloped of the Southern Islands in Singapore. The National Parks Board has also gazetted the islands as a marine park.
The Sisters’ Islands is known for its remarkable biodiversity that include nudibranchs, octopus and hard corals. Dive tours can also be booked with licensed operators if you’re interested in exploring the waters around the island. If you prefer to stay (relatively) dry, you can join intertidal walks led by guides from the National Parks Board.
Things to do: diving, intertidal walks
Editor’s tip: Sisters’ Islands is closed for maintenance until further notice.
How to get to the Southern Islands in Singapore
Ready to embark on an island hopping adventure? Singapore Island Cruise & Ferry Services is one of the most convenient ways to get to the Southern Islands in Singapore.
Ferries depart from Marina South Pier and will take you to St John’s Island first. From there, you can also explore Lazarus Island via the causeway or take an interconnecting ferry to Sisters’ Island (weekends only) before heading back to St John’s to catch the next ferry to Kusu Island for further explorations before heading home from there. On weekdays, there are direct ferries from St John’s back to Marina South Pier if you would like to skip Kusu Island. Round trip tickets to St John’s Island and Kusu Island are available at $15 each.
As an added bonus, Expat Living Readers can enjoy 20% off tickets to the Southern Islands using the “Expat20” code when purchasing tickets online.
For more information and detailed ferry schedules visit islandcruise.com.sg.
Written in collaboration with Singapore Island Cruise & Ferry Services.
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