For a tourist, there are a lot of things to do within Singapore. There are numerous cuisines to try out and multiple cultures to learn about. But having said that, it’s still a tiny island. Besides shopping and food, there are islands near Singapore that you might be unaware of but are worth visiting!
1. Coney Island (Pulau Serangoon)
The Coney Island in Singapore is different from the one in Brooklyn, New York. Also known as Pulau Serangoon, this island was going to be transformed in the 70s by an Indian businessman named Ghulam Mahmood. His vision was to transform this island to a resort and theme park, similar to the one in New York. However, that plan didn’t materialise. Fortunately, we are left with Coney Island which has organically grown into a beautiful nature hub.
If you are good on a bicycle, then this island will be a pleasure to visit. Cycling around the island is the most common activity. The other popular activities are boating and water skiing. If you enjoy something more relaxing, bird watching is another big attraction on Coney Island. Even if you aren’t a birder, it’s worth using binoculars to watch the beautiful birds on the island.
2. St John’s Island
St John’s island has an interesting history. It was previously a rehabilitation centre for opium addicts. And much before that, people suffering from cholera were housed here to keep them away from the mainland. Don’t let this alarm you, because now it’s a beautiful island with pristine sea shores, lagoons and natural greenery. It also has a soccer field for those who want to enjoy a fun game of soccer.
St John’s Island is suitable for people of different types. If you are a hiker, you can cover the various trekking routes that lead to a higher spot from where you can see the mainland’s skyline that shows you a different perspective of Singapore.
If you are a history buff, you can read up more about the island’s past as a prisoner of war camp and live the past by visiting the old buildings on the island. There is also a human sized chess board that apparently was created by the Japanese, who used the prisoners of war as chess pieces.
If you just want to relax and not do anything physical, you can rent a chalet overnight and do some fishing or fire up a barbeque! The chalets are available for larger groups of more than ten people. So bring along your friends for an enjoyable night!
3. Lazarus Island
Lazarus Island is a close neighbour of the aforementioned St John’s Island. You can actually walk to Lazarus from St John’s. The island is known for its beautiful beaches that are secluded and will give you the peace and quiet that city dwellers need every once in a while.
Have a wonderful picnic on the white sandy beaches. Remember to carry sunscreen, food, water, mats to lay on and umbrellas to protect against the fickle weather. Also carry an insect repellent to protect against sandflies. Visit early during the day to enjoy the good weather and to avoid the scorching afternoon sun.
A part of the lagoon has no waves or currents flowing and it’s perfect for a swim. If you don’t want anything to do with the ocean water, you can play volleyball or fly a kite or throw a frisbee around in the windy beaches of the island.
4. Kusu Island
Kusu is the Hokkien word for ‘Tortoise’. The islands’ religious history brings a lot of pilgrims, who visit the famous Tua Pek Kong temple (Also known as the Da Bo Gong). Adding to the religious setting of the island are the three Keramat shrines that are visited by Muslim pilgrims.
If you haven’t seen tortoises before, Kusu island gives you the opportunity to get up close to these four-legged reptiles. The tortoise sanctuary is where you can observe these gentles creatures in their natural habitat.
A visit to Kusu Island is not complete without a visit to the Tua Pek Kong temple that will grab your attention with its beautiful red paintwork and the statues inside. Further up the hill, are the Keramat’s, from where you can enjoy a beautiful view and take a few photos.
5. Pulau Ubin
Arguably the most popular island close to the mainland, Pulau Ubin is a hotspot of activity. You might come across abandoned quarries because Pulau Ubin was a granite quarry in the past and the name translates to Granite Island. It has rich history and it will take people back to the olden days of Singapore.
Pulau Ubin is ideal for biking. The best way to check out the length and breadth of the island is with a bicycle. You can rent bicycles (starts from $3) from the shops near the entry.For the serious cyclists, there are three bicycle parks that one can test their skills in. They are Ketam Mountain Bicycle Park, Freeride Skills Park and Dirt Skills Park.
Keep a lookout for wild boars, snakes, turtles, mudskippers, and wild birds. There are also monkeys on the island that you need to be a bit wary about. And make sure to stay away from the wild boars.
If you are not into biking, then you can hike to butterfly hill, which is basically a garden with variety of flowers that attract butterflies. It’s beautiful and picturesque and do keep an eye out for the large birdwing butterfly. A day might not be enough to cover the entire island. You can stay overnight by booking a room at the Celestial Resort or you can camp on the island.
This is probably the only location where you can see Kampongs (villages) with people living in them. For the older generation, this is a throwback to the yesteryears of Singapore.
6. Chek Jawa
Close to the eastern side of Pulau Ubin, Chek Jawa’s seagrass lagoons and mangrove swamps will give you the nature fix that city dwellers crave for every once in a while. Take guided walks across the island, where you can come face to face with starfishes and hermit crabs. Scale the 20 metre tower and feast your eyes on the grand view of the ocean and coastline. If you are lucky, you can spot a plane land at Changi airport.
For architecture lovers, there is a small cottage called House No. 1, a tudor style house that doubles up as a visitor centre.
7. Pulau Semakau
Pulau Semakau is an island that is a landfill, where most of Singapore’s waste goes to. You wouldn’t believe this fact when you visit the island because it looks like a park and it’s beautiful. This island was previously home to a small village which was occupied by a fishing community that subsisted on fishing. Now it’s more of an educational, research oriented island that teaches people about waste management and recycling. According to the guides, the island can be used as a landfill till 2035.