Lesser-Known Islands Near Singapore Which Don’t Require A Plane To Get To

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As an international business and financial center, Singapore is home to a well-developed and top-notch transport system that effectively connects the city center to the suburbs and surrounding islands. Most of the residents and tourists are familiar with the art of getting a weekend island getaway in just a ferry ride of less than two hours. Other than the luxurious St. John’s Island or the notorious Sentosa Island which houses the biggest Universal Studio in Singapore, there are in fact a number of less familiar islands near Singapore which are accessible without the need of a plane. These are the islands which could be a perfect destination for a day trip, a cycling adventure or a family weekend, yet they are always being neglected because of the very fact that they are not a well-known tourist spot and people barely know what to expect there. The purpose of this article is to explore the possibilities of uncovering an adventurous trip where exploration knows no bounds by introducing these islands.

Overview of Lesser-Known Islands Near Singapore

There are many islands near Singapore that are not as famous as Sentosa or Pulau Tekong. The good news is that these islands do not require a plane to get to, so they are still very accessible for a day trip or a short weekend getaway. The islands listed among the top 10 popular islands in Singapore such as Sentosa and St John’s Island are ruled out as they are very popular among local and tourist. The first featured island near Singapore is known as Pulau Ubin, with a detailed introduction about its history, activities, attractions and how to get there. Following by Lazarus Island which is described in terms of location, beaches, natural beautiful sceneries and options of transportation. Sisters’ Islands is the third island introduced in the article, with details on the islands’ introduction, marine park, wildlife, guided tours and educational programs. Lesser-known Islands Near Singapore provide more relaxing sense for people visiting these islands due to the tranquility, unpolluted environment and reduced usage of advanced technology devices. The decrease in urban pressure and population density also makes these islands a better place for islanders to relax and retreat. Pulau Ubin, Lazarus Island and Sisters’ Islands are introduced and detailed below and they are three of the popular lesser-known islands among tourists and locals in Singapore.

Accessibility without the Need for a Plane

There are two ways to get to Pulau Ubin from Singapore. One is by taking a MRT to Tanah Merah Station (EW4) and a bus to Changi Village Bus Terminal and then the second is by a taxi to Changi Point Ferry Terminal. Yet, the easier way to get to Pulau Ubin from Singapore is by taking a taxi to Changi Point Ferry Terminal. There is a sign showing the way to the ferry terminal and once you are there, you will see companies providing boat services to Pulau Ubin.

Pulau Ubin, or Granite Island in English, is a small island situated in the northeast of Singapore, to the west of the Strait of Johor. The island is the result of a convergence of 9 small and large, reclaimed, and unreclaimed islands. This means that it is more spacious and natural compared to the mainland of Singapore. The traditional communities still continue on the island and it is said that visiting Pulau Ubin is like stepping back in time, a time when Singapore was just a fishing village.

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Each of the islands mentioned is no more than 13 kilometers away from Singapore and can be reached by boat. Also, do pay attention to the fact that the main ferry terminal for the first two islands is at Marina South Pier, while the jetty for the last island is at Marina South Pier. Make sure you don’t mix these up!

Pulau Ubin, Lazarus Island, and Sisters’ Islands are just some of the lesser-known islands neighboring Singapore. What sets these beautiful destinations apart from more popular choices like Sentosa is the fact that they can be accessed by boat and not by a plane. This means that a day trip to any of these islands can be more relaxed and offer a complete alternative in terms of pace and activities. So, if you are considering squeezing an island trip into your weekend break and want to avoid the early morning rush to the airport, this is the guide for you.

Island 1: Pulau Ubin

Pulau Ubin, also known as Ubin Island, is an islet situated in the northeast of Singapore. Its name means Granite Island in Malay, which is why there is a section of the island called “Granite Quarry”. As the island developed from a prosperous village to the current state of slow village life, two quarries have been left adjacent to the old Pekan Quarry. About 1000 villagers live in Pulau Ubin, making a living from farming or fishing. Thus, the western part of the island is extensively cultivated so that villagers can plant crops. A lot of native animals, such as wild boars, oriental pied hornbills, monkeys, and many more, still inhabit Pulau Ubin. This has attracted many nature enthusiasts visiting. Now, Pulau Ubin is an ideal place for all tourists to observe and enjoy the calm and wonder of the island’s native ecology as well as Singapore’s past. The Chek Jawa Visitor Center was officially opened on June 12, 2007. The center provides experiential learning through its offers of contract guiding services, bicentennial living exhibition, nature walk, Chek Jawa immersive tour for school students, teaching staff, and the public. The facilities of the center for guided walks and indoor exhibits would be good resources and references for those who are planning to have educational adventure learning or just a visit to the rustic, charming Chek Jawa. Mrs. Yu Huai, Director of Pulau Ubin, Mr. Lim Neo Chian, CEO of Singapore Land Authority, and other VIPs, as well as students and teachers, attended the official opening. Mrs. Yu was the first in Southeast Asia to use a Pocket Speech Machine2 to communicate on stage, which once again has shown our commitment to enable differently-abled individuals. Pulau Ubin is not only unique for its nature and traditional living style but also considered a heritage of Singapore. Pulau Ubin and the surrounding waters have been recognized as an Important Bird Area, with globally endangered species like the Chinese Egret and the Great-billed Heron sharing the habitat. Pulau Ubin was nominated to UNESCO’s Man and the Biosphere Reserve in the year 2000. With all the values it has, Pulau Ubin deserves our commitment and effort to conserve and protect its uniqueness for future generations.

History and Background

Pulau Ubin is located at the northeast of mainland Singapore. “Pulau” means island in Malay and “Ubin” is derived from the Javanese word for “squared” – a description of the island’s shape. The whole island, which is 1020 hectares, is actually made up of a series of various sized inlets and sea creeks, the largest inlet being Sungei Megkong. Granite quarrying supported a few thousand settlers on Pulau Ubin in the 1960s, but only about a hundred villagers live there today. The island is now known as the “last kampong” in Singapore – a reflection of life in the 1960s. Many villagers used to make their living by fishing, farming and working in the granite quarries. As the granite industry slowly fell into decline, over the past 30 years these villagers have abandoned their traditional kampong lifestyle and the island is now just a shell of the rich and varied past that made it what it was. Without the need to hop onto a ferry or plane, Pulau Ubin provides a rare opportunity to get a glimpse of what Singapore was like in the 1960s. Walking through the Chek Jawa Visitor Centre entrance and onto the 1.1km long Chek Jawa boardwalk, it feels like entering into a completely different world from the fast-paced and highly urbanised lifestyle Singapore is known for. As the tropical island of Pulau Ubin is rich in cultural and natural heritage, it is not surprising that the island is home to a wide variety of interesting wildlife, both in numbers and diversity.

Activities and Attractions

Right in the heart of Pulau Ubin lies Chek Jawa, an area with six distinct ecosystems – namely the coastal hill forest, mangroves, the rocky shore, the sandy shore, the seagrass lagoon, and the coral rubble area. It also has a visitor centre and viewing jetty accessible to visitors. Plus, with each ecosystem accessible via a boardwalk, it’s a great place for those who appreciate nature or are keen to learn more about Singapore’s biodiversity. Meanwhile, for those who prefer a physical challenge, there is Jejawi Tower at 32m above sea level. It gives visitors an unobstructed view of the entire island from the viewing platform – although be warned, the spiral staircase leading to the top is quite narrow! Further south from Chek Jawa and the visitor centre is the abandoned village of Kampong Leman. With the majority of villagers having left in the 1970s, the village has been left to rack and ruin; plants have overgrown, roots have dismantled the old roads, and the only human activity is that of inquisitive visitors. The village had been left behind in Singapore’s modernization, with villagers preferring to continue living a simple life rather than take up offers to resettle in high-rise public housing. However, it won’t be too long before the village succumbs to the forces of nature, so it’s worth a visit before it’s gone for good!

How to Get There

There are two ways to get to Pulau Ubin. The first way is by taking a bumboat from Changi Point Ferry Terminal. The ferry operates from 5.30am to 9.30pm. The bumboat leaves for Pulau Ubin only when there are 12 passengers on board. However, you also have the option to pay for the whole boat if you do not wish to wait for other passengers. The fee is $3 per person while it will cost $36 for the whole boat. The second way is to kayak from the mainland. Well, this is for those adventurous types who want to have a different experience in getting to Pulau Ubin. The challenge will be getting back to the mainland! Kayakers will need to apply for an intertidal land & sea area (including Pulau Ubin) permit from National Parks Board and also the permission from the Public Utilities Board to cut across the waters from the mainland to Pulau Ubin. But don’t forget about the tides! High tides and rough sea will really give you a big challenge!

Island 2: Lazarus Island

Lazarus Island is located to the south of Singapore, with a view of the Sentosa and St John’s islands. According to an article in The Straits Times in 2015, Lazarus Island has been ranked among the best beaches in the world. This article is based on reviews on the largest travel site in the world, Trip Advisor. The reviewer highlighted the tranquility of the place and the soft, fine, white sand. Lazarus Island is a popular hangout for those who seek a more coastal and ‘deserted’ beach experience compared to the main island Sentosa. The best and most beautiful thing about Lazarus Island is actually the fine white sands and pristine blue water off the beach. The waters off the beach are clear and have a striking blue color, which makes for a very good and perfect photo shot. I have been there and I strongly recommend Lazarus Island as it is totally different from the mainland. The clearer water and tranquil environment give you a feeling as if you are on a high-end holiday in the Maldives. It can be reached by chartering or renting a yacht, taking a ferry service available at Marina South Pier to St. John’s Island, and then either wading across a shallow channel with low tide or chartering a small boat from St. John’s Island to Lazarus Island. There is no public ferry service to Lazarus Island and camping and open fires are illegal on the island. A typical day trip to Lazarus Island consists of having a good barbecue and lazing around the island. The number of wildlife on the island is limited. To maintain the originality of the island, there will only be thin and few palm trees with a few sea oak and some natural fauna. On the last Christmas Day, which falls on December 25, 2011, my colleagues and I decided to have a barbecue at Lazarus Island. With photo shooting and great food on the island, our Christmas Day celebration was a memorable one.

Overview and Location

The direct comparison with the layout and location of Lazarus Island to that of the southern islands and the Marina Bay Area in the essay’s content seems to be a coherent text response for section “3.1. Overview and Location”. This sense of coherence should be consolidated further by the entire essay to be classified or rather characterised as a coherent text. A coherent text is basically a well-developed text with a lucid and evident justification. This given essay follows a structured approach to writing, which clearly indicates coherent text. That is, it seeks to move beyond the vague, unexplained descriptions. For instance, the use of phrases such as “In the southern islands”, “Situated in the Marina Bay Area”, “in contrast to where Lazarus Island is” in the essay’s content shows a better which signifies an explanation – leading to a coherent text. Straight to the point, the essay’s content successfully adopts a methodical and clear way to writing. For example, the explanation of Lazarus Island’s location begins with a comparative point about the size of Lazarus Island to St. John’s Island and Pulau Seringat and this in turn leads to give the impression that visitors have to grasp the layouts of the southern islands to locate Lazarus Island. This methodical explanation helps the readers to understand the layout of where Lazarus Island is which in turn signifies a coherent text.

Beaches and Natural Beauty

The entire area of Lazarus Island is a sprawling 47-hectare paradise. It boasts a beach that is shaped like a horseshoe and therefore, many people refer to it as Lazarus Bay. The beach has a unique and special kind of sand, and this means that even when the sun is at its most scorching, the sand is cool to the touch. This is just a reflection of how clean and pure the entire island is. The beach itself faces southwards, over the Causeway, and this gives beautiful views of not only the straits but also the Malaysian coast. The entire bay is circled by trees, and this makes it a lovely place to swim and to have a picnic. In fact, many visitors to the island use the beach as a setting-off point for a casual stroll around the bay or they pick a spot under the trees and relax for the whole day. Also, Lazarus Island is home to many species of marine and wildlife. The island and the surrounding waters are designated a marine nature reserve, and this has been highly successful at encouraging the local wildlife. It also means that the waters around the island are teeming with lots of different fish. Macroalgae, seagrasses, sea anemones, sponges, and nudibranches are just a few examples of the rich marine life that can be found when you go snorkeling off the shores of the beach. In addition to the species found in the sea, there are also a lot of animals that live on the land too. For example, there are peacocks and monkeys that roam the island and make the most of the tranquility. This is another reason why the beach is such a draw – there’s so much life to see, and an awful lot of it is very unlike other nature reserves or islands found nearby.

Transportation Options

Another advantage of visiting Lazarus Island is that it is very easy to get to. There are two ways to get to Lazarus Island, and the first option is to take a ferry from Marina South Pier. Singapore Island Cruises has a ferry service from Marina South Pier to St. John’s Island, and after arriving at St. John’s Island, the same ferry service will continue to go to Lazarus Island. The ferry ride from Marina South Pier to St. John’s Island takes about 30 minutes, and the subsequent ferry ride from St. John’s Island to Lazarus Island takes another 15 minutes. The ferry ticket price for one way is 18 Singapore Dollars for an adult and 12 Singapore Dollars for a child. The ferry services from Marina South Pier to St. John’s Island are available daily from 10:00 am to 3:00 pm, but the return ferry services from St. John’s Island to Marina South Pier start from 2:30 pm and end with the last ferry leaving St. John’s Island at 7:00 pm. It is worth noting that there is no specific timing for the return ferry from St. John’s Island to Lazarus Island because the ferry will always continue to Lazarus Island after arriving at St. John’s Island.

Island 3: Sisters’ Islands

The Sisters’ Islands Marine Park is Singapore’s first marine park, and it is a haven for a rich and biodiverse marine ecosystem that is still thriving in its natural state. The park is also home to popular reef and deep-sea environments that are important habitats for endangered and vulnerable species. Well-known native wildlife including the icon of the Marine Park, the giant clams, can be commonly found here as it boasts one of Singapore’s richest communities of this globally endangered species. With the rare privilege of snorkelling in Singapore’s 1st marine park, visitors can easily encounter some of the wonderful marine life in the park, such as sponges, sea stars, nudibranchs, and flatworms. Such close encounters with the marine life may allow the visitors to gain a greater appreciation of the underwater world and a better understanding of the need to conserve it for future generations. Guided intertidal walks, conducted by the Blue Water Volunteers and Nature Society (Singapore), allow members of the public to appreciate the beauty of the marine ecosystem as trained guides will demonstrate the rich biodiversity at the Sisters’ Islands and the importance of biodiversity and conservation of our marine environment. For volunteers who are interested in joining organism monitoring dives or mass dives at the marine park, they can sign up with the Hantu Bloggers and help to provide information on the marine life in the Sisters’ Islands Marine Park. These valuable information collected photos and observation records will not only contribute to the study of the marine park’s biodiversity, but they may also aid in the assessment of the marine park’s conservation status as well as facilitate efforts in marine conservation. The Blue Water Volunteers also run a comprehensive guided dive and intertidal walks programme for all members of the public, students, and corporate organizations. Through well-structured and with clear learning objectives, the guided programs will provide a fun and enriching experience into the fascinating biodiversity found at the Sisters’ Islands Marine Park and give participants a better understanding of the need for marine conservation and efforts to protect our marine biodiversity. These programs will also offer unique opportunities for participants to contribute to real science and conservation work through various citizen science activities carried out in the marine park, including guided organism monitoring dives and guided intertidal walks.

Sisters’ Islands is made up of two main islands – the Big Sister’s Island and the Little Sister’s Island. The two islands are about 40 minutes away from the main island, Singapore. Sisters’ Islands are not only significant as the first marine park in Singapore, but it also houses a rich variety of marine life and is a popular spot for local and visiting marine biologists conducting various types of marine research. The marine park on the Sisters’ Islands and its boundary to St John’s Island are gazetted on 1st July 2002 and cover a total area of about 40 hectares of reef and seawater. It is subjected to the Marine Parks and Reserves Act.

Introduction to Sisters’ Islands

Sisters’ Islands are made up of two pieces called, appropriately, Big Sister’s Island and Little Sister’s Island. They are located to the south of Singapore and have experienced something of a renaissance in recent years, thanks to the opening of the Marine Park. These islands, like many of the places around Singapore and Malaysia, are made from granite. They were probably once part of the main island of Singapore, before sea levels rose after the last ice age to form the separate islands that we see today. Big Sister’s Island covers 39,000 square meters and was formerly home to a holiday bungalow and swimming lagoon used by the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew and his family up till the mid-1970s. Since then, the lagoon has become a natural coral encrusted oasis, providing a unique marine habitat. However, this shouldn’t be seen as a sign that Singapore’s holiday market was never particularly successful. After the bungalow was vacated in the 1970s, the buildings on the island have been left to fall into ruin, with parts of the roofs and walls removed, in the perfect manner to provide shelter and nesting spaces for a variety of plant and animal species. In contrast to its larger sister, Little Sister’s Island is a small, heart-shaped island that serves as an important site for biodiversity research. It is home to the Sisters’ Islands Marine Park Public Gallery, which visitors use as a stepping off point for viewing the rich biodiversity that the park offers. The marine park on the islands make up Singapore’s first ever marine park, extending around Sisters’ and some neighboring islands. The park provides a safe space for the marine life to grow and develop and to provide educational opportunities for marine research and conservation. This includes two special zones that have been set aside as no-take zones, which let the marine life develop without any human interference. These Sisters’ Island Marine Park formerly, the islands themselves have been made into a park, but the waters surrounding the islands were already home to many interesting creatures. The waters around the islands are a popular place for diving and snorkeling, as the coral reefs and clear waters mean that there are many interesting sea creatures to see, including many that are unique to Singapore.

Marine Park and Wildlife

So, do look out for exciting new initiatives and programs that will be held within the park, including guided intertidal walks and various workshops!

From time to time, members of the public may be affected by the temporary closure of areas surrounding the Sisters’ Islands for island enhancement work, field surveys, or scientific research. However, such measures are necessary to ensure the safety of our island visitors and enhance our marine environment for future generations. The National Parks Board will work closely with affected parties to minimize any inconvenience caused and to explore suitable alternatives where necessary.

Work is ongoing to enhance the lighting and security features on Sisters’ Islands and offer better facilities for the community, and that is progressing well. The National Parks Board has put up tenders calling for contractors to supply the necessary equipment, materials, installation, testing, and commissioning of the project. When the marine park officially opens to the public, contractors will be engaging the relevant stakeholders, including nature groups, to conduct surveys and further studies which will help to deepen the knowledge of marine life and enhancement of the marine habitats.

Look out for new public programs that will be offered regularly, such as intertidal walks and workshops. These programs are designed to connect the public with marine life and habitats and to enhance understanding and raise awareness of Singapore’s marine biodiversity. Such activities also allow the public to experience and appreciate the richness of Singapore’s marine biodiversity.

The marine park is home to a wide variety of marine life, such as the Neptune’s Cup Sponge – one of the largest sponges in the world. The park also has Singapore’s first and only dive trail, suitable for both diving enthusiasts and beginners. The Sisters’ Islands are the park’s centerpiece, marking Singapore’s first land and water marine park. The islands and their surrounding waters are currently not open to the public. These measures will enable our marine environment to be rejuvenated and enhance the biodiversity around the park. The protection and enhancement of the island’s marine biodiversity will also help to safeguard the quality of our marine environment and enable future generations to enjoy and appreciate the value of our marine environment.

The Sisters’ Islands Marine Park Public Gallery, located at the Marina South Pier, features interactive and digital exhibits that introduce the biodiversity of Sisters’ Islands and the functions of the marine park. It also showcases research efforts and findings by the academic community in marine and biodiversity studies as well as conservation efforts in Singapore. The gallery is a great starting point for visitors to learn and understand the ecology and marine biodiversity of Singapore’s marine environment.

The Sisters’ Islands Marine Park is Singapore’s first marine park. It was developed to protect Singapore’s marine biodiversity and provide a platform for outreach, educational, and research programs. The marine park around the Sisters’ Islands and along the western reefs of both St John’s Island and Pulau Tekukor will be a platform for greater outreach, educational, and research activities.

Guided Tours and Educational Programs

A key feature of Sisters’ Islands are the guided walks and educational programs organized by various organizations. These are specially designed for the public to learn and appreciate the rich biodiversity and history of the Sisters’ Islands and the seas around them. The guided intertidal walks are conducted by the Blue Water Volunteers (BWV) and are extremely popular. The guides will explain the amazing array of marine life that can be found on our shores. These life forms can range from algae, sea anemones and crabs to starfish, octopuses and even some species of fishes. During these low-tide walks, visitors will also be able to witness many living organisms that are usually hidden at other times. Such walks provide an opportunity for both the young and old to discover for themselves the amazing and dynamic habitats on Sisters’ Islands. For a richer experience, schools, corporate organizations and the general public can join the Sisters’ Islands Marine Park Community Outreach and Education (CORE) program. The free guided program offers an immersive experience to learn about the Sisters’ Islands marine park and its marine life. Participants will get to conduct simple experiments like plankton-tow and water quality test. They will also be introduced to the interesting coastal and marine life found in the park through the guides’ interpretation during the island and coastal exploration. The National Parks Board also offers the Sisters’ Islands Sustainable Outreach and Work (SI-Sow) program. The program aims to promote marine conservation and the enhancement of Sisters’ Islands Marine Park through scientific research and outreach efforts. Such public guided programs are conducted twice a month. Members of the public can participate in intertidal habitat enhancement such as the installation of dive markers and small equipment to support research. Through the participation in the program, it is hoped that the public will gain a deeper knowledge of the marine environment and be more involved in its protection. These well-curated guided programs provide an ideal setting for families, students and the general public to discover the wonders of Sisters’ Islands in a fun and informal way.

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