Exploring the Southern Islands!

Hi everyone!

Did you know: Singapore is actually not the only “island” in its territory. In fact, there are over 64 offshore islands, and some of them are actually accessible via boat! One group of islands which is serviced by several cruises is the Southern Islands, and on one early weekend morning, we decided to visit the well-linked cluster of St John’s Island, Lazarus Island and Kusu Island!

With our usual camera gear, we headed out from the Marina South Pier (where the ferries usually depart) to the relative unknown and unexplored parts of the Southern Islands, hoping to find a different perspective from the bustling mainland. In the end, we found fun in the sun, a touch of natural and geopolitical history, and a place to shoot to our hearts’ content! Speaking of which, we decided to give this camera a try: the modified Polaroid 800, able to shoot Instax Wide film and Fujifilm packfilm!

The Polaroid 800 with the film for the day: the Fujifilm Instax Wide Monochrome film and the Fujifilm FP-100C packfilm.

First Stop: St John’s Island

The Southern Islands comprise several islets, of varying geographic and historical context. St John’s Island is one of the largest islets, but its history began as a quarantine centre in the late 19th century, particularly for cholera. Later on, it became a place to house political detainees and gangsters, and soon after a drug rehabilitation. Somehow in the 1970s it became a holiday home with chalets, so the island has clearly seen quite a bit of diverse crowds!

St John’s Island is also the first island stop by several cruises, so unsurprising we got off at the pier, to be greeted with a view of what must have been Singapore in the 1800s! Lush greenery, ample space, lack of humans (!), and not to mention the sea breeze and sandy shores… unfortunately we had to contend with mosquitoes and the blazing hot morning sun! Thus our photography adventure began:

One of many small sheds littered across the island, ostensibly to give visitors a well-deserved reprieve from the hot morning sun.
One of several C-shaped lagoons on the island.
A word of warning to those with children!
We could see Sentosa from St John’s Island, and further back, the mainland; we certainly travelled quite a fair distance southward from the Marina South Pier.
A lifeguard tower, which it is unlikely to be used nowadays but still well-maintained.
We had the opportunity to visit the St John’s Island National Maritime Laboratory, where we could see up close the various corals and plants that normally lives under the sea…
A very old roadside lamp which has been taken over by nature.
Water tanks – makes sense to have them on a small island with few inhabitants…
This barren tree stuck out in the midst of the greenery, almost invitingly one might add…

Crossing the Bridge to Lazarus Island!

From St John’s Island, we crossed a man-made dyke/bridge to Lazarus Island, a lesser-known beach haven for party-goers and yacht owners/passengers. In particular, a beautiful C-shaped lagoon plays host to several yachts, with people of all ages enjoying water activities and/or sunbathing under the sun. When we had crossed the bridge, we could already see some boats anchored near the shoreline, beginning the day in style!

Walking along the man-made dyke which connects St John’s Island and Lazarus Island.
Along the way, we spotted someone in full fishing gear, waiting patiently for a hook, line and sink!


Near the beach, we spotted a basketball which has clearly experienced a tumultuous time being exposed to the forces of nature!
Like a scene out of your typical sandy beach….
Apart from the yachts anchored afar, we even spotted a golden retriever playfully wading along the shallow coast.
Abandoned items were sadly strewn all over the beach. Please be considerate and leave no inanimate object behind!
We could also see Kusu Island in the distance, such was the close proximity!
There were many commercial vessels and boats passing through the waters of Singapore (and for some reason, the packfilm began to decolourise very quickly…)
It was nice to see people bonding over their common interests.
This old, disused jetty sat in stark contrast to the modern jetty just a few metres away.

Final Stop: Kusu Island

At the jetty, we caught the ferry heading to Kusu Island. The origins behind the name of Kusu Island is mired in myth and legend. Supposedly, a giant tortoise turned into an island to saved shipwrecked people; as such, the people were grateful, and a Muslim kramat (tomb/cemetery) and a Taoist shrine were built to honour it.

Today, the said places can be found on top of a hill on the island, while a famous local temple hosts many visitors during auspicious times of the year. If you haven’t guessed yet, kusu means “tortoise” in the Chinese language, hence the name “Kusu Island”!

It was especially busy when we visited Kusu Island, and the ferry services were doubled to cater to the sudden influx of visitors.
Part of the Tua Pek Kong temple, built in 1923. People would come to pray for prosperity, longevity and… fertility!
An almost identical shot taken with the Polaroid 800!
We always love capturing structures above water, especially with the reflection it provides against the waters below.
A side view of the temple, where visitors were praying and offering incense.
We then climbed up a long flight of steep steps, which would lead to the shrines, built in the 19th century.
Atop the hill, we felt like we were lost from the world…
Unsurprisingly, we spotted a capuchin sitting about, clearly comfortable with humans. Later on, we would see the same creature boldly grab a snack from an unattended bag and eat it in front of us!
Taken with the Polaroid 800: the temple also keeps a large number of tortoises, which Damian was trying to snap!
The island is also supposedly shaped like a tortoise’s back, and you can kind of see why, with the tortoise’s shell imitating the hill on Kusu Island.

The great thing about these islands in general are the plentiful walking paths to follow. It has clearly been trodden on by many, many people before us, and makes it easy to walk around the island. We had brought some food and water to provide nutrition and to satisfy our thirsts when required; in fact, we even saw some people having a picnic!

All in all we certainly had a fun-filled day visiting St John’s Island, Lazarus Island and Kusu Island. We had learnt so much in a few hours, and also explored a different side of Singapore; one that was less inhabited and more natural! If you know of any hidden or lesser-known secrets in Singapore, do not hesitate to drop a comment and let us know; we would love to explore them!


Till next time,



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