This island has been described as a little piece of idyllic paradise, complete with lush greenery, a host of flora and pristine swimming lagoons. No passport needed. In fact, you can even leave your money back home ( just prepare a little cash for the ferry ride) as there is simply nothing for you to purchase on this tiny island. So, you might ask … Where’s this precious gem? It’s none other than Singapore’s St John Island. I’ve been wanting to visit this island ever since I laid my eyes on the scenic pictures taken of its shore and lagoons. Unfortunately, the plan has never materialized until 2 weeks back when we could finally find the perfect time and weather for our mini weekend getaway to St John Island! 🙂
Situated at the south of Singapore, St John Island (also known as Pulau Sakijang Bendera) is a 20 mins boat ride from the main island (depart from Marina South Ferry Terminal). The island was first used as a quarantine holding area for cholera-stricken immigrants back in 1874. All Asian immigrants who were infected with cholera had to be housed in an attap house until they were given a clean bill of health to finally enter into the main island. Similar to how Ellis Island (writing about St John Island brings back fond memories of our visit to Ellis Island, NY back in 2008) was once the gateway for the millions of immigrants who immigrated to USA, St John Island was the first port of call for immigrants who were hoping to embark on a new chapter of their lives in Singapore. The scale of immigration was so large that it turned the island into a world-recognized quarantine centre.
As the years went by, St John Island was also used for various functions – As a penal settlement site to hold political detainees (3rd President, Devan Nair stayed there for 2 years as he was charged for anti-colonial movements) and secret society ringleaders and later, a drug rehabilitation centre for opium-addicts.
As of today, the island is home to the Tropical Marine Science Institute and AVA Marine Aquaculture Centre (Trespassers will be prosecuted). Visitors who wish to get away from the hustle of the city life might also be delighted to know that there are cheap accommodation (Detention Centre turned Holiday Chalets) easily available on the island.
What a weird sight – A giant Chessboard that was located in the middle of the campsite! According to an article in One-North Explorers, St John Island was used to house the Prisoners-Of-War (POW) during World War 2. As such, it was rumored that the hardhearted Japanese soldiers had enlisted these POWs as real-life chess pieces. Any chess piece (the POWs) that was “eaten” will eventually be beheaded on the spot. Rumors has it that campers would often hear bloodcurdling screams and tormenting screams of pain in the middle of the dark, lonely night.
Perhaps, the most haunting sight that I’ve seen during my short visit to the island – 6 pairs of glistering yellow eyes staring straight back at me. Gave me the creeps and I couldn’t wait to run away from them.
The Masjid (Mosque) at St John’s Island. This place-of-worship is still used by the residents of the island although we probably spotted many more of its 4-legged residents (cats) than their human friends.
A stairway leading up to a block of abandoned building. Apparently, rumors has it that many adventure-seekers have encountered many paranormal experiences in this building itself. According to the blog entry at One-North Explorers, there was an infamous story about a thrill-seeker who managed to record a video of a ghostly figure strolling down the stairs. Needless to say, he was petrified and fled from the scene although the horrifying sight was so terrifying that it continued to haunt him for the days to come. As such, he decided to delete the video so that there will not be any reminder of his encounter with those from the Netherworld.
Being the coward that I am (when it comes to supernatural stuff), we decided not to venture deeper to check out the interior of the building. However, do check out the pics by the gungho team from One-North Explorers! A peak into a “haunted” house!
Despite its miniature size (we completed a walking tour around the island in 3hrs!), there are certainly many nooks and crannies to satisfy the adventure seekers! All you need is a thirst for adventure and you’re all set to go! An island that is so steeped in history in spite of its relatively “young age”. However, do not expect St John Island to offer breath-taking beach views like those in Tioman or Redang although I must admit that the lagoons are much clearer than those found on main island or in Sentosa.
A check off my TO-DO List – To visit St John Island.