. a day at st john island .

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! 🙂

1-Day Getaway

More about 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.

Come Singapore

Clear, blue lagoons that are swamped with tiny fishes!

Watch Towers that are situated around the island

Once used as a detention centre to house immigrants as well as drug addicts, these buildings have now been converted into holiday chalets for those who are interested in a cheap island getaway!

Barbed wire fencing to deter those who contemplate to escape

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.

The 4-legged residents of St John Island

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.

Kampong houses that are currently used as staff quarters

An abandoned Black-White Colonial Building

The servants’ quarters that was located right behind the main building

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!

Picturesque views  of the lagoon. An irresistible urge to frolick in the waters and skinny dip!

An old pier that is in ruins

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.

12 responses to “. a day at st john island .

  1. Glad you like this place too. Not many people think of coming here. I went once a few years ago just for fun, but didn’t bring any food or drink so we had to go back fairly quickly. Also, there was a huge thunderstorm which caused us to be stuck at the jetty for 1/2 hour. I really want to visit this place again, as well as the other islands. I also saw a few families swimming in the waters. Might try that out too.

    • I agree! I’ve many friends who have yet to step foot to P. Ubin and they would rather explore Ubin than St John Island. In fact, most of the people I saw during my visit were tourists! Oh no, it sucks to be stuck on the island during a thunderstorm… On this note, perhaps a scene out of a “haunted” film?

      I’m keen on visiting Sisters Island someday as I heard that the waters are even clearer. However, it’s expensive as we have to charter a water taxi! :/ Btw, link your blog to my blogroll so that it will be easier for me to click 🙂

  2. It seems like you’ve already put me on your blogroll? Thanks for that, I’ve also added you to mine!

    Dunno if the waters can be clearer since the islands are all close by and polluted by the same waters! Unless there is less sand and silt there? Ya I want to go there too, and Lazarus Island and Pulau Semakau. Have to find a whole bunch of friends to share the cost…:(

    • Semakau! The landfill and “rubbish” island. I have never thought of visiting that place but come to think of it, it can be pretty interesting… Right?

  3. Hi there Steph! Thanks for dropping by my blog! I just had a really good time looking through yours too, and I really like reading about your journeys and everything!

    You know what? I’ve never been to St John’s and never even thought about going there before, but your pictures are real lovely! I didn’t know you could find clear waters anywhere in Singapore at all 😀

    • Hi girl

      Thanks for the return visit 🙂 it’s alright… I’ve many friends who have yet to visit pulau ubin, let alone st john island! LOL. The waters are, surprisingly, pretty clear! U ought to visit the island once you return from Canada although I’ve a strong feeling that you’ll miss the weather and whimsical cafes.

  4. Hello fellow pretty cotter! Hahaha.

    This looks like an interesting getaway! The pictures portrays so much emptiness and loneliness in them that it is totally artistic-looking.

    • Hi 🙂

      Thanks for ur compliment! I agree, abandoned buildings do give off an eerie and lonely vibe. Haunting yet so mesmerizing.

      HA, i use photoscape to edit my pics … it’s 1 of my “best friend” when it comes to photo-editing. love to play around with it!

  5. Found lots of your blog posts related to Singapore. I’m interested to visit this place. At least to see what’s the beach like.

    Planning to go back again? Anyway, keep up with the good travel posts.

  6. thank you for your insightful entry on st john island! i have yet to visit it and will do one day. ‘to travel is to live’, keep on exploring!

    • Hi Yong Yuan,

      Thanks for visiting my blog and finding it an inspiration! 🙂 You should definitely visit St John island someday… It’s so tranquil and peaceful, I would like to make a return visit again. Likewise, I love to travel and explore … 🙂 Maybe, one day we might cross paths. Who knows?

  7. Hi
    I’d like to address some earlier comments about locals who have yet to step on St John’s.
    I’ve been to St John’s on many occasions over the last 40 years. Time was ferry trips were frequent and ferry charges reasonable. Today, even making allowance for inflation, the ferry charges are exhorbitant at $18. No wonder there is a dearth of visitors.
    Cheap ferry rides were possible when the service was run by the PSA and then by SDC (Sentosa Dev Corp). Today I believe there is only one private operator and it is very much a monopoly, with few trips and high prices.

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