As part of this year’s Singapore Heritage Festival, the National Heritage Board has organised a learning trail for members of the public to visit and learn about some of our country’s historic lighthouses. This educational trail takes participants to view the now-defunct Fullerton Lighthouse that is located at the top of Fullerton Hotel, sail past the pretty Sultan Shoal lighthouse (my personal favourite) and explore the Raffles Lighthouse that is dedicated to Sir Stamford Raffles. When I first learnt about the rare opportunity to view some of these offshore lighthouses that are usually out-of-bounds to the public, I knew immediately that I had to get myself onto 1 of those tours! However, who would have thought that there were thousands of others who shared the same idea? Apparently, there were over 6000 applicants vying for the few spots and lucky me got a slot! Seems like my efforts in staying up late into the night and refreshing the registration screen 101 times had paid off! 🙂
Do you know that there are currently 5 functional lighthouses in Singapore? 4 of the 5 lighthouses are located offshore – There is the oldest lighthouse, Horsburg Lighthouse on Pedra Branca island, Raffles Lighthouse, Pulau Pisang Lighthouse and Sultan Shoal Lighthouse. The newest and only surviving lighthouse on mainland is the Bedok Lighthouse, that sits on top of a block of HDB flats in Marine Parade. Here’s a map showing the locations of these 5 lighthouses!
The Raffles Lighthouse, which was built in 1855, is located on Pulau Satumu, also known as the One Tree Island. Departing from Marina South Pier, it took us roughly an hour of boat ride to reach the shores of this southernmost island of Singapore. You know how the saying goes, life’s all about the journey, not the destination? Well, the boat ride to Raffles Lighthouse was certainly an eye-opener as it gave me the chance not only to view some of the Southern islands (St John, Kusu, Sisters’ Island, Pulau Bukom, Pulau Semakau, to name a few) but also to have a look at the frenzy of naval activities happening in our waters. Think large oil tankers and vessels carrying loads of containers and even liquid gas!
At 29m tall, it takes one to climb a total of 107 steps to the top of Raffles Lighthouse. Hard work? Perhaps, but you will be rewarded with a breath-taking panoramic view of the blue waters and its surrounding islands. If you’re lucky, you might even get to spot a dolphin or shark in the distance (the lighthouse keeper has mentioned that he has spotted both marine creatures in the course of his work on the island)!
Not many places in Singapore evoke such mystery and fascination as some of these remote and off-the-beaten-track tiny islands that are relatively unheard of. Over at Pulau Satumu, you will see that there are more idyllic and picturesque islands than the usual suspects, Sentosa and Pulau Ubin. If you are looking for a place of thrills and adventure, then this tiny islet (took us no more than 10 mins to walk around) will probably not fit your ideal of somewhere fun because there’s really nothing to do on this island. Best to simply kick back and enjoy the serenity.
Snapshots of Pulau Satumu 🙂
Ever thought of what is it like to live a day as a lighthouse keeper? Over at the Raffles Lighthouse, there is a pair of lighthouse crew who works on a rotating 12 hours shift for 10 days. Which means 1 lighthouse keeper is required to live on the island, tendering to the needs of the lighthouse for 10 days before returning to the mainland for 10 off days and the cycle repeats. Some of their duties include: Cleaning of the light equipment, checking that the lights are working every 4 hours, grass cutting, removing rubbish from the beach and replenishing of the store. You get the drift. Frankly, a pretty boring and routine job but hey, you get to enjoy the whole island to yourself. Think of it as your own private getaway island.
I really do wish I could share with you guys pictures from inside the lighthouse and the stunning view from atop. Unfortunately, it started pouring right before my group could ascend the lighthouse so the trip was canceled due to safety reasons. Oh well, not-so-lucky me after all! On the other hand, we were stranded on a tiny island during a thunderstorm so that’s another unique experience on my list! 🙂
86 of these steps to the iron ladder that will bring you to the top of the lighthouse!
Following our departure from the Raffles Lighthouse, we sailed to our next destination – Sultan Shoal Lighthouse. Built in 1895, Sultan Shoal is the 3rd oldest lighthouse in Singapore and a stone’s throw away from Jurong island. Personally, this is my favourite lighthouse as it looks very pretty with its Victorian architecture influence. Besides the lighthouse, there is also a man-made lagoon (regulated by the sea tides) and 2 chalets for those who are looking for a remote island staycation. Unfortunately, the chalets are only available for employees of PSA so unless you have a family or friend working there, I would say don’t count on it.
Check out the ‘evolution’ of the Sultan Shoal from the 1960s to present day! 🙂