St. John’s and Lazarus Islands

photo-2We took advantage of a relatively cool, overcast, drizzly Sunday morning to explore St. John and Lazarus Islands, two of the eight Southern Islands of Singapore. (The others are Kusu Island, Pulau Seringat, Pulau Tekukor, Sentosa and two Sisters’ Islands.)

St. John’s Island once housed a quarantine station for cholera-stricken Chinese immigrants and, later, Asian immigrants and Malay pilgrims returning from Mecca to Singapore; a penal settlement for political detainees; and a drug rehabilitation centre for opium addicts. The island’s historical past seems to have largely been scrubbed by its developer, Sentosa Development Corporation. We traipsed along its paved trails and identified flora and fauna along the way, such as kites and a small patch of mangroves.

Lazarus Island is connected to St. John’s Island via a 100-meter paved causeway. (“Rustic,” this is not and, for the most part, stroller- and wheelchair-friendly) From here, we spotted a raft of smooth-coated otters swimming to shore and massive container ships lumbering to port. We had been told that the island’s beach is as perfect a beach as one can expect in Singapore. And yes, the water was clear-ish and the surf was calm. But, garbage (i.e. aluminum cans, plastic bottle caps, rubber slippers, juice boxes… you get the picture) is swept in with the tides which makes sitting on the beach and enjoying a picnic none too appealing.

Both islands are more developed than I thought they would be, yet there are murmurings to develop them further (resorts? casinos? what?). We hope to return to St. John’s to explore its splendid rocky shore and its fringing coral reefs on the western and north-eastern edge of island. We sadly saw (dead) hard coral flung near picnic tables near the ferry pier.

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The short ride to St. John’s Island and back was the best and it was wonderful seeing the city’s iconic skyline from another vantage point. We also loved navigating in between the water’s varied boats (tugboats, tankers, yachts). Be forewarned: the ferry schedule indicates that a boat will depart from St. John’s Island at 11:50AM (returning to Marina South Pier); today, the boat arrived at the pier at 11:00AM and departed at 11:30AM. The next boat was scheduled at 1:50PM. Get there early, so you don’t miss your ride!