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 Saint John’s Island (St. John’s Island)

GuideGecko Travel Magazine > Saint John's Island (St. John's Island)


How to enjoy while still staying in Singapore? Part 2


Saint John’s Island (St. John’s Island)





Located around 6.5 kilometres south of Singapore, is Saint John’s Island, previously called Pulau Sakijang Bendera in Malay or Qi Zhang Shan (Qi Zhang Hill) in Mandarin. The Chinese name was derived from the hill located at the centre of the island and also partly because it sounds similar to its Malay counterpart.


Before the huge makeover in 1975, this island was a quarantine station for Chinese immigrants suspected of leprosy and who are cholera-stricken, from 1874 until the late 1950s. After the 1950s, it became home to a penal settlement (Devan Nair, the third President of Singapore was held prisoner here from 1951 to 1953 for subversive anti-colonial movement) where exiled prisoners (political prisoners and ringleaders of secret societies) are separated from the general populace of Singapore, and who are awaiting deportation. In later years, the island became a drug rehabilitation centre for opium addicts.


This island is also the actual site of Sir. Stamford Raffles’s (founder of modern Singapore) anchorage before he went on to meet with the Malay Chief of Singapura (Singapore) in 1819. This was the official spot of the landing and not at the spot where his statue is found on mainland Singapore.


In event of a national emergency in Singapore, the government has plans to convert St. John’s Island back to being a quarantine area.






Expect seclusion and wilderness for people who have not step foot on this island before.


Marine Aquaculture Centre

The Marine Aquaculture Centre (MAC) (6325 7417: Christina Tan; christina_tan@ava.gov.sg; free) of the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) is located on St. John’s Island. Located west from the jetty, you can see how technologies are developed to facilitate the development and expansion of large-scale hatchery and fish farming production.


Human sized Chess Board

To the left of the designated campsite, there is a human sized chess board where rumours are abound that during World War II, Japanese guards put the lives of numerous prisoners-of-war at stake by using them as chess pieces. At any time, during the game when any side was being blocked by the other party, or loses, the prisoner representing that particular piece would get beheaded on the spot.


Old St. John’s Point

The old St. John’s Point used to be the only jetty on the island. It is a jetty which is no longer in use but is still a place to capture some good photos. When you first arrive at St. John’s Island today, this sight is to your left, parallel to the new jetty where you alight at.


Treatment Centre for Opium Addicts

A treatment centre for opium addicts that was opened in 1955 is currently still standing strong on St. John’s Island, albeit that it is no longer in operation. The treatment centre is located near the basketball court, and can be reached when heading straight into the island from the jetty.


Old National Crest of Singapore

A really old National Crest of Singapore is also found on the island near all the holiday bungalows.


Detention Centre

There is a detention centre on the island that is still in use by Singapore to house illegal immigrants. There is nothing much to see here though if you really want to go, it is located at the far left of the island within barricades.



If water sports are your kind of thing, then St. John’s Island would be a possible diving spot as the water is less murky as compared to Singapore’s mainland. Encompassing various lagoons and beaches, you may find rare corals and marine life on your diving experience here. However, you would have to bring your own diving equipments as there are no rental facilities. Other activities suitable for the whole family include having picnics, going trekking, playing basketball or soccer.


Nature lovers will be greeted by the excellent array of flora and fauna on this island. If you are lucky, you may sight dolphins too. Other interesting sights include mangroves and various coral reefs.


Getting there and back

St. John’s Island is only accessible by sea. Visitors have to proceed to Marina South Pier (31 Marina Coastal Drive; 24 hours) and buy tickets to the ferries heading to the islands daily from Singapore Island Cruise (6534 9339; 31 Marina Coastal Drive #01-04 Marina South Pier Singapore 018988; ferries $15 (Adult) $12 (Child aged 1-12); http://islandcruise.com.sg/site/; enquires@islandcruise.com.sg; 7am to 5pm daily). However, due to the Kusu pilgrimage season, do check on the ferry schedules before heading to the pier as services to St. John’s Island might change or be suspended. 



Holiday bungalows (1800 736 8672; cost ranges from $53.50 to $214; 9am to 6.30pm daily) on the island are suited for family gatherings as each is furnished and comes equipped with a kitchen. Every bungalow can accommodate up to 10 people. However, as there are limited bungalows on the island, and if you want to have a comfortable escape out of the hustle and bustle, book early at the Sentosa Station (1800 736 8672; 1 Harbourfront Walk, VivoCity Level 3, Singapore 098585; 9am to 8pm daily, to reach VivoCity, take the North-East Line and alight at HarbourFront Station) personally. First come, first served!


A refundable S$30 deposit is required upon booking. Due to limited availability, up to two-months advanced bookings are encouraged.


The holiday camps (9138 5029 ask for Mr. Eddy Bin Ali; cost ranges from $64.20 to $107; Mon-Fri 8am to 5pm) on St. John’s Island can accommodate up to 60 people and come with basic cooking facilities. These are styled like dormitories and are perfect for huge groups planning to go on a short getaway trip.



Bring along a torch so that you can share spooky stories during your stay (if you are staying over). St. John’s Island is famous for its various rumoured hauntings! On another note, remember to pack your wet suits and wear comfortable footwear to enjoy its rustic environment at its best. Bring food as there are no stores or eateries on the island.


One is able to walk from St. John’s Island to Lazarus Island via a neatly paved causeway named St. John’s Causeway to the island that is earmarked for development into a tropical beach resort by the Singapore Tourism Board. However, the public is currently discouraged to enter as there are construction works going on.


For a map of the island, visit http://library.thinkquest.org/04apr/00793/stjohnmap.htm.



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