Explore > The Great Outdoors > Offshore Islands

St John's Island

By: kimberly on 11 Nov 2011
Take a day trip out to the other smaller islands of Singapore for a dose of history and to get in touch with nature. Spend some time enjoying simple leisure activities such as swimming, trekking around the island, and having a barbeque or a picnic on its shores, while learning about its unique history.

Previously known as the Pulau Sakijang Bender, St John's Island is historically known for being the first site of Sir Stamford Raffles's anchorage. It later became a quarantine centre for immigrants with cases of cholera and beri-beri and even leprosy later on.

During the Japanese Occupation, the island was also used to house Prisoners of War (POWs). The story goes that the POWs used to line up a human-sized chess board in the campsite, and the Japanese would use them as chess pieces. This 'game' also had the unfortunate side-effect of the prisoners being beheaded on the spot if any side was blocked.

After the war, St John's Island became a site for penal settlement. Perhaps one of its most famous internees was Singapore's third president Devan Nair, who was housed there from 1951 to 1953 for charges of subversive anti-colonial movement. Eventually, the authorities changed its use to be a drug rehabilitation centre instead.

St John's Island is worth a visit not only because of the interesting stories of its history, but because it contains a great range of lagoons and beaches. Spend a lazy day suntanning, swimming, fishing or even getting acquainted with the marine life on the island. Spot large numbers of land hermit crabs, sea cucumber and colourful fishes at bay as well as white-bellied sea eagles. A number of visitors have reported spotted a dolphin or two around the vicinity as well.

Visitors can also visit the Marine Aquaculture Centre located at the western end of the island for more insight into the types of wildlife that can be found around the island. Lazarus Island is also reachable from St. John's Island by a connecting bridge.

Waters here are calmer except for the southern tip and western side. Experienced divers would love the wreck explorable from the outside as the southern tip of the island. Pack a picnic lunch and bring along snacks, because dining options on the island are limited, and bask in the tranquillity and serenity of the island.

You must be logged in to add a tip