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Singapore is a renowned island destination, yet travellers may be surprised to know that several smaller islands are accessible just off the mainland. These pieces of paradise offer tropical escapes, big thrills and moments of quiet, away from the electric bustle of the big city (without you ever having to spend money on a plane ticket).
A very popular escape for locals, Pulau Ubin is likened to a time capsule that transports visitors back to the Singapore of the 60s. From traditional residences to the rocky crags that jut out from its shore, this place is a rustic enclave that Singaporeans cherish and adore. Enjoy trekking or booking a visit to Chek Jawa, one of the last wetland reserves in Singapore, or just cycling along the biking trails if you so desire. To get there, take a bumboat from Changi Jetty which operates from sunrise to sunset daily.
Immediately recognisable to both locals and tourists, Sentosa is packed to the brim with activities. From gawking at aquatic wildlife at S.E.A Aquarium to exploring Universal Studios, there’s no shortage of things to do. Some the most popular beaches in Singapore are here alongside some of the finest bars, cafes and restaurants in the country. To get there, purchase a Sentosa Island pass from Vivocity Mall (which also covers the entrance fee and bus trips all over the island).
A former quarantine station transformed into a splendid island escape with beautiful beaches and tranquil spots. This island is one of Singapore’s least known destinations and it’s worth keeping it that way. There are chalets available at an affordable rate and if you’re a champion angler, you might want to bring your fishing rod as well.
This island is a treasure trove full of rich and diverse species. Singapore’s Great-billed Heron (the tallest bird in the country) can be sighted here if you’re lucky. It’s not easy to visit, as they allow only a limited number of visitors per year to protect Pulau Semakau’s fragile habitat, but it’s incredibly rewarding for the scenic beauty and amazing biodiversity you will get to discover. To visit the island, you will need to apply for permission with the National Environmental Agency at least three to four weeks in advance and book a boat ride there separately. You can do this from a number of ferry terminals in the city, like Marina South Pier.
A very popular spot for snorkelling and diving, these islands are perfect for those wanting to observe Singapore’s marine life and spot everything from seahorses to sharks. Sister’s Islands were recently designated Singapore’s first Marine Park, offering guided tours to get up close and personal to the critters onshore. To get there, book a ferry from Marina South Pier – you can even stay overnight, so consider a next day return to enjoy the full experience.
Kusu Island boasts a number of interesting historical artefacts, namely shrines. There are three Islamic shrines commemorating pious Malay figures, which serve as a popular spot for religious people seeking blessings in hope for a child. Also very popular are the two Chinese temples that receive many visitors during festivals. To visit this island, book a boat ride from St. John’s Jetty.
Hantu means ghost in Malay but that shouldn’t put you off visiting this remote island, which is populated with coral and very popular with deep sea enthusiasts. Some fascinating marine species like the giant clam can be spotted here, which make it a perfect vantage point to snorkel as well. You can also snorkel safely here and its remote beaches provide a very envious form of isolation and peace for the beach bum. To visit Pulau Hantu, charter a boat from West Coast Pier.