Book Of Adventure 5: St John’s and Kusu Island

Posted: May 2, 2010 in Uncategorized

Captain’s log                       Stardate: 63837.4 (May 2nd, 2010)

Yesterday dated May 1st, together with two friends whom I know from the Singapore Paranormal Investigators (SPI), I finally got the chance to set foot on this two island, as I had never been on both before. I will first start off to describe about St John’s Island before moving off to Kusu. And cause since Kusu is just right next door, so why not explore it too at the same time. Besides, this is to prepared for a future event. So I had decided to dedicate this book of adventure of mine to set my studies for this two island on the same day.

St John’s Island

Before all those accommodation takes place, this previously named Pulau Sakijang Bendera was said to carry a significant history tied with Singapore. Sir Stamford Raffles, sailing on the Indiana actually anchored off this island to meet with the locals there, before taking a small ketch where he set sailed towards Singapore the next day. And what soon follows were hordes of immigrants making their way to Singapore. The shocking news is, not only they bring wealth, but sickness as well….

This is where, St John’s Island was transform into a quarantine island where it houses a quarantine station for cholera cases detected among the immigrants in the late 1800s. And starting from 1901, victims of beri-beri were also brought to the island. This also includes, victims suffered from leprosy diseases. A dedicated hospital for those, as I would have pointed out.

Such was the fame been built, that in 1930, the island were marked as Singapore’s No.1 in world records to gain world recognition as a quarantine center screening Asian immigrants and pilgrims returning from Mecca. Hmm….I wonder if my great-grandmother and great-grandfather was among those….

The island was soon earned another title after opening another door. When the mass immigration was closed in mid 1900s, the island was then used to house a penal settlement and a drug rehabilitation center. You could say, that the island was once a former settlement. That, actually reminds me of Alcatraz Island, or referred as “The Rock”, where there’s a federal prison been constructed there. Now, the island was been gazetted as an historical site.

And when the calender reaches 1975, the penal settlement and drug rehabilitation center was transform into a paradise getaway that comes complete with swimming pools, beaches, picnic grounds, trekking routs and soccer fields. Looks like the island had gone a lot of major changes during those years.

Also located there is the Tropical Marine Science Institute, Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) of Singapore’s Marine Aquaculture Center. There’s also, a detention center for illegal immigrants which still remains. Looks like what’s left from the past, is still worth been rooted there.

Those of you planning to stay on the island can book the Holiday Bungalow, which can accommodate up to 10 persons and also comes furnished with a kitchen. There are also dormitories at the Holiday Camps, which can take up to 60 persons. They were also equipped with basic cooking facilities.

This is where many of you will arch an eyebrow, that the island was known to be reputedly haunted as according to some local traditions. There are many of these stories about the island being haunted circulating inside the local internet. Most of them heard, came from the holiday chalets there. Skeptics pointed out as hearsay. But if I were to be asked, I would simply stated that its all based on how individuals will react to it. But if one were to saw it, why not share it? I always find this truly fascinating.

I also came to understand that SPI had conducted a Spooky Walk on this island back in 2007, where participants was introduced to those areas where were known to be supposedly haunted. Besides that, giving you the opportunity to feel and be accommodate by the tranquility of the sun, sand and sea. That’s the reason why this 39-hectare island makes an idyllic getaway for you to get a glorious tan, a picnic on the sandy beach, or just simple exploring this off-beaten tracks. The island is also a haven for a host of flora and fauna.

Time: 10 mins to 1100hrs

And so, we set a course, from Marina Pier Ferry Terminal to St John’s Island. Ticket was $15 per person, and its a two-way trip. The ferry will stop at St John’s, before heading towards Kusu. There is timing schedule for the departures.

Our main aim when we are at St John’s, was to revisit those few areas where it was reportedly haunted, and to mark out those areas as a reminder for our future event. At the same time, to explore the island before boarded the ferry to Kusu.

We came across where the holiday chalets were. From there, we managed to seek inquires to a staff from an office there, to gather info if we want to stay overnight on the island, and how much is the cost and who to contact, etc.

After nearly an half-hour discussion, we proceed our trek. And not far from where the office were, was a large chessboard. Or in other words, a big human chessboard.

This is one of those few known haunted areas that happened to intrigued us the most. It was been said, that this human chessboard was been used by the Japanese during WWII. They will used the prisoners-of-war as their “chess sets” to play the game. And which ever side lose the game or been “eaten”, will be brutally beheaded on the spot! A sight of massacre, in ending the game. So you can imagine how terrifying it must have been, for those prisoners-of-war to be used as “chess sets.” Imagine the desperati0n from either side…….to win the game just to escape from the massacre!

Because of this, it was been mentioned that those who stay at the chalet could sometimes hear the sounds of marching boots, and the cries of slaughter. And as well as apparitions that was believed to be the victims who were massacred on the chessboard. Other paranormal encounters includes, sounds of basketball game going on was heard on chalet’s basketball court. But when you looked, there’s no one there. Overall, you could say that the chalet ground was reputably haunted.

Then I was like…….hmmm…….. In other words, the entire vicinity was indeed a ghost town.


We spend our time explore within the chalet compound, and had a break before we proceed towards the other end of the island where we came across the Tropical Marine Science Institute, Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) of Singapore’s Marine Aquaculture Center, a small mosque, and a pond, which turns out to be like a swamp. But most concerning of all, was where one of my two friends who have been before, mentioned about an hostel that rested on top of a hill that overlooks the sea. The hill where it was on, was right next to where the mosque is. We had to used this staircase, which appeared kinda creepy when viewed from the distance and been paved at the side of the hill, where it will leads us to the hostel.


According to him, where the team who was with him were there investigating the place at night, they happened to capture an apparition of a lady, floating down the steps of the lobby! =O Err……did I heard him say that they captured in on tape?

I noticed that there some clothes been hang on the second floor, through a glass window of a room located at the end of that floor on the right. So I believe that the place was still in used, probably served as a dormitory for foreign workers who are working on the island. In other words, seeing how the hostel rested on the hill, its angle in how it was been position, does reminds me of the late Alfred Hitchcock’s 1960 thriller movie: Psycho!

Then, we walked down the steps that was opposite the hostel where it lead us towards the beach. Nearby, was Lazarus Island, and had one of us to take a look there. The island is now accessible on foot, where a path was linked from St John’s. Previously, visitors have to get to Lazarus by boat. Now with the causeway, it was much more easier. But also, there’s some construction currently taking place on the island, so we can only stop to catch the moment of a breathtaking view and tranquility, peaceful atmosphere along the path. There’s also a few people fishing there as well.

We head back to St John’s Island, where we came across some few kampongs still remains on the island. Surprisingly, much of them were still in used by the folks staying here. I was told, that they used the boats they owned, to get them to mainland Singapore, where they will purchase the groceries and other stuff needed. Life here is still indeed, nostalgia. Still yearning from the past, and that they have adapted to it as their life and times on St John’s Island.

The next ferry to Kusu, as in accordance to the departure list, was at 1550hrs. We have one hour, so we spend that time period taking a break which is near to the jetty.

Moments later, we are on board, traveling towards our next destination: Turtle Island =D

Kusu Island

The name means ‘Tortoise Island” or “Kusu Island” in Chinese. Also known as Peak Island or Pulau Tembakal in Malay. Interestingly, from 2 tiny outcrops on a reef, the island was enlarged and transformed into an 8.5-hectare island holiday resort.

Down here, were the location of two landmark of races known. There’s the popular Chinese temple – Da Bo Gong or Tua Pek Kong (Merchant God or God of Prosperity). History record shows, that it was built in 1923 by a wealthy businessman. The temple houses two main deities – Da Ba Gong and Guan Yin (Goddess of Mercy). The former is highly regarded as having the power to confer prosperity, cure diseases, calm the sea and avert danger, while Guan Yin is known as the “giver of sons.”

Right at the top of the rugged hillock of the island stands three kramats (Holy shrines of Malay saints) to commemorate a pious man: Syed Abdul Rahman, his mother: Nenek Ghalib and sister: Puteri Fatimah who lived in the 19th century. Many devotees will climb the 152 steps leading to the kramats to pray for wealth, good marriage, good health and harmony. The shrines are also popular with childless couples who would pray for children. There is also a Wishing Well, by which you throw coins into it for your wishes to come true.

Best of all, the island is also well loved for its blue lagoons, especially by those who love sun-tanning, pristine beaches and tranquil settings, that carries the same attention to that of St John’s Island. But unlike St John’s, overnight stay is not allowed on this turtle island.

There is a legend to the name of this island. It was known that there was a giant turtle that transformed itself into a rock to save two shipwrecked sailors, a Malay and a Chinese. It is said that the grateful sailors returned to the island to give thanks and others continued the tradition. Up till today, many Chinese and Malays visit the island to pray. For Chinese, mostly Taoist make their pilgrimage to the Toa Pekong Temple, which was located near to the ferry jetty, during the ninth month of the Chinese lunar calendar. For Malays, whom were mostly childless couples, visited the Kramat Kusu, which rest on top of the hill, hoping to have children. They will then tie white cloth containing their prayers which they will tie on branches of trees sincerely.

It was also mentioned, that before Kusu was reclaimed, some people say it looked like a turtle. Made up of two ridges on a reef, one ridge the head, and the other, where the hilltop is now, is the back of the turtle. Perhaps this can be best viewed from above via satellite or aboard a plane.

From its former named, Pulau Tembakul in the past, the island was also known to be a burial site of immigrants who died in quarantine on St. John’s and Lazarus Islands.

As been nicknamed Turtle or Tortoise Island; that explains why you can see many of this creatures around. Likewise, there is a Tortoise Sanctuary, which is the home of many tortoises.

And no, there’s no such info stated that the island is haunted. But do share if you happened to encounter one, for real.From there, its up to the readers to judge.

We first visited the popular Chinese temple, where we brought some drinks there. The hot and humid whether does turned out throats dry. There’s also a small pond there, filled with turtles.

Much later, we climb up the 152 steps of the rugged hillock where stood the three kramats. Up there, there’s this large rock that were filled with writings. In first glimpse, I thought it was some vandalism. But it turns out, as what my two friends had mentioned, they were actually writings of good wishes. People came up here will grabbed the marker available and to write down anything resemblances or symbolize good will or wishes. Best example describe, as what I had spotted some: “All the best in life”, “Wish for success in life”, “Good health and prosperity”, “Hope my dreams will come true.” So, me and one of my friend decided to write ours. Mine will be “Live Long and Prosper.” Yeah, I take that from Star Trek. Hee..=D My friend had written down: “I wish success in life!”

Next, we check out the kramats. There’s many Muslims up there making their prayers. The pious man, named Syed Abdul Rahman was rested on one side, while his mother, Nenek Ghalib and sister, Puteri Fatimah had their resting places in one room – side by side, which was located on an upper deck of the kramat inside a dimly-lit room. There’s many people crowded at Syed Abdul Rahman’s place. So I decided to offer some prayers to his mother and sister.

Believe it. While muttering some prayers, I suddenly felt a strong energy from in there. I’m unable to describe it, but it was like as though there’s a sudden wind bursting through me, and that I suddenly feel light. Then, something tells me, that I was been watched…but unable to react to the call. Was it a message? I’m not “gifted” in a sense, but somehow or rather I do feel this strange wind coming towards me. A touch. I had to admit, it scares me for a moment. However, I continued finished my praying, and left the kramat. Puzzled by the unraveling thoughts….


We moved on. Nearby was a tortoise shelter. As the name stated, it was filled with the shell reptiles big and small. I remember keeping one of this when I was very young. Years later, it had grown much bigger that I had to set it free to the sea. Guess it will be much happier, that it now lives  in a much more bigger water environment.


We spend the rest of the time exploring this small island. Yes, its quite small, knowing the fact that we are actually going around in circles. Indeed, it was a tropical paradise here. Much love for its blue lagoons and peaceful atmosphere. With the wind passes through, and that it comes with a picture of a breathtaking scenery, it just feels hard to leave this place behind. Too relaxing and the comfort is just too irresistible! =D

The ferry heading back to mainland was schedule at 1815hrs. And that was the last ferry.

To conclude, much as I had learn about their interesting history, I’m glad that I had explore this two Southern Island of Singapore that I have been waiting for ages to set foot on. And better still, with two friends that decided to tag along. As stated earlier, Kusu Island will be marked as a future event to tally with St John’s Island. So it would be much better rather than just visit one island, and also, the whole day would not be wasted.

A day’s worth end with a group photo. Many thanks for our selected photographer =)


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Comments
  1. Loretta says:

    Helllo..

    the write ups abt the islands are interesting……look forward to joining u in June….

    Cya!
    The Bakerwoman

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