Of legends, superstition and mystery
The story behind the island (Read it here!) is a little sketchy, but all accounts involve a giant tortoise transforming itself into an island.
Located only 5.6 kilometres off the main island of Singapore, it’s popular with in-the-know day-trippers, even if you don’t believe in its supernatural prowess.
Make your way to Marina South Pier (right next to Marina South Pier MRT Station) and buy your ferry tickets from Singapore Island Cruise around the main entrance of the pier.
Book your tickets here.
Do note you are not allowed to camp or stay overnight on the island, so remember to keep track of time to catch the last ferry back to the mainland!
*COVID Update: Be sure to check ahead for any last-minute changes in bookings! Also, remember to mask up, practice social distancing and keep group gatherings to a maximum of 5 people.
1. Visit historic sacred sites
The main highlights of the 85,000 square metre island are the three Malay shrines and the Chinese temple (pictured).
Located near the shore, the temple is dedicated to the Chinese God of Prosperity and Goddess of Mercy while the holy shrines atop a little hill commemorate a pious man and his family.
They’re open year-round, but most devotees pay their respects during the annual Kusu Island pilgrimage season, which typically happens between September to November. The island welcomes over 100,000 pilgrims during this period!
2. Make a wish
At the shrines, you’ll see yellow pieces of cloth tied to the trees and branches, each symbolising a wish made by believers. The shrines and temples are said to be able to grant wealth, good marriage, children, health, and harmony, making them popular among believers who visit for blessings and worship.
Some Singaporeans believe that if a wish you make on the island comes true, you must visit again to offer thanks — some will also untie a yellow piece of cloth.
There’s also a little wishing well (pictured) near the temple where you can toss coins to hit the bell in the middle.
3. Get to know some tortoises
Don’t be surprised to see hundreds of tortoises at the tortoise sanctuary and shelter on the island. After all, Kusu Island means Tortoise Island in Chinese, and it has a strong history and affiliation with the reptile.
4. Have a picnic
Don’t we wish there are more tranquil spots for a nice picnic? Pack an afternoon picnic and pick a spot on the island’s vast spaces.
Picnic or not, pack plenty of snacks and water for a day out here as there are no eateries or convenience stores on the island (Talk about untouched!). And take your trash with you when you leave!
5. Go swimming
Tired of the same old beaches on mainland Singapore? You don’t have to go too far to get a change of scene. Kusu Island is popular for its lagoons and beaches, so bring your bathing suit and have a blast in the sun, sand and sea.
6. Explore the marine life
Venture along the shores and you’ll probably notice a variety of hard corals and soft corals on the island. If you look hard enough, you might encounter some fishes, crabs, shrimps, and clams.
7. Go For A Walk To See Reefs
Walk along the beach to catch a glimpse of the marine life around the island such as coral reefs and sea turtles. Wear appropriate shoes and be careful of sharp corals and sea urchins during low tide.
PLUS: St John’s Island
Since you’re already off mainland Singapore, hit up nearby St John’s Island for its tranquil secret beaches, nature walks and more. Here, you can also whisk yourself away from city life overnight — unlike at Kusu Island where overnight stays aren’t permitted — at its holiday bungalows.
Read more here!
By Muneerah Bee / Updated July 2019 and September 2020 by Willaine G. Tan.
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