Singapore Islands - Kusu Island

Big Turtle, Big Ships, Big Macaques

I mentioned 63 Singapore islands, right?

The big one, where we live with 5 million other people.

The playground island of Sentosa where the fabulously wealthy live by the sea and the others get to play at the beach, ride roller coasters and dash down zip lines.

I mentioned Pulau Ubin - the way life was before Singapore was a metropolis.

Then there are a number of islands not accessible at all, though, for a number of reasons.

The military uses a few for target practice. A few other Singapore islands are used as landfills.

Seven other ones were connected to form Jurong Island, which today is a massive refinery full of tanks, pipes and piers.

Which leaves us with four islands that can be visited, though, in a longish day, and you definitely need to see them, if only to cruise past huge tankers and freighters on the way there, or to see the Singapore skyline from the sea.

Kusu Island - Two Shrines, Twenty Macaques and Turtles Galore

Kusu Island, Singapore

Singapore Islands Kusu - Tortoise Island - is one of the most popular Singapore islands destinations and forms part of the Southern Islands tours.

You can take a boat from the Marina South Pier near Marina Bay and cruise over in about 30 minutes, all the while passing large tankers and freighters at anchor.

Old folks say the place used to look like a turtle before land reclamation was done to enlargen the place. It must have been miniscule back then because even today, after land reclamation, you can walk around it in about 15 minutes at a leisurely stroll.

There is a legend that two seamen, a Malay and a Chinese fellow were out having a sail when they shipwrecked and were then saved by a giant tortoise.

Grand Uncle and His Goddess

Kusu Island Map, Singapore

Nobody was able to tell me why the two guys were out there in the first place, or how big that tortoise must have been to pull them ashore, but both of them built a shrine on the island to thank their gods.

The Chinese seaman built a small Tao shrine, and the Malay guy built one too, on a small peak.

The whole tortoise thing stuck, though, and in 1923, a businessman built a fairly large temple right after the landing pier.

Kusu Temple, Singapore The temple is red and white and decorated in turtles. It also has a turtle pool with a few of the animals - not sure if they are decoration or lunch, though.

The temple houses two gods, Grand Uncle and the Goddess of Mercy and literally goes nuts in the 9th month of the Chinese Lunar Year when more than 100,000 people come here to worship for wealth, luck and - sons.

Monkey See the Ship?

Kusu Island Ship, Singapore

When it isn't the 9th month of the Lunar Year, this island is actually very quiet and if you go to one of the two lagoons, you can spend some time in the water, lounge on the beach and just relax in semi-tropical daze.

Semi-tropical only, though, because of the huge tankers and freighters I mentioned before steaming by just off Kusu.

If you want to see big ships - here's the place.

The nicer beach is on your right when you leave the pier. There are little open gazebos for picknicking or shelter from the rain.

Malay shrine, Kusu Island, Singapore

That is also the place to tromp up a couple of stairs to see the Malay shrine at the top of the little hill. It is much humbler than that Chinese temple, though, and not really that impressive.

When you circle around towards the other beach, check the trees on that shrine hill for macaques.These monkeys are very, very cheeky and disrespectful, by the way. Leave your food unattended and good luck getting that emptied tupperware bowl back from the tree branches.

All in all, don't expect your tropical paradise getaway far away from it all.

It is worth the trip, though, just for the temple and the ships, even if it does suffer from the usual seaborne rubbish that floats ashore everywhere in Asia.

Make it one of the stopovers on your Singapore islands tour to visit the Sister Islands and the eerie St. John's prison camp and resort.


Believe it or not, Kusu Island has a number of reefs in its waters and they aren't even that bad, actually, when sedimentation is weak for a change.

If you are wild about reefs, check out Singapore islands - city reefs and find out more.

See reefs below and the skyline above....

Back to more Singapore attractions

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Frangipani, Singapore
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Chinatown, Singapore
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