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Jaunt to a secret island
Publication Date : 22-02-2013
It is not hard to get to Seringat Island, which can be reached on foot by St John's Island
It is a beautiful crescent-shaped beach that daytrippers have been able to reach only by kayak, or a charter boat or yacht, even though it is not too far from Singapore.
There are no direct ferry services to this idyllic spot. But now, that "secret" beach on Seringat, Singapore's less-known and visited southern island, is no longer so much of a hard-to-get-to affair.
The Beach is within reach for all, after all - Life!Weekend can tell you about a cheaper way to get to Seringat than splashing out on hiring a boat.
The southern end of the island merges with Lazarus Island which is, in turn, connected to St John's Island by a bridge. And there are daily ferries operated by Singapore Island Cruise to St John's Island.
Life!Weekend made several visits and found it an easy and pleasant 15-minute walk along paved pathways from the St John's Island jetty to Seringat's beach.
Located on the eastern side of the island, the roughly 800m-long white sand beach fronts a man-made lagoon where small yachts anchor during the weekend, depositing their passengers for a few hours of fun in the sun.
Daytrippers kayak, paddle board and sometimes swim to shore, where they are typically - until now, at any rate - the only ones playing in the sand.
There are several reasons why the beach has been such a well-kept secret.
Seringat Island, which is owned by the Ministry of National Development and managed by Sentosa Leisure Group, is mostly undeveloped and covered with open fields with overgrown lallang. But there is a large shelter by the jetty, a small, glass-enclosed hall, which is not open to the public, and a couple of scattered gazebos mostly hidden or unreachable because of the tall grass.
There are also several paved pathways threading through the western portion of the flat island. The paths are lined by 1m-to 2m-tall grass and a handful of trees and small forested areas.
The wild vegetation discourages any thoughts of picnicking on the fields.
The place has been so little known that most ferry and charter boat operators Life!Weekend approached had never even heard of Seringat Island. They seemed to think that Lazarus Island and Seringat Island were the same, and only realised they were different when this reporter pointed it out to them on a map.
Those who did know of it said the only way to get there is by private boat charter which costs anywhere from S$90 to S$120 each way to $150 for three hours, depending on the charter company.
Only about 6km and a 20-minute boat ride from Singapore's Marina South Pier, Seringat remains relatively isolated, much to the benefit of the many birds, butterflies and critters living there.
There is also prime fishing to be found on the bridge that links St John's and Lazarus islands. Three fishermen, who wanted to be known only as the Ng brothers, have been fishing on the bridge for the past six years. They make the trip every few months and stay overnight in a makeshift tent on the bridge.
They rarely sleep as the best time to catch fish is between midnight and the early hours of the morning, they say. In one night of fishing last weekend, the brothers, in their 40s and early 50s, caught yellowtail, Spanish snapper and several types of grouper, including a 7.2kg fish and a 3.5kg one.
"We come here for the fresh air, the breeze and because we like to fish," says the eldest Ng.
Yet, the island and its beach may not be serene for much longer. Seringat Island recently made the news when it was zoned for residential use under the Ministry of National Development's Land Use Plan a couple of weeks ago.
Though no development plans have been made yet, head to Seringat and roll out your beach mats before the trucks roll in.
HOW TO GET THERE
Singapore Island Cruise operates ferries from Marina South Pier to St John's and Kusu islands.
The ferries depart for St John's Island every three hours on Saturday from 9am to 3pm and every two hours on Sunday from 9am to 5pm.
The last boat leaves St John's at 3:45pm on Saturday and 5:50pm on Sunday.
The ferry stops at Kusu Island before making its way back to Marina South Pier.
The stop can last between 15 minutes and 11/2 hours, so check the schedule on the company website before you go.
The round-trip ticket costs S$15 an adult and $12 for a child under 12.
Where: Singapore Island Cruise and Ferry Services, 01-04 Marina South Pier, 31 Marina Coastal Drive
Info: Call 6534-9339 or go to www.islandcruise.com.sg
BY CHARTER BOAT
There are about a dozen charter companies operating out of Marina South Pier which will take you to Seringat Island.
The boats range from wooden ones to larger fibreglass vessels. The costs vary by company, the islands you want to visit and the time you take the boat. Some companies charge by the hour, some charge for each trip. All will have a licensed boatman driving the boat.
Most of the operators are open daily, some even on a 24-hour basis. A boat can typically be arranged on the spot, though it is wise to book ahead during busy times such as the weekends and school holidays.
As Seringat Island is not a popular destination, some of the operators are unfamiliar with its name and you may need to point it out to them on a map or ask them to take you to the jetty at Lazarus Island.
Be sure to request or check for life jackets - which should be visible - before you board the boats.
Here are some chartered services. All three services hold 12 passengers each.
York Launch Service
Cost: S$100 to S$120 each way
Info: Call +65 6532-6216
Cost: S$90 each way
Info: Call +65 6423-4542
Hai Seng Launch Service
Cost: S$160 round trip
Info: Call +65 6535-1711
US$1 = $1.24