Snorkeling in Singapore

While Singapore is a tropical island just 85 miles north of the equator, it is not a beachgoer’s mecca. The oceans are crowded with diesel-dripping container ships; coastal land is almost entirely inaccessible; and sandy stretches are few and far between (if the island had its ecological way, the coastline would be made up nearly entirely of mangrove swamps). But if you want to put on your fins and venture forth in search of sea creatures, there’s hope!

A few disclaimers: this is not the Maldives. You will not find great big schools of fish (or many fish at all). The visibility is highly variable. But if you are longing to dive under the water and find actual life beneath the surface, there’s a chance to do so just a ferry ride away.

To get to the ferry, you’ll first need to make your way to Marina South Pier (accessible by cab, bus, or MRT).

Once there (or online), you can purchase a ferry ticket to St. John’s Island from either of two ferry companies: Marina South Ferries or Singapore Island Cruise. You’ll pay the same price for each company; the major differences between them are seating (Marina South offers more upper-deck seating, but there are no comfy seats in the main cabin) and the timing a few of their outings.

After the short trip to St. John’s — about fifteen minutes from the main island of Singapore — the ferry drops you off here:

After you walk down the long open-air corridor, you’ll need to turn left. At this point, it’s about a five minute walk to the causeway that connects St. John’s Island to Lazarus Island:

You’ll want to stop before crossing the causeway and put your stuff down somewhere among the trees to your right. From here, you should be able to walk out to the rock wall and have this view:

Now all you need to do is clamber down the rock wall on either side of the causeway, put on your snorkel gear, and hop in. The best scenery will be along the rock wall that forms the causeway (you won’t see much if you head out toward the open).

At first, you’re going to see a lot of beige rocks. Just keep swimming. Eventually, you’ll find signs of life, including feather stars, both red …

… and black-and-white …

… sea cucumbers of varied shapes and sizes …

… and fan worms:

If you scare these creatures, they retreat into their little tubes!

Fish are not in abundance in this area, but you’ll certainly find Nemo.

The clownfish here do not seem to be used to visitors — they retreat into their anemones quickly — but they’re fun to watch.

While none of the anemones are especially colorful, I did find one with white tips:

Other fish are few and far between …

…though if you swim all the way over to the middle of the bridge, you may be rewarded by a school or two feeding in the fast-moving waters:

This reef is clearly in its early stages of growth, but there are plenty of corals …

… and other entities that wave elegantly in the water:

My favorite finds on my last trip included this guy (if you know what it is, please leave word in the comment section) …

… and my first-ever sea snake (poisonous, yes, but unlikely to be dangerous):

The best time to go is close to low tide — though your scramble down the rock wall to the water will be longer and steeper, you’ll have much better views. Also, try to visit when it hasn’t been raining too much; the water here is a bit silty at the best of times. Wear lots of sunblock, and enjoy!

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