Friday, August 22, 2014

Go Local :: Singapore Lighthouse {Raffles, Fullerton & Sultan Shoal} Heritage Tour

This year's Singapore Heritage Festival {SHF} included a Lighthouse Trail featuring three lighthouses for the first time. When registration was open, it was fully booked out within 2 hours {!!!} so I was put on the waiting list and finally went last Saturday, even though the festival ended last month.

Actually, even though I was very happy to go, I almost backed out because the tour was from 7.30am - 3pm... pretty long and I had a friends gathering and family dinner later that day. However, Jerome & Juria had gone for the earlier tour and insisted that I had to do it since it was such a rare opportunity.

Due to its distant geographical locations and security concerns, very few people have even come close to, let alone visited these lighthouses. With Maritime Port Authority's {MPA} generous approval, SHF managed to organise this free tour for the public, but participants had to be 21 years and above, so Lil Pumpkin couldn't come along. The boy had work as well so I went for the tour alone... but no worries, as the rest of the group were very friendly. I saw a few familiar faces too from previous heritage walks.

We got to see the decommissioned Fullerton Lighthouse {now a restaurant} from the bus en route to Marina South Pier, before sailing to Pulau Satumu {One Tree Island} about 23 km southwest of Singapore to visit Raffles Lighthouse. After that, we sailed past Sultan Shoal Lighthouse off the west coast of Singapore to reach mainland Singapore at Pasir Panjang. 

Apart from the Raffles and Sultan Shoal lighthouses, three others are still in operation - Horsburgh lighthouse on Pedra Branca, Bedok lighthouse at Marina Parade Road, and Pulau Pisang lighthouse, which sits on Malaysian territory but is operated by Singapore.

It was so wonderful to sail out in the early morning! Surprisingly, even though the ferry was smaller than the one I took to Bintan and Batam, I didn't feel seasick at all. The weather was thankfully, so very clear and sunny.

Did you know that Singapore consists of 60 islands? Since Pulau Satumu is the southernmost offshore island away from mainland Singapore, we passed by many others such as Sisters' Island, Lazurus Island, St John's Island etc. I'll be going on another heritage tour in September to visit some of them.

Finally after sailing for about 1.5 hours, we reached Pulau Satumu!

Raffles Lighthouse was built in 1855 and was named after the founder of Singapore, Sir Stamford Raffles. The first light source used a wick burner but currently, it uses a rotating beacon comprising of an array of quartz halogen lamps in aluminium parabolic reflectors mounted on gearless revolving pedestal.

Here's something interesting.. Different lighthouses emit different number of flashes at different time periods. That's how sailors can identify them! Raffles Lighthouse emits 3 white flashes every 20 seconds. Also, there's no fixed time that lighthouses are switched on. There's a light sensor that can track how bright the sky is and automatically switches the lights on when it gets below a certain level.

Mandatory jump shots, of course! :P

We spent about 1.5 hours at Pulau Satumu exploring the tiny island and Raffles Lighthouse. It was really serene, but I don't think I can spend 10 days out here at a go, as the lighthouse keepers are expected to stay each time they are on duty.

A beautiful little hut facing the vast ocean. I brought along some food and ate it there. What a view!

There's a small Raffles Lighthouse Museum housing all the old apparatus and equipment.

Inside the bottom of the lighthouse is the living quarters and work space for the lighthouse keepers. At any one time, there's always 2 lighthouse keepers on duty. Safer I guess, than leaving one out on his lonesome so far away from any human being :P

Sani {pictured} was on duty and I got to learn more about the life of a lighthouse keeper from him. Apparently he doesn't have to go all the way up the lighthouse every day, only about 3 times a week. Phew! Because it really is quite a climb!

There's electricity on the island {duh!} and of course mobile signal {I think they mentioned Starhub is the strongest}. Food and water are delivered regularly to them. Their own family are not able to visit at will though, and still need special permission like us to land.

To make sure everyone had time to visit the top of the lighthouse, we were only given about 15 minutes to go up and down. There were about 90 steep steps...

... with a final flight of ladder steps to reach the top. Really not for the weak or faint-hearted. 

The view was totally worth it though!!! Absolutely stunning. I wish Lil Pumpkin and the boy could go to enjoy it too.

Oh, in case you were wondering, this state flag with the blue portion, different from our usual red and white flag, is used to represent government naval entities.

Nin was the other lighthouse keeper on duty that day. He is one of the youngest... the oldest is about 60+ years old!

Facing the southernmost point of Singapore. Beyond this point at Pulau Satumu, is Indonesia.

After Raffles Lighthouse, we boarded the ferry again to sail to Sultan Shoal Lighthouse, near Jurong Island. It took another 1.5 hours ride.

Sultan Shoal Lighthouse was built 40 years after Raffles Lighthouse, in 1895. It's used to guide boats in and out of the Straits of Malacca into the Western Anchorage of Singapore. As it is an unmanned lighthouse, we didn't even get to land on it's tiny island.. just sail past to take some photos. It looks much prettier because of its Victorian-style house at the bottom of the lighthouse.

It's fascinating to note that while Sultan Shoal island has not moved, it is now much closer to mainland Singapore because of the major reclamation works in Tuas South as well as the creation of the Jurong Island, which is linked to mainland Singapore with a bridge. Hence, Sultan Shoal doesn't seem as remote as Pulau Satumu.

This is the first time I've visited lighthouses so I was thoroughly thrilled with the heritage tour. Learnt so much during the trip about lighthouses and our maritime past. It really is a rare opportunity and I'm not sure if SHF will organise it again next year.

However, you can also keep a lookout during the annual Singapore Maritime Week {usually around April} on its Faceebook page. The Maritime Port Authority {MPA} has special tours for the public then but it's usually very competitive to get a slot too!

  • Bring along a cap, sunblock, umbrella, food, extra water and own medication. The organisers are not able to administer the distribution of medication; only first aid.
  • Photography or filming of the red & white military towers at the lighthouses is strictly forbidden.
  • As there's climbing of stairs, don't wear skirt or dresses for safety and modesty reasons.
  • Wear comfortable walking shoes and clothes.
  • Go to the restrooms before you board the ferry or at the lighthouse.
  • For a more fulfilling experience, read up on the lighthouses before going on the tour. MPA staff are at hand to answer any questions.
Other Singapore heritage places:


Lydia C. Lee said...

This is really fascinating - I did not know Singapore had 60 islands (I would have said 9 if you'd asked) and I think the bit about the different flashes is really clever, and I did not know that. Your photos are lovely. It's a big day but it looks well worth it. Will tweet this post as I think it would be a really interesting thing to do for visitors with a bit of time in Singapore.

Masshole Mommy said...

GORGEOUS. I didn't realize there were that many islands there and the lighthouses are so pretty!

mail4rosey said...

That is a great fun fact about the lights. I didn't know they were different (and different for a reason). The pics are great, and the ones of you jumping are fun!

Unknown said...

Lighthouses really are magical places aren't they. There is one where I come from that we would drive past every single day but have never been close enough to touch. You are very lucky.

Susan said...

Thanks for sharing. To think I never knew about it as a local. Definitely something for when Sophie is much older. Hopefully it will still be around when she's able to go in future.

Ai Sakura said...

Lydia: Not sure if it's open to overseas visitors but if it is, they would definitely have to plan wayyy in advance as it's not usually open to public and only during certain periods :)

Masshole Mommy: Yeah! Kinda interesting to find out heh

Mail4rosey: Thank you :)

Annaleis: Oh you're lucky to drive past one everyday too! Should make a trip up close if you can.

Susan: I think it should be. They are preserving them pretty well :P

Lucy @ Bake Play Smile said...

Singapore would have to be one of my absolute favourite cities so I always love checking out your photos! I actually haven't been to the lighthouse - I'll definitely have to check it out next time I'm there! xxx

Theresa Mahoney said...

I love lighthouses. They are so fun to photograph. However, I have never been inside one, so I think it is so cool you got to!

An Apel a Day said...

I've never been to a lighthouse before. I live smack dab in the middle of the US. The Counting Crows wrote a song called "Omaha"; they've never even been here. The lyrics are, "Somewhere in the middle of America..." Anyhow, I've always wanted to visit a lighthouse.

Grace said...

You can probably guess by some of my Instagram photos that I love lighthouses and we're so blessed to live around some beautiful ones.
A lighthouse tour around Singapore would be so awesome! And those jumping shots are so cool!
See you in a couple of days, lovely! x

Indah Nuria Savitri said...

looks like a fun's rather long but a lot to see as well, I guess...I miss my home town Indonesia whenever i see all those lovely blue sea...

An Apel a Day said...

60 islands is a lot. The US doesn't have many.

I had to look it up: "Currently, the United States has sixteen territories, five of which are permanently inhabited: Puerto Rico, Guam, Northern Mariana Islands, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and American Samoa." We don't even seem to help take care of Puerto Rico. :( If we own it, we should be helping them more!

I love light houses. I imagine where your light houses are they don't get icy like the ones that I visited do.