Wildlife, history part of new trail on St John's Island

A viewing pool with sea creatures at Sisters' Islands Marine Park Public Gallery, which is part of the St John's Island trail.
A viewing pool with sea creatures at Sisters' Islands Marine Park Public Gallery, which is part of the St John's Island trail.ST PHOTO: SEAH KWANG PENG

2.8km trail has signboards and covers various ecosystems such as mangroves, coastal forests

Primary school pupil Leah Thorpe, 11, spent yesterday morning walking around St John's Island with her mother and sister, listening to stories about the island's history, habitats and wildlife.

The family was one of the first to walk along a new island trail curated by the National Parks Board (NParks).

Leah's mother, housewife Olivia Tay, 47, said the tour was very informative, while Leah piped up that her favourite part of the trail was the pufferfish in the mangrove exhibit.

"And the kapok trees, the bugs and the cats along the way," she said.

NParks launched the island trail yesterday. It is 2.8km long with signboards along the trail to tell visitors about the island.

The trail's 15 stations take visitors through various ecosystems on the island, including mangroves, coastal forests and intertidal zones. Wildlife in the area include hawksbill turtles, Indo-Pacific humpbacked dolphins, great- billed herons and many heritage trees.

At the launch, Second Minister for National Development and Home Affairs Desmond Lee said he was happy about this development on St John's Island, which is located about 6.5km south of the main island of Singapore.

"The centre of gravity of our conservation approach cannot be to keep people away from nature. Instead, we want to instil a sense of wonder and appreciation among Singaporeans for our green and blue areas," he said.

Alongside the trail is a new volunteer-run guided walk that will take 45 guests around St John's Island on a 90-minute tour. This will be on the first weekend of every month, starting from next month.

Meanwhile, exhibits at the Sisters' Islands Marine Park Public Gallery on St John's Island - once a quarantine centre for new migrants with infectious diseases - have also been given a new lease of life.

The centre, which receives more than 100 visitors a month, now has a 5m-long mangrove mesocosm, a tank that holds wildlife found in mangroves. The tank can also mimic the actual tides in the mangroves.

There are also aquariums featuring corals and giant clams, a 2m-long viewing pool with sea anemones, starfish and clown fish, and a virtual-reality headset that takes viewers on a dive.

Mr Lee also announced the formation of the Friends of the Marine Park community, which includes boaters, divers, scientists and fishermen, who will work on projects to conserve the island.

For example, dive professionals will help to maintain the dive trail and develop guidelines for kayakers entering the park.

Visitors to St John's Island can get there via a 30-minute ferry ride from Marina South Pier that departs every two hours from 9am to 3pm on Saturdays, and from 9am to 5pm on Sundays. On weekdays, the ferry departs at 10am and 2pm.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on September 03, 2017, with the headline 'Wildlife, history part of new trail on St John's Island'. Print Edition | Subscribe