SINGAPORE - Shortly after Mr Robin Loh, 48, tour guide and founder of local operator Let's Go Tour, launched his new business venture Under Da Boat Seafood Market in June, a member of the public contacted him to organise a kelong tour for his family.
"He approached me as I have both guiding expertise and an understanding of the local fishing industry," says Mr Loh.
Formerly sceptical of the demand for local tourism, the request changed his mind. Having fished recreationally for over 20 years, the co-owner of a half-cabin cruiser realised he had all the resources needed to get a kelong tour up and running.
So he launched the Let's Go Kelong Tour in July. Since then, the response has been "overwhelming", with about 30 bookings a month. A two-hour tour costs $450 for a maximum of five guests.
"We showcase a very different side of Singapore from the sea. People may be familiar with the skyline but less so with the stories of our waters," says Mr Loh, who guides all kelong tours personally.
He regales guests with tales of what he has witnessed during his years as a fisherman, such as how smugglers in the past would race goods to Singapore's shoreline in small wooden boats, with the Police Coast Guard in hot pursuit.
With overseas travel halted due to the coronavirus pandemic, operators of boat and waterway tours are seeing an uptick in local guests seeking any avenue to go - quite literally - overseas.
Luxury tall ship Royal Albatross, which resumed sunset dinner cruises this month, has been seeing healthy demand, with popular timings booked out weeks in advance.
It helps that cruising local waters does not cost a pretty penny.
Ferry operator Singapore Island Cruise, which runs a daily service between Marina South Pier, St John's Island and Kusu Island for $15, added a direct weekday service to St John's Island last month after it realised that it was a popular stop for guests heading to the beach at Lazarus Island. Both islands are connected by a causeway, which takes 15 minutes to cross on foot.
Although he declined to reveal figures, manager Li Guoli says the company has seen a "slight increase" in ridership compared with last year, mainly from Singaporeans seeking a quick getaway.
One such guest was actress Rachel Wong, 26, who went to Lazarus Island in July with three friends. They brought their own food and drinks and stand-up paddle boards for entertainment.
Ms Wong, who visited the island for the first time, found it very remote and private, unlike Sentosa and East Coast Park.
She says: "We were in the middle of nature and the beach was very quiet. It felt a bit like going on an adventure, like we were not in Singapore at all."