A Kusu Island Sojourn
Situated 5.6 kilometres off mainland Singapore is an idyllic island steeped in legend. Kusu (tortoise in Hokkien) Island’s mythical origin involves a tortoise purportedly transforming itself into an island in order to save two shipwrecked sailors. The 8.5ha island then became a place of worship when the sailors - a Chinese and a Malay, returned to give thanks.
Situated 5.6 kilometres off mainland Singapore is an idyllic island steeped in legend. Kusu (tortoise in Hokkien) Island’s mythical origin involves a tortoise purportedly transforming itself into an island in order to save two shipwrecked sailors.
The 8.5ha island then became a place of worship when the sailors - a Chinese and a Malay, returned to give thanks. Today, devotees head to the island to pray at its’ Chinese temple and three keramats (shrines in Malay).
The island is open year-round, but the annual pilgrimage season sees more than 100,000 visitors thronging the island. The month-long pilgrimage season this year ends November 17. While most make the trip to pray for good fortune and health, the island’s tranquillity, with its quiet beaches and swimming lagoons, also make it a popular day-trip destination for the casual visitor.
An aerial view of Kusu Island. The 8.5 ha island, located South of Singapore, is accessible via ferry from Marina South Pier.
A man cycles through Da Bo Gong Temple on Kusu Island. Devotees visit the temple to pray to Chinese deity Da Bo Gong or Tua Pek Gong, which literally means “Grand Uncle”), the Merchant God or God of Prosperity. Guan Yin, the Goddess of Mercy, is also prayed to at the temple.
Dragon statues on the roof of Da Bo Gong Temple on Kusu Island. The temple was built in 1923 by a wealthy businessman.
A devotee poses for a photo with tortoise sculptures in the courtyard of Da Bo Gong Temple on Kusu Island. It is believed that touching the tortoises bring about good fortune.
A devotee holds joss sticks at Da Bo Gong Temple on Kusu Island. The temple is the island’s most famous landmark.
A patchwork of zinc roofs amidst the lush treetops gives away the location of the three keramats of Kusu Island.
Visitors at a keramat on Kusu Island. The island houses three keramats, which are accessible via climbing a flight of 152 steps.
A donation box at the site of Kusu Island’s keramats. Scrawled on the shrines’ iconic yellow facade by visitors are wishes and 4D numbers.
A yellow ribbon is tied on a boy’s wrist as he prays at the Datuk Nenek keramat (shrine) on Kusu Island. The island’s three shrines were built to commemorate a pious 19th century family - Syed Abdul Rahman, his mother Nenek Ghalib and his sister Puteri Fatimah.
Stallholders at Kusu Island’s souvenir shop pack up for the day as a storm brews. The pilgrimage season in the ninth lunar month (around October-November) usually also brings about monsoons.
Diners and stallholders chat at Kusu Island’s food centre. The food centre serves local favourites like char kway teow and vegetarian bee hoon to hungry pilgrims and day-trippers alike.
Visitors have a dip in a lagoon off Kusu Island. While most visitors come to Kusu Island for religious purposes, some appreciate the relatively quieter beaches. No lifeguard is on duty and visitors swim at their own risk.
Tortoise plush toys are seen at a souvenir shop at Kusu Island. Legend has it that a tortoise transformed itself into the island to save shipwrecked sailors.
Visitors pose for a selfie as they sit along a beach at Kusu Island. The beaches are popular sites for picnics.