is one of the Southern Islands in Singapore, located about 5.6 kilometres to the south of the main island of Singapore. The name Kusu means “Tortoise” or “Turtle” in Chinese; the island is also known as Peak Island or Pulau Tembakul in Malay. From two tiny outcrops on a reef, this island was enlarged and transformed into an island holiday resort of 85,000 square metres today.
Ask Singaporeans about Kusu Island, which means Tortoise Island in Chinese, and many will tell you of its mythical origins.
Versions of the legend abound, but all revolve around the story of a giant tortoise, one Malay man and one Chinese man.
This tortoise transformed into an island to save the men, who were shipwrecked. They were so grateful that they built a Taoist shrine and Muslim ‘keramat’ (‘shrine’ in Malay).
Many people continue to worship at the island’s sacred sites, especially in the annual Kusu Pilgrimage season during the ninth lunar month, usually between September and November.
At Da Bo Gong Temple, built in 1923 and dedicated to the Chinese God of Prosperity, you will hear the whispers of worshipers through the wafting incense smoke.
Devotees pray to two deities, Da Bo Gong for wealth, good health and calm seas, and Guan Yin, the Goddess of Mercy, for sons.
Others make the laborious climb up 152 steps to the top of the hill to pray at the shrines of three Malay saints, or ‘keramat’, for wealth, good marriage, good health and harmony as well as fertility.
Fun in the sun
For a dose of nature, the swimming lagoons and beaches are but a skip and a hop away. Snorkel here and you may even spot a sea turtle or two!
Just 5.6 kilometres south of Singapore, Kusu Island is best for day-trippers as staying overnight or camping is not permitted.
What to See & Do
Pilgrims and prayers
If you’re in Singapore during the ninth lunar month – usually from October to November – join in the Kusu Pilgrimage, when over 100,000 pilgrims head to Kusu Island to pray for peace and prosperity.
For the Chinese, the tortoise is a sacred animal. Hundreds of tortoises are specially housed at the island’s Tortoise Sanctuary, with dozens more at the Chinese temple.
Pack a picnic
There are shelters, picnic tables and even barbecue pits on Kusu Island, perfect for a nice day out in the sun.