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How to visit Raffles Lighthouse on Pulau Satumu

Singapore’s southern islands are a nice way to escape the city life for a bit – St John’s, Lazarus and Kusu Island are some of the more well-known ones as they are easy to get to, and you can even do intertidal walks at Pulau Hantu, but have you ever heard of Pulau Satumu? This is a Singapore’s offshore islands that you cannot easily visit on your own as access is restricted – I took a tour with Singapore’s Maritime and Port Authority to visit Raffles Lighthouse on Pulau Satumu and here’s a guide on what you can expect to see on the tour.

Where is Pulau Satumu?

If you head in a southwest direction towards the edge of Singapore’s waters with Indonesia, you’ll find the island of Pulau Satumu at the western end of the Singapore Strait. The boat took about 1.5 hours to get from Marina South Pier to Pulau Satumu.

Pulau Satumu was apparently known as Coney Island back in the day – not to be confused with the current Coney Island in Punggol! The name also apparently translates to One Tree in Malay. Satumu is a very small island and as with many other Singaporean offshore islands, some of its land was reclaimed from the sea. The island’s main claim to fame is that it is home to Raffles Lighthouse.

About Raffles Lighthouse

Standing 29m tall, Raffles Lighthouse is quite a historical landmark. First built in 1855, it’s one of Singapore’s oldest lighthouses and is still in use today keeping ships safe as they enter the Singapore Strait. It’s the southernmost of the lighthouses.

Raffles Lighthouse Pulau Satumu Me Jetty
Raffles Lighthouse in the background

The only lighthouse I knew about in Singapore prior to this trip was the Raffles Marina Lighthouse in Tuas, which is actually a privately owned lighthouse and doesn’t fall under MPAs governance. I didn’t even know we have a lighthouse on top of a condo block in Bedok!

The 5 lighthouses managed by the Singapore Maritime and Port Authority:

Raffles Lighthouse Museum Map
A map showing the 5 lighthouses that Singapore runs – not all of them are in Singapore waters! Pulau Pisang‘s lighthouse is on a Malaysian island but run by Singapore

Fun fact: only Raffles Lighthouse and Pulau Pisang Lighthouse have lighthouse keepers, of which there are 8 people in total. 2 men are assigned to each lighthouse at any one time, working on 10-day shifts to ensure the lighthouse is in working order. It must be an interesting job but you have to be really good at being isolated because you’re really in the middle of nowhere. There is internet and phone connection though, but otherwise it’s all wide open sea and passing ships and a very small piece of land to wander around.

We got to see the 2 lighthouse keepers on duty when we visited. I hope they’re all good friends because there is literally no other soul around during your 10-day shift and nowhere to escape to.

The Raffles lighthouse Tour with MPA

Meeting point: Marina South Pier

The tour starts at 1pm but you’re encouraged to arrive a little earlier as the boat usually sets off on schedule. There is a table set up at Marina South Pier (take the North-South MRT line right to the end NS28 Marina South Pier), which is the same place where you take the boat if you intend to go to St John’s, Lazarus and Kusu Islands.

The tour group that day was quite large, over 70 people signed up! And it was a mix of Singaporeans and some foreigners, though I get the sense that these foreigners are people living in Singapore more than tourists passing through.

Overall it was quite well organised – we were given a briefing on what to expect at the sign up point and split into 3 groups using coloured bands, each following a different guide. Use the toilet before you go! There are some toilets on the island itself if you really need though.

Raffles Lighthouse Tour Meeting Point
Yellow group!

The boat is a privately chartered boat with an open-air upstairs deck and a sheltered lower deck. They arranged it such that the different groups would swap levels so everyone would get a chance to be on the upper deck. I managed to snag a seat right up front on the upper deck on the trip there, but you can actually walk around the deck if it’s not too rocky.

Raffles Lighthouse Tour Boat
Boarding the boat

The guides shared quite a lot of information and stories throughout the journey, from pointing out the southern islands that we passed by to facts about the giant tankers that would sail by, so it was quite interesting throughout. On the way back they had quizzes and some small prizes too.

Raffles Lighthouse Tour Boat Deck
Leaving Marina South Pier – you can see MBS in the background

Destination: Pulau Satumu

The 1.5 hour boat journey along the Singapore Strait lets you see Singapore’s busy waters and appreciate the southern skyline. It’s times like these that I truly appreciate the fact that Singapore is an archipelago – I usually say Singapore has 60+ islands, but according to our guide, we’ve reclaimed, joined and demolished many of these islands in the name of industry so the true number of islands actually is around 40+ now.

Raffles Lighthouse Tour Marina South Coastline
The Central Business District area with all the tall skyscrapers
Raffles Lighthouse Sea Tanker
Large tankers

The southern islands that you’ll pass by along the way:

  • St John’s Island & Lazarus Island (Kusu Island is behind Lazarus) – see my guide for more info
  • Pulau Tekukor – a former ammo dump site, currently uninhabited
  • Sisters Islands – once open to public, currently shut for refurbishment
  • Pulau Sebarok – home to oil refineries that belong to Singapore Petroleum Company
  • Pulau Semakau – Singapore’s landfill island, but it doesn’t look remotely trashy at all as the trash is incinerated and buried. I’ve heard that the biodiversity here is pretty good.
Raffles Lighthouse Sea Islands
Passing by Pulau Tekukor on the left, an uninhabited island. The two islands to the right are Sister’s Islands which are also closed to the public for now

Finally, Pulau Satumu!

Raffles Lighthouse Pulau Satumu VIew
Raffles Lighthouse! To the right of this picture are some ship monitoring infrastructure we were asked not to publicly post photos of

Pulau Satumu is pretty small, you can see almost all of it at a glance. The jetty and cove is on the east side of the island where there are breakwaters to protect the coast, while the rest of the island is grass and the lighthouse.

Raffles Lighthouse Pulau Satumu Jetty
Jetty leading to the lighthouse
Raffles Lighthouse Pulau Satumu Grass Hut
Green grass to the south with a small shelter to sit under
Raffles Lighthouse Pulau Satumu Beach
The cove on the east side. The water was really clear here!

Raffles Lighthouse

Since there were three groups, we rotated between exploring the island, checking out the museum and climbing the lighthouse. Raffles Lighthouse is 29m tall and 88 steps lead you to the top. Lovely view of Pulau Satumu from above and the surrounding islands as well as an up close look at the lighthouse lamp.

Raffles Lighthouse Bench
Raffles Lighthouse from below
Raffles Lighthouse Living Room
There’s a living room area which I assume is where the lighthouse keepers can hang out and watch TV
Raffles Lighthouse Interior Staircase Me Climbing
Narrow staircase going up! We were paused here because the earlier group was making their way down
Raffles Lighthouse Interior Window View
Looking out the window to the jetty
Raffles Lighthouse Interior Stairs
Nearing the top! There is one last super steep staircase that is almost a ladder to climb
Raffles Lighthouse Interior Lamp
Looking at the lighthouse lamp! The man in orange on the left is one of the lighthouse keepers on duty
Raffles Lighthouse Lamp Me
Snapping a shot on the outside – it was super cloudy earlier and the weather was finally clearing up
Raffles Lighthouse Top View Beach Me
Looking down on the beach – that is literally all of Pulau Satumu lol
Raffles Lighthouse Top View Islands
Looking northwards, the small islet to the right is Pulau Biola (Viola Island), and the island straight ahead is Pulau Senang where they infamously tried to set up a prison back in the day. These are now restricted military areas and if you try to land without permission on any of these islands, I’m pretty sure the police boats will emerge quite quickly

Raffles Lighthouse Museum

At the base of the lighthouse is a small room which serves as a mini museum of sorts for the lighthouse. They’ve stored some old artefacts like the old lighthouse lamps and news clippings about the lighthouse here. We popped in for a brief look. They had a gun cabinet in case of pirates back in the day (it’s empty now though).

Raffles Lighthouse Museum Interior
Very small room!
Raffles Lighthouse Museum Artefacts
Some of the artefacts – architectural plans, old news clippings and stuff found on the island

Raffles Lighthouse Tour Details

The Raffles Lighthouse tour runs from 1pm to 5pm and overall I did enjoy learning about Singapore’s maritime history on this tour. It makes for an interesting way to see Singapore’s southern seas and you get the chance to visit a landmark and island that you wouldn’t normally be able to visit on your own which is quite cool. If you’re interested in Singapore’s history or just want to spend an afternoon outside for a bit, I think this tour is worth checking out.

Check out Maritime and Port Authority on Eventbrite to see their latest event listings. Raffles Lighthouse tours happen on the 2nd and 4th Saturdays of the month. At 8am on the 1st of every month, tickets are open for tours for the following month. My ticket cost was $58.81 for adults ($62.71 after Eventbrite fees).

Looking to see more of Singapore’s offshore islands? Check out these posts here or see all my posts about Singapore.