If you were a fan of the Famous Five series by Enid Blyton, you might recall the adventures at demon’s rocks where the Five stayed at a lighthouse. I was barely 10 years old when I read that 19th novel, which cast an impressionable image of lighthouses shrouded in mystery and adventure. I was fascinated.
Years later, the magic of Blyton’s words lingered on and I felt compelled to visit a lighthouse if there is one in the vicinity. From Cape Rachado Lighthouse near Port Dickson in Malaysia to Cape Regina Lighthouse in the northern region of New Zealand’s north island, these navigation towers never fail to impress and intrigue – since the interiors are often off-limits to the public.
But guess what?
I managed to climb a lighthouse yesterday. Yes, it was in working condition and one really requires some form of stamina to ascend to the top.
Built in 1855, the Raffles Lighthouse was named after Sir Stamford Raffles, the founding father of modern Singapore. There are four other lighthouses of Singapore to help navigate incoming ships. In fact, one of the lighthouses is located at the top of a condominium in the East!
Living in our metropolitan city and caught up in daily mundane matters, it can be easy to forget that Singapore is a busy seaport with non-stop marine activities. Well, lighthouses play important roles in helping ships to navigate in the dark and to warn of impending danger.
“The dip of the light meant that the island itself was always left in darkness. A lighthouse is for others; powerless to illuminate the space closest to it.”~ M.L. Steadman
Thanks to the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA), which is also the governing body for our maritime activities and organiser for the Singapore Maritime Week, I was finally able to visit and explore the interiors of a lighthouse!
The ferry journey from our main island to Pulau Satumu (where Raffles Lighthouse stands tall) took close to an hour. Along the way, we sailed past Kusu Island, Sister Islands, Pulau Semakau, etc. Upon arrival, I was pleasantly surprised to see the clear water and corals that reminded me of Tonga, the South Pacific Island that I visited more than a year ago. The spotting of a sea cucumber sparked excitement and hunger; highlighting the typical foodie characteristic of a true Singaporean.
PS: These shores are not for swimming and no, you should not even think about catching that sea cucumber for dinner tonight.
According to our guide, Raffles Lighthouse stands at approximately 29-metre and is currently manned by two lighthouse keepers who work on a 10-day shift. After huffing and puffing up the 88-steps spiral staircase, I met one of the lighthouse keepers. Scrutinising his slim frame, I pondered aloud on the frequency of their climb. He told me that they need to climb up the lighthouse at least twice daily, in spite of the auto-generation of energies through solar panels for the rotating beacon.
The view was magnificent. Natural beauty lay beneath and for a moment, I cannot help but to wonder: did our main island once boost such beautiful and tranquil seascape?
For your information, the Raffles Lighthouse is not usually open to public due to security issues. Nevertheless, if you would like to visit this place for education purposes, you may either wait for next year’s Singapore Maritime Week (but there’s no promise that there will be a tour to the Raffles Lighthouse) or contact MPA directly to enquiry the possibility of a private group tour. (You’ll never know unless you asked;)
The past week (19 – 24 April 2015) marked the 10th Singapore Maritime Week, and one of the events was the Maritime Learning Journey where participants were given the opportunity to visit the Raffles Lighthouse on Pulau Satumu (which means one tree island in Malay language). In case you are wondering, Singapore comprises 63 islands including the main island and there is more than one tree on Pulau Satumu. 😉
The above information has been compiled based on various sources, including my own experience and should only be used as a reference. For more information on the destination, please check with: http://www.mpa.gov.sg/.