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St John’s Island- a Journey

Jeriel Chua, 2AH

Tashirojima Island, one of Japan’s eleven “cat islands”, is teeming with over a hundred feline residents, making scenes of piebald and ginger mewlings as well as throngs of “aristocrats” (or should I say ­aristocats?) strutting about the tiny fishing village rather common- certainly quite a sight to behold.

Unfortunately for us feline fanatics, Tashirojima island is an inaccessible 4808 kilometres away from Singapore and therefore, regrettably, likely to remain out of our travel itineraries for the time being.

Thankfully, Singapore does have its own isle of cats to fill that gaping hole in our hearts that only cats can fill, albeit a lesser known one- Saint John’s Island. Only 6.5 kilometres away from the main island by a brief 20-minute ferry ride, the island boasts a sizeable population of over 60 cats, which graced our visit just earlier this November.

In a bid to have students more interested in Singapore’s biodiversity, ACJC’s Biology Department organised a trip to the island, where students and teachers alike were summarily greeted (and encircled) by its many, surprisingly domesticated cats.

In addition to the island’s quaint, rustic charm stemming from its rich history of early dwellers, the views were spectacular and beyond description- words simply won’t do the scenic island any justice.

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Even the bridge between St John’s Island and Lazarus Island, where from this image was taken, was practically a catwalk in the literal sense of the word- cats prowled to and fro along the stretch of bridge, boldly seeking affection from visitors (whom the cats clearly outnumbered). The irresistible urge to play with the cats, was a sentiment shared by virtually all the islands visitors; the cats certainly did not seem to mind.

I had the privilege of finding favour with the island’s most charismatic resident (to me), now named Midnight, who followed me for as long as I stayed on the main footpath, or at least for the better part of fifteen minutes.

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Beyond its terrestrial treasures, the island had much to boast in terms of aquatic life, from its characteristic fiddler crabs scuttling along the sandy shores with their strikingly orange pincers to its sporadic anemones whose tentacles waved gently to the faint cataracts of foam sweeping unhurriedly into the tidal rock pools.

Just a stone’s throw away from the pier is Singapore’s Tropical Marine Science Institute, home to an astonishing variety of species. Its one-of-a-kind man-made coral pool features a marine menagerie of brightly coloured corals, feather stars, anemones, sea cucumbers, clownfish, and even two shy starfish- all aiding biologists in furthering our understanding of Singapore’s unique sea-life.

As the final embellishment of our visit, we were fortunate enough to encounter the island’s gleaming white peahen parading about outside the Institute on the way back to the pier. With some luck, we’ll be lucky enough to see a peacock next time!

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Images are the authors own

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