Kusu Island is one of the Southern Islands, located to the south of the main island of Singapore, off the Straits of Singapore. “Kusu” means “Tortoise Island” or “Turtle Island” in Hokkien; the island is also known as Peak Island or Pulau Tembakul in Malay. The word kusu also means flatulence in Tamil, one of Singapore’s official languages—however, this is in no way related to the name of the island, and is a misconception. From two man outcrops on a reef, the island was enlarged and transformed into an island.
The legend behind the island says that a magical tortoise turned itself into an island to save two shipwrecked sailors – a Malay and a Chinese.
At the top of the rugged hillock on Kusu Island stands three kramats (or holy shrines of Malay saints) to commemorate a pious man (Syed Abdul Rahman), his mother (Nenek Ghalib) and sister (Puteri Fatimah) who lived in the 19th century. Many devotees will climb the 152 steps leading to the kramats to pray for wealth, good marriage, good health and harmony. The shrines are also popular with childless couples who would pray for children. Despite misconceptions, they do not pray to the kramats.
Also located on Kusu island is the popular Chinese temple – Da Bo Gong 大伯公 or Tua Pek Kong (Grand Uncle) and Na Tuk Kong(Dato Keramat). Built in 1923 by a wealthy businessman, the temple houses two main deities – the Da Bo Gong and Guan Yin 观音 (Goddess of Mercy). The former is highly regarded as having the power to confer prosperity, cure diseases, calm the sea and avert danger, while Guan Yin is known as the ‘giver of sons’.
It is popular for its lagoons, pristine beaches and tranquil settings. Visits are often made to see the wishing well and Tortoise Sanctuary. Afternoon picnics are also very popular. Overnight stay is not permitted on the island.