Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum

Pulau Semakau


Pulau Semakau is located 8 km south of mainland Singapore, adjacent to Semakau Landfill, Singapore’s first offshore landfill. Pulau Sakeng and the original Pulau Semakau were joined together via a 7-km perimeter rock bund to form the landfill. During the massive reclamation project, a rigorous marine monitoring programme was established to ascertain if the still extant reefs around the reclamation had been impacted and/or recovered. Silt screens were also erected to protect the coral reef on the western side of Pulau Semakau from excessive siltation. The National Environment Agency (NEA) commenced landfill operations on 1st April 1999, and with its holding capacity of 63 million cubic metres, it is expected to last till 2040.

Prior to reclamation, both Pulau Sakeng and Pulau Semakau were each home to small communities of villagers whose livelihood depended mainly on fishing. In 1977, the majority of residents on Pulau Semakau were relocated to the mainland and the last villager moved out in 1991. Relocation of Pulau Sakeng’s villagers to the mainland took place in early 1994.

Though a portion of the original Pulau Semakau was destroyed during reclamation works for Semakau Landfill, the remaining part of the island was left untouched. Today, its astounding variety of flora and fauna–many of which can no longer be found on mainland Singapore–continues to thrive, spread over several habitats. The majority of habitats occur in Pulau Semakau’s vast intertidal area, encompassing mangrove forests, seagrass meadows, and coral reefs. Island inhabitants include Knobbly Sea Stars (Protoreaster nodosus), Funeral Nudibranchs (Jorunna funebris), Tape Seagrass (Enhalus acoroides), Sunflower Mushroom Corals (Heliofungia actiniformis), as well as the locally critically endangered Api-api Jambu (Avicennia marina). In 2009, Project Semakau, a joint community initiative by RMBR and HSBC Singapore, was started to document the biodiversity of Pulau Semakau in order to raise awareness of the island’s value as a nature education and conservation site.

Pulau Semakau offers a variety of nature-related activities conducted by different groups. These include intertidal walks by RMBR, birdwatching by the Nature Society (Singapore), stargazing by The Astronomical Society of Singaproe (TASOS), and sports fishing by the Sports Fishing Association (Singapore)

Getting there

The island is about 20 to 45 minutes away from mainland Singapore, departing on the departure point (i.e. Marina South Pier, West Coast Pier, or Pasir Panjang Ferry Terminal). Trip bookings with the aforementioned groups include transport arrangements to Pulau Semakau. Visitors are not allowed to access Pulau Semakau on their own.


Other Resources

Infopedia. 2010. Pulau Semakau. National Library Board Singapore.

Project Semakau. Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research. http://projectsemakau.rafflesmuseum.net. (Accessed August 2011).

Tan, R. Pulau Semakauhttp://www.wildsingapore.com/places/semakau.htm. (Accessed August 2011).


Ng, M. F. C., 2009. Habitats in Harmony: the story of Semakau Landfill. National Environment Agency, Singapore. 118 pp.

Ng, P. K. L., H. T. W. Tan & K. K. P. Lim, 2011. The Building of Semakau Landfill. Pp. 212–213. In: Ng, P. K. L., R. T. Corlett & H. T. W. Tan (editors), Singapore Biodiversity. An Encyclopedia of the Natural Environment and Sustainable Development, Editions Didier Millet, Singapore, 552 pp.

Wang, L. K. & R. K. H. Yeo, 2011. Living Shores of Pulau Semakau. The Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research, Singapore. 50 pp.

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