Coney Island

For some rustic island trekking amongst coastal forests, grasslands, mangroves and casuarina woodlands, hop on over to Coney Island off the Northeastern coast of Singapore.

Coney Island, also known as Serangoon Island, is one of the few islands in Singapore that we can get to quite easily without having to take a boat or a ferry. We can simply hop over on foot via one of the two causeways, or coast through on a bicycle along the 2.5-km Coney Island Park Connector.

There are two entrances leading into the island: the West Entrance and the East Entrance. Whichever entrance you choose, do watch out for the thieving monkeys in the vicinity who periodically emerge from their jungle abode to steal food.

The approach from the western end starts from Punggol Promenade, a coastal boardwalk that is a hive of activity on weekends.

We just have to follow the coastal boardwalk and it will lead us right to the doorstep of Coney Island.

Keep an eye out for the Striated Heron (Butorides striata) who goes by many aliases – including Little Heron and Mangrove Heron – and likes to pretend that he is a statue while waiting for his prey.

Another stalker we’re quite likely to find crouched along the rocky coastline is the Grey Heron (Ardea cinerea), patiently waiting for fish to swim by.

As we proceed towards Coney Island, Pulau Ubin looms ahead in the horizon…

…and the western tip of Coney Island emerges to greet us.

A short bridge connects the mainland to the West Entrance of the island.

A foreboding sign warns us that no one is to linger in the park after 7pm, otherwise they will be arrested for trespassing!

Coney Island is a small little park that can be comfortably covered in an hour or two. We can either follow the main path that spans 2.5 km from west to east, or take the meandering coastal tracks that lead to the beach areas.

As with all parks in Singapore, there are many things that thou shall not do.

Near the west entrance, a secluded sandy trail tempts us to follow…

…bringing us through an overgrown track…

…that opens out onto a promenade with a luscious view of Pulau Ubin.

From there we can spy on Changi Airport in the distance and spot the many airplanes that make their slow but sure descent.

Very soon the paved promenade path ends and a sandy trail leads us deeper into the island…

The island is dotted with bird hides that supposedly provide sneaky cover under which we can hope to spot one or two of the 80 species of birds that are known to frequent the island. Rather skeptical about the effectiveness of the hide, all we spotted were ravenous mosquitoes and the occasional human.

But elsewhere on the island, we would very likely be able to hear or see some of the resident birds, such as the Oriental Magpie-robin (Copsychus saularis)

…the Pied Triller (Lalage nigra)

…the Sooty-headed Bulbul (Pycnonotus aurigaster)

…the Yellow-bellied Prinia (Prinia flaviventris)

…the Red-breasted Parakeet (Psittacula alexandri)

…the Rose-ringed Parakeet (Psittacula krameri)

…and even some of the migratory winter visitors, like the Chestnut-winged Cuckoo (Clamator coromandus)

…the Brown Shrike (Lanius cristatus)

…the Ashy Minivet (Pericrocotus divaricatus)

…or the Common Sandpiper (Actitis hypoleucos).

The sandy trail opens out to a tiny beach, on which we can enjoy the sea view and frolic with the sandflies. There are in total five marked beaches (Beach Area A to E) that showcase the various endangered coastal trees that are a pride of the island.

Cycling is a popular way to explore the island. The bicycle rental shops at Punggol Settlement make it very easy for anyone to hop onto a bike and roll.

We could never find ourselves getting lost, as direction boards pop up at frequent intervals to remind us that we are still on Coney Island and on the right path.

Along the Southwestern coast of the island is a stretch of grass-lined path, where grass birds love to hide out and feed on the tasty grass, lalangs and buttercups.

These birds seem rather fearless and were totally nonchalant about us humans standing so close and observing them. So we had a fun time spying on them flitting around the grass in large parties.

Most of them were Scaly-breasted Munias (Lonchura punctulata)

…who seemed quite happy to forage together with the White-headed Munias (Lonchura maja)

…the Chestnut Munias (Lonchura atricapilla)

…the Common Waxbills (Estrilda astrild)

…and the Crimson-rumped Waxbills (Estrilda rhodopyga).

Along the coast, there is a high chance we might also spot the Pacific Swallows (Hirundo tahitica) taking a break from flying.

After the last beach (Beach Area E), a nice paved path appears again and escorts us out of the island via the East Entrance.

If you, like us, find yourself attempting to exit the park at 7pm or even a few minutes before 7pm and the pedestrian gate is locked, do not panic (like we did) and do NOT go back the way you came (like we were almost tempted to do).

Try the big vehicular gate that may look like it is closed. Chances are the gate is unlocked and you will be able to get out.

From the East Entrance, the shortest way back is probably to trace the same route through the island to the West Entrance. For a change in scenery, we could also do a loop along the Punggol Promenade park connector that will eventually bring us back to Punggol Settlement.

As we head back at the end of the day along the promenade, there is a high chance the otters are heading home too.

From West Entrance:

From East Entrance: