The River Explorer is the latest addition to Singapore’s bustling waterways. Launched on January 1 2013, the River Explorer travels further up river than any tour boats or water taxis have been permitted to in the past.
The importance of the Singapore River in terms of the development of the country cannot be understated. Its necessity during Singapore’s pre-history as a fishing village is obvious, but once Sir Stamford Raffles sailed up it in 1819 it became the epicentre of trade and industry in Singapore. It was from this time, and this river, that Singapore became one of the most important trading posts in South East Asia and started the transformation into what stands today. The Singapore River stayed as a working river for well over 100 years; this led to its environmental decline so in the 1970s a massive clean-up plan was proposed. The enormous task was completed ten years later, and the river started its new life, evolving into the tourist attraction it is today. Since the building of the Marina Barrage in 2008, the Singapore River no longer flows into the sea, as the barrage has dammed the entrance to Marina Bay thus creating a new freshwater reservoir. So the importance of the Singapore River continues, with its waters supplying drinking water to the more than 5 million people that live in Singapore.
The Singapore River is approximately 3 kilometres long, from its source at Kim Seng Bridge to its mouth next to the Esplanade Theatre at Marina Bay. For the first time, you’ll be able to take a boat all the way from mouth to source and back again.
So what’s the best way to experience it all? The first option and a must for anyone visiting Singapore is the Boat Tour. At only $18 for adults and $9 for children and with boats leaving every half an hour between 9AM and 10.30PM, the tour is convenient as well as informative. For 40 minutes you will have a guided tour giving you a history of the river and the historic buildings that stand along the shore. Tours are primarily given in English but Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Bahasa Indonesia, Thai and Vietnamese are also available when booking in advance.
The second opinion is the Bubble Jet. More of a water bus than a water taxi, during peak hour periods there will be a pick-up every 10 minutes from one of the 13 embarkation points. Getting on the Bubble Jet at the Marina Barrage will take you to some of the following destinations: The Singapore Flyer, Marina Bay Sands, the ArtScience Museum, Marina Bay financial centre, Fullerton Bay Hotel, Merlion Park, Central Business District, Raffles Landing, Victoria Theatre and Concert Hall, Asian Civilisations Museum, The Arts House at the Old Parliament, Esplanade Park, Supreme Court, Funan Digital Mall, Swissotel Merchant Court, Chinatown, Fort Canning, Novotel Singapore Clarke Quay, Gallery Hotel, Studio M Hotel, Park Hotel Clarke Quay, Clarke Quay, Zouk, Grand Copthorne Waterfront Hotel, Holiday Inn Singapore Atrium Hotel, Furama Riverfront Hotel, Copthorne King’s Hotel and the end of the line, Great World City. All these locations are a very short distance from each embarkation point and as you can see by the amount of hotels located on the list, it’s perfect for visitors to check out the local sites or simply just to get from A to B. The final stop is the mall and cinema Great World City. This is also the source of the Singapore River. Although it looks like it keeps going, this is actually Alexander Canal, which extends westward from the original source of the Singapore River.
Go for the history and the sites or to simply visit the any number of bars, clubs and restaurants that line the banks, exploring the Singapore River is essential for any visitor to the country.