The Penguin Ferry is a familiar name among all Singaporeans and Singaporeans-to-be when enlisting for National Service (NS) in the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF). The Penguin Ferry is the main mode of passenger transport between mainland Singapore at the SAF Ferry Terminal on Changi Beach, and Pulau Tekong, everyone’s favourite island resort in the sun. Services are provided at most times throughout the day at regular timetabled frequencies, but most passengers prefer to board only during peak periods on one day per week in each direction.
A free shuttle bus service from Pasir Ris Bus Interchange is included in the free ferry service for seamless travel. Buses are timed to your scheduled boarding time, so don’t be late – or else.
NOTE: Since 1 May 2019, the Pulau Tekong Ferry is operated by Eng Hup Shipping, and no longer by Penguin Ferry Services/SINDO Ferry.
Contrary to popular misconception, the SAF Ferry Terminal is not the Changi Ferry Terminal. The SAF Ferry Terminal serves ferries to Pulau Tekong and managed by the SAF, while the Changi Ferry Terminal a bit further away serves ferries to Tanjung Belungkor, Malaysia, and is a foreign territory in Singapore owned by Malaysia and managed by the Johor Port Authority (JPA).
The comfortable waiting area at the SAF Ferry Terminal.
NOTE: Seats in this picture may or may not be present and/or available for you. Terms and conditions apply.
Looking out to the long ferry pier.
Once the ferry is ready for boarding, passengers were called up by the staff on hand in uniform.
The aptly-christened Penguin Tekong will be ferrying me from SAF Ferry Terminal to Pulau Tekong today.
Boarding the Penguin Tekong.
The view from my seat on board the Penguin Tekong.
A welcome video with an introduction to the half-day tour or two-year journey, depending on what kind of passenger you are, was screen on board during the quick 15-minute journey.
Disembarking from the Penguin Tekong upon arrival at Pulau Tekong.
The Penguin Tekong at Pulau Tekong.
Heading up the pier to the island.
The Pulau Tekong skyline as seen from the Pulau Tekong Ferry Terminal pier.
The welcome sign to Pulau Tekong at the Pulau Tekong Ferry Terminal.
And what’s a RailTravel Station travel article without mention of food. Meals are not provided during the sailing, but can be picked up after the tour around the island. (Or after relinquishing your civilian status.)
The selection of meals on display while queuing for the free lunch. Up to 4* meals are provided daily, including a breakfast, lunch, dinner, and even a night snack.
(*I said “up to”.)
For long-stay guests of 9 to 19 weeks, you can even choose* which cuisine you would like to have, including Halal, Non-Halal, Chinese Vegetarian and Indian Vegetarian!
(*Choice is by nature of birth and religion, and/or selection on your first opportunity once you head over to your new home.)
For the breakfast which I missed, Fried Bee Hoon and Fried Fish Ngor Hiang was provided.
Lunch, which I am having, is a delicious Chicken Rice Set. More on this below.
For dinner (which I will thankfully miss), a mixed rice set is provided consisting of a Ayam Panggang Bumbu, Fish with Dark Sauce, Fried Crab Meat Cake, Braised Cabbage with Oyster Sauce, and a side of Chicken Vegetable Soup, syrup drink and pear.
The night snack consists of a bun and muffin.
The overview of my Chicken Rice Set. This consists of a Whole Fried Chicken Leg, Fish Balls, Broccoli with Seastick (it’s what they call it), Chicken Rice Chilli, with sides of a Chicken Vegetable Soup, Pudding and Syrup drink.
The Chicken Rice Set tasted pretty good, served piping hot. I would say it’s one of the best meals in Pulau Tekong that they’re capable of. The chilli is also better than some places in civilian Singapore. The friendly staff even helped to clear the trays at the back and I didn’t need to sort out the dishes and cutlery!
(Yes, I did actually find Tekong food to be good during my own stay there. Not a satire. There are worse foods in other camps as I have learnt.)
The return journey after this half-day tour was also provided for with the ferry and bus ride back to SAF Ferry Terminal and Pasir Ris Bus Interchange.
Overall, a pleasant ride with Penguin Ferry on this exclusive domestic sea route in Singapore. A strange thing though, on this trip, the journey time felt the same to and from Pulau Tekong. This was never the case when I was a regular weekly passenger on it – the journey from SAF Ferry Terminal to Pulau Tekong always felt faster than the slow journey from Pulau Tekong to SAF Ferry Terminal.
For more information on how you might earn yourself a 9 to 19 week stay in Pulau Tekong, visit the Enlistment Act 1970 here.