Open Water Swimming in Singapore (Guide)

open water swimming

Bored of swimming laps in pools? Thinking of something more open and wild, wondering what it’s like to swim in the sea?

Albeit not very mainstream, open water swimming is actually a thing in Singapore. Having had an interest in it myself, let me address some questions you might have about open water swimming.

Where can I swim in open water in Singapore?

This may sound like a ridiculous question since Singapore is an island, but the truth of the matter is that much of our coastline is built up and not readily accessible to the public.

The most popular spots for open water swimming are the stretch of beach between Bedok Jetty and the National Sailing Centre along East Coast Park, and Tanjong Beach in Sentosa.

The East Coast stretch was popularly used for sporting events like triathlons, aquathlons, and of course, open water races before the pandemic struck.

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Distance between Bedok Jetty and National Sailing Centre – roughly 2.2km, Source: OneMap
Tanjong Beach, Sentosa; Source:
Swimming distance of Tanjong Beach – (one way) approximately 430m; Source: OneMap

This isn’t great compared to what you may find in other countries (which is probably why open water swimming isn’t that big of a thing in Singapore). 

However, in this highly built-up city-state of ours, it’s as close to the best you can get for a conducive open water swimming location.

If you’re looking for something more scenic and have time for a short getaway, Swim Tribe organises swims on Lazarus Island (one of Singapore’s four Southern Islands) and even Bintan (Indonesia)!

Lazarus Island Beach; Source: The Travel Intern

So here is a list of some of the possible open water swimming locations in Singapore:

  1. East Coast Park (between Bedok Jetty and National Sailing Centre)
  2. Tanjong Beach in Sentosa
  3. Lazarus Beach (Lazarus Island)

Are there open water swimming groups?

There are not many open water swimming groups in Singapore and the active ones require paid memberships (possibly because it takes a lot of effort to sustain a micro-environment for open water swimming when natural factors do not facilitate it).

It takes a lot of effort to sustain a micro-environment for open water swimming when natural factors do not facilitate it.

I was not big enough of a fan to consider joining one so this is what I found based on a general online search.

On the higher end, you have groups like Open Swim Stars whose memberships cost $1250 a year, but this allows you to join them for three pool sessions and one open water session a week.

This is probably better suited for those already committed to the sport; if you are just exploring open water swimming casually, this might not be suitable for you.

More cost-friendly options would be groups like Swim Tribe (mentioned previously) whose membership costs only $200 a year, albeit for only four open water sessions a year but includes invitations to join open water swimming trips to more exotic spots like those mentioned earlier in the article.

However, many of these groups have become inactive during the pandemic. As such, their online presence might not be representative of whether they are currently active.

Are there open water swimming classes?

Open water swimming classes are also available if you would want guidance to adjust to swimming in the sea.

Swim Ray is such an agency and conducts one-to-one open water swimming lessons teaching open water swimming techniques.

Most open water swimming events will also conduct pre-race open water swimming clinics which are a crash-course to sea swimming conducted in a group setting.

Having participated in an open water race before (the first-ever open water race in Singapore) – the 2017 Liberty Wave Open Water Swim – I would say proper training is really important to swimming efficiently in open water.

I only swam for a kilometre but my shoulders were aching long before the rest of my body felt sore

Having participated in an open water race.. I would say proper training is really important to swimming efficiently in open water.

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Selfie after my 1km swim.
Pre-race: Collecting my race pack.
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Free food after the swim!

I really enjoyed the experience and would recommend those who can swim relatively well in a pool to participate in an open water swim event at least once just to experience what the pool cannot offer.

Alas, since the pandemic struck, open water swimming events (together with most other sporting events) has taken a long hiatus; but hopefully this will change for the better in the near future.

Is it safe to swim in open water in Singapore?

Swimming in open water is really not as straightforward as swimming in a pool due to the volatility of weather conditions, and the lack of lane ropes and markings (to help you keep track of where you are going in the water).

Swimming in open water is really not as straightforward as swimming in a pool due to the volatility of weather conditions, and the lack of lane ropes and markings.

Here are some measures you can take for a safer and more enjoyable swim:

Firstly, find a buddy to swim with you whenever you go swimming in the sea. Your chances of having a safe swim will be much higher when you watch out for one another.

Secondly, take note of the weather forecast when planning for an open water session; avoid swimming when a thunderstorm is forecasted

If you are caught in the rain whilst swimming and there is thunder or lightning, head back to the shore to wait it out.

If you are caught in the rain whilst swimming and there is thunder or lightning, head back to the shore to wait it out.

There can also be strong currents that flow away from the shore (called rip currents); if you are caught in one, swim parallel to the coast until the current subsides or you are out of its influence rather than fight back against the current (by trying to directly swim back to shore).

Although lightning strikes on land are more common than on the sea, being struck by lightning whilst at sea is still a possibility.

Swim parallel to the coast before coming back to shore; Source: WTOP

If you are caught in one (a rip current), swim parallel to the coast rather than fight back against the current.

Learning to swim effectively will save you from overexerting yourself and allow you to train more regularly.

There are many aspects of one’s swim that can be worked on but learning to keep a straight course and sight are challenges unique to open water swimming that are not as called for in a swimming pool with clearly demarcated lanes and high visibility under water.

Sighting is an open water term that literally means to look out for obstacles and where you are heading. Learning to sight is an important skill that will also help you swim in a straight course and save you a lot of energy when done effectively.

Swimming on course and sighting are not easy under choppy conditions and the further you head out from land.


  • Swim with a buddy
  • Be mindful of the weather
  • Don’t fight with strong currents
  • Learn to sight effectively

Can you swim in the open water in Sentosa?

The most popular spot in Sentosa for open water swimming is Tanjong Beach, probably due to it being the least crowded of Sentosa’s beaches.

However, there are two other beaches you could swim at in Sentosa apart from Tanjong BeachSiloso and Palawan, though these are probably more of frolicking sites for those taking a weekend getaway.

Sentosa’s official advisory is to swim between the red and yellow flags on these beaches as there is a dedicated lifesaving team watching out for swimmers in those sections. However, this does not exclude your ability to swim beyond the flags (albeit at your own risk).

Literally ‘red and yellow’ flags; Source: Sentosa

How about other spots like reservoirs, quarries, Singapore River, or canals?

It is illegal to swim in reservoirs as they are “part of Singapore’s drinking water supply” – according to PUB.

However, swimming in canals, quarries and the Singapore River are not explicitly prohibited. But before you head out to a quarry or canal to swim, do be mindful that these sites have certain risks attached to them.

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Sungei Serangoon canal; Source: Straits Times
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A quarry in Pulau Ubin; Source: ActiveSG

There have been drowning incidents at these locations from time to time and it is not recommended to swim in these places due to:

  • the absence of a lifesaving team
  • water cleanliness issues (you will inevitably ingest some water when you engage in open water swimming) 
  • the risk of sudden rapid water flow (especially in canals and the Singapore River).

While there are many water bodies in Singapore, it is unfortunate that not many of them are friendly for open water swimming.


Open water swimming was an idea I instantly fell in love with when I first came across Liberty’s event in 2017; the promised “freedom” and “adventure” was tantalising.

The promised “freedom” and “adventure” was tantalising.

However, since that race, I have yet to really engage in open water swimming again due to

  • the rather limited locations of open water swim sites.
  • them being quite inaccessible in Singapore.
  • the difficulty of finding a buddy who was also interested in open water swimming (I didn’t wanna pay).

Personally, the effort needed to make this a regular part of my lifestyle was too much for me although I was initially attracted by the notion of adventure and “conquering new frontiers”.

That said, I’m totally for swimming in the sea should I ever head to the beach.

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Caleb Chan

I'm a believer that what matters the most is the person you carry around wherever you go! Always interested to broaden my mind and grow my heart :)

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