At the mention of Singapore, people tend to think of endless skyscrapers and air-conditioned shopping malls. If the highly urbanise city is too suffocating and is looking for something of a vast difference, steer to the east of Singapore to one of the popular island off Singapore, Pulau Ubin. Despite Singapore being just a tiny dot on the world map, there are many more smaller islands that in its surrounding that belongs to the country and Pulau Ubin has retain its rustic feel, seems like a stand still as nation flourish.
Pulau Ubin is one of the last rural villages in Singapore. Now it has turn itself into a recreational island, an ideal place for cycling, canoeing, organising chalets and also, Outward Bound Singapore (OBS) is located on the tiny island catering to outdoor expeditions for adventurous youths.
Bumboat services are available daily from Changi Ferry Terminal and do expect long queues during weekends or public holidays. As there are a number of bumboat operators, the queue will be moving reasonably fast. Each bumboat can only allow 12 passengers on board and they are well-equipped with life jackets for emergency. A one-way trip will cost $2.50 and pay the operator upon getting onto the bumboat.
One way to see the island is to rent a bike at one of the bicycle kiosks or alternatively, BYOB (bring your own bike) and pay an additional $2.50 on the bumboat. There are different routes with different level of difficulties, easier one are just riding on proper cemented pavements while the more difficult routes take one off the road onto jungle trails which can be rather challenging for someone who is not used to riding in these kind of terrains. In the challenging trail, be warn of an infamous steep downward slope which had killed two and injured many. Thus, practice caution while taking the challenging trails.
Sights around Pulau Ubin
Wild boars and monkeys have been living together in the community with the villages for the longest time. Although villagers moved out of the island, these animals continue to to reproduce and make Pulau Ubin their home. They roam around freely and generally do not cause disturbance to island visitors unless disturbed. It is however advisable not feed these animals.
Abandon rustic houses can be found which provide tell-tale signs of how life back then and tombstones look-alike which are erected from the ground but not properly maintained.
Pulau Ubin when translated to English means Granite Island. This name is given because granites are extracted from the 5 quarries on the island to aid construction in the early stage of Singapore’s development. These days, what are left are abandon quarries which provide tranquil sights, adding to the serene environment.
Chek Jawa Wetlands
Chek Jawa Wetlands, located at the south eastern tip of the island is made up of 6 different ecosystem habitats, namely Sandy Beach, Rocky Beach, Seagrass Lagoon, Coral Rubble, Mangroves and Coastal Forest. This conservation is to help protect plants and creatures which can only survived under these special conditions. Exploration in Chek Jawa can only be done by foot, bicycles are to be left outside entrance/ exit point as they may damage the natural habitats.
A cottage was converted into a visitor centre which the government tried to restore to its past glory has a working fireplace which was believed to be the only one in Singapore. Walking out from the cottage is a long strength of viewing jetty where planes and ships can be spotted.
Between Mangrove and Coastal Forest habitats is a one kilometre long boardwalk. Observe the surrounding closely and try spotting other living creatures as well as uncommon plants.
Jejawi Tower that is seven storey high can only be reached by ascending up with both feet. It may seems a little tedious and perseverance from the unfit but the view is rewarding, it provides great look out point for birds observations and admire the island from above.
Guided tours are available for nature lovers who want to find out more about the different habitats that creates an optimal well-protected environment for the plants and creatures to breed and grow. Naked Hermit Crabs is manage by volunteers who conduct free guided walking tour to this part of the island while National Park which is the official organisation taking charge of offers paid guided tours as well.
A day of exploration around the island will burn out much of the energy. Non-air conditioned restaurants near the jetty are available to fill hungry stomachs. As restaurants source of business depends on visitors from the main land hence food tend to be on a pricier side. Alternatively, pack takeaway lunch before heading to Pulau Ubin. A pack of saliva drooling famous Nasi Lemak from Changi Food Centre near the jetty point on the main land is a highly recommended choice. An advantage of packing own lunch means avoiding the crowded and pricy restaurants and also the convenience to eat anywhere on the island however do remember to be responsible visitors and make sure trashes are dispose in proper bins available and do not leave litters lying around.
A perfect way to end off the excursion is to reward oneself with a bowl of Chendol to cool down from the unforgiving sun upon reaching back to the main island of Singapore.
How to get there:
1) Take MRT train and alight at Tanah Merah Station.
2) Board Bus #2 towards Changi Village Terminal and alight at the terminal.
3) Take a 5 minutes walk to Changi Ferry Terminal to get onto a bumboat to Pulau Ubin
Things to pack:
– Insect repellant (to keep those huge blood-hungry mosquitos away)
– Sunblock (because getting sunburnt sucks)
– Umbrella/ Shades (whichever to keep the glares and sun away)
– Comfortable outfit and shoes (because there are plenty of walking/ cycling and you will be perspiring a lot in such humid weather)
– Water (to keep hydrated however do note that there are vending machines available on the island too)