If you’ve read my post about Singapore’s island escapes, then you’d probably be interested to know about another getaway from the Singapore city hustle. This one is even closer, cheaper and easier to get to than Lazarus and its neighbouring islands. If you are interested in reliving and experiencing ‘the old Singapore’ Kampong lifestyle, a visit to Pulau Ubin is a great way to create a sense of appreciation of Singapore’s cultural heritage. National Parks has tried to conserve Singapore’s previous sense of community, as well as the beautiful and unique nature. The kampong spirit is still alive and can be felt on Pulau Ubin.
So how do we get there?
Find your way to Changi Point Ferry Terminal(Tanah Merah is the closest MRT Station). Pulau Ubin island is situated to the far North-East of Singapore and is just a bumboat ride away! The bumboats operate from as early as 6 am to 8 pm. The ride takes 10 mins! The cost is $3 per person ($2 extra if you are bringing a bicycle along). There are no scheduled departure times to and from Pulau Ubin. The boats set off when there are 12 passengers.
From Ubin jetty, you can choose to cycle or hire a van to chek JawaWetlands. Ubin is a popular island for cycling! You don’t have to be a professional cyclist or even own your own bike. Bikes can be rented on the island (availabe for hire as you walk off the jetty into the village). We rented a decent bike for $4 each. The really good ones are about $10.It is to your discretion whether you choose to bring protective gear and to ensure your rental is in good working condition.
Ubin in a Nutshell:
A series of granite hills and quarries remain as picturesque relics of Palau Ubin’s history. Forests and grasslands have regenerated to cover the agricultural traces of the past (granite mining; rubber cultivation; coffee, pineapple, coconut and jasmine farming). On the eastern coast of the island, you can view Chek Jawa – a unique natural wetland and one of Singapore’s richest ecosystems.
It truly is an ecosystem unlike one I have ever seen before. There are at least six different kinds of habitats in just the wetland alone (including the rocky shore and the seagrass lagoon which are both bounded by sandbars). Moving inward, you can see mangroves fringing the softer section of the shoreline. Coastel forests flank the rockier segments of the island. Many plants and animals found in Chek Jawa Wetland are rare and no longer found on the mainland of Singapore. The area itself makes a great natural outdoor classroom. Ubin is an island I can see myself returning to, each time encountering new surprises and discoveries.
To see Chek Jawa’s splendour:
Walk along the boardwalk and choose between walking the Coastal or Mangrove loops. Of course, we recommend doing both! Both routes can be accessed via the Visitor Center. Interestingly, the Visitor Center was built in the 1930s as a holiday retreat and stands as a memoir of Singapore’s British colonial past.
Singapore has a way of organising everything so well. You will find educational panels about the island’s plants and animals, as well as directional signposts along the way. Restpoints are stationed along the route as well, which can be really appreciated in the event of rain. There is a 20m tall tower, the Jejawi Towerwhere you can get a wonderful photo opportunity, do some bird-watching (if you’re into that) or simple enjoy the panoramic view of the wetland.
A 600m boardwalk following the coastline of Chek Jawa. From here, you can observe the various habitats along the shore (best seen during low tide). We saw komodo dragons here.
Can you spot the Komodo dragon?
The coastal loop hosts the Rocky Shore: This is one of the few places left in Singapore with a natural rocky shore (incomparable to the man-made and commercialised Sentosa beach ) Look out for snails and barnacles.
The Sandbar: a raised expanse of sand sheltering the lagoon from the open sea. Lookout for its dynamic shape and size, sculpted by the varying currents of the channel.
The Corral Rubble Area: one of the richest hidden secrets of Chek Jawa. This area is rarely exposed, even during low tide. It provides a home to a variety of organisms, particularly ones which prefer to be submerged (such as sea sponges and seahorses).
This 500m boardwalk takes you through the mangroves. It begins from the seaward side and then loops through the mangroves. Keep your eyes peeled for the various little organisms which have evolved in this unique environment. We were particularly fascinated by the tiny little crabs who seemed to have nothing better to do with their day that to fight with one another over holes in the ground! Some had only one very large claw, and looked super funny trying to crawl about and pinch other crabs with this one claw and a very disproportionate body!
It’s probably best to stay away from closed-off areas, granite quarries, ponds and rivers. Take care to dismount and push the bike when you feel it is becoming too rocky and tough to ride certain paths. Also, be aware of the vans which drive through the island (these vans are usually transporting campers or people undergoing van tours).
The water from public restrooms is not drinkable. However, there are a few shops where you can buy water and other refreshments. I recommend the fresh coconuts ($5). Super great and refreshing for replenishing those electrolytes after a couple hours cycling! There are no shower facilities (for those of you looking to go camping). We only visited the island for a few hours, therefore I do not have much personal information on the camping experience. You may want to gain more information about this.
Do bring along some insect repellant for pesky mosquitos and sandflies. This is available and sold on the island if you forget.
DO NOT LEAVE YOUR BAGS UNATTENDED (especially if you’ve packed food!) Bikes are not allowed on the boardwalk and have to be parked in the space provided just before entering the Jawa area. We underestimated the animal’s ability to get a hold of our lovely packed lunch and were shocked to come back and find the wild boars feasting on our lunch! Was quite the show!
Operating hours are from 8:30 am till 6:00 pm. We left on the last bumboat just a couple mins before 7:00 pm.
If you are planning to set up any signage, or to conduct a group activity (such as a beach clean-up) of over 40 people, make sure to consult the National Parks Board. You will have to apply for authorisation. You can send your requests to the e-mail address below. It is best to use designated paths, trails, roads, tracks and boardwalks. Excercise responsibility for your own health and personal safety.
Management office contact info:
Headquarters located at the Singapore Botanical Gardens
In case of emergency/ accident, call 999/ 995
Police hotline: 63750000
National Parks Board Helpline: 1800-471 7300