Singapore, the Southeast Asian city-state, is known for its abundance of many urban charms such as glitzy malls, luxurious hotels and top-notch restaurants. However, located a stone’s throw away from mainland Singapore is Pulau Ubin, a rural, leafy enclave that offers a glimpse of yesteryear Singapore. Pulau Ubin is a place where time seems to have stood still, for it is remains untouched rampant urbanization.
Pulau Ubin comes under the purview of the Singapore National Parks Board, an organization that strictly controls visitor numbers to the island in an effort to preserve its fragile ecosystem.
The island’s name translates, as ‘Granite Island’ for it hosts many abandoned granite quarries, but there is also a legend associated with this moniker. The legend states that the island’s name came about centuries ago, at a time when three animals a frog, a pig and an elephant from Singapore challenged each other to a sprint to the shores of the neighboring state of Johor. The animals decreed that whoever didn’t finish the race would turn into stone. Unfortunately, all three animals had difficulties and were unable to complete the course. The elephant and pig transformed into stone boulders, which combined to form Pulau Ubin, while the stone form of the frog laid the foundation for neighboring island Pulau Sekudu or Frog Island.
Location and getting to Pulau Ubin
Pulau Ubin is located to the northeast of Singapore and is accessible via a ten-minute bumboat (a small boat) ride from Changi Point Ferry Terminal. However, it is worth noting that the bumboats do not depart until they have a full capacity load of 12 passengers. If you rather not wait for the bumboat to fill up, you maybe compelled to hire a bumboat for your visit.
Getting around Pulau Ubin
The best way to explore this verdant isle is on foot or astride a bike. The island hosts many bike rental stores within proximity of its jetty. As you peddle or walk along the island’s rustic trails, you will be transported to 1960’s Singapore as you traverse lush rubber, jasmine and coconut plantations, quaint wooden homes, small convenience stores and hawker stalls, secluded sandy beaches and thriving mangrove swamps.
In addition to bikes, the island is also equipped with van-hire services. The vans, which ply on Pulau Ubin can accommodate a dozen passengers. Most of the van drivers are well acquainted with the island and double as tour guides pointing out particular spots and destinations for their passengers.
Pulau Ubin is renowned for its intertidal flat Chek Jawa that hosts a variety of delicate ecosystems. Several rare marine plants and animals inhabit these ecosystems, which never fail to evoke fascination and wonder when observed. The mangroves of Chek Jawa host several wondrous plants and animals like nipah palms, sand dollars, sea hares, sea cucumbers, fiddler, elbow and hermit crabs, mudskippers, tube worms, nudi branches, and more. These creatures are usually exposed during low tide and completely submerged when the tide comes in. Live corals, red sea anemones and a variety of migratory seabirds can also be spotted on the sand bars and lagoons that dot Chek Jawa.
Overlooking Chek Jawa is a verdant hill, which also hosts several species of rarely seen plants and animals. Visitors who avail of the island’s guided tours and nature walks can expect to spot creatures such as mouse deer, jungle fowls, hornbills and even native boars. The National Parks information booth located near the jetty offers information and arranges for these tours and nature walks.
Chek Jawa Boardwalk
The Chek Jawa Boardwalk was built in 2007. Located on the boardwalk, are a visitor’s center, a viewing pier and a tall 20-meter tower, the Jejawi Tower. This tower affords stunning vistas of the lush surroundings. The Boardwalk and its allied facilities are open for visits from 8am to 6pm.
The gorgeous island, Pulau Ubin, hosts some stunning, tranquil beachfronts like Mamam Beach and Noordin Beach. Both these beaches offer picnic facilities though camping is permitted on Jelutong near the main town. Visitors do need permits for camping on the beaches of Pulau Ubin though you need to register at the Ubin National Park’s information booth at the Ubin Jetty.