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Original photo by Siti Ayeeshah Zaki
Life

A Day On Pulau Ubin

Home to one of Singapore’s last kampongs, an intertidal beach, and many other beautiful views, Pulau Ubin is an underrated jewel waiting to be fully appreciated. Despite its size of only about 10sqm, the island is jam-packed with beautiful sights and activities.

Only fifteen minutes away from Changi Point Ferry Terminal by bumboat, Pulau Ubin is a must-visit this summer holiday! 

Things to Bring

Luckily, Pulau Ubin has pretty much everything you need: food, drinks and even means of transport around the island. So you’re not going to need much. 

All you need are:

  1. Water bottle 

  2. Cash 

  3. Mosquito Repellent

  4. A hat

  5. Sunscreen  

  6. Your phone and a power bank

What to Wear

Pulau Ubin can get pretty warm, especially if you’re planning to cycle around the island. It might be best for you to wear sports or hiking attire so that you can move around with ease. My go-to is a pair of trek pants or sports tights along with a long-sleeved cotton or dri-fit t-shirt to keep the mosquitoes away. Don’t forget to put on sneakers as well! 

How to Get There 

To get to Pulau Ubin, you have to take a bumboat ride from Changi Point Ferry Terminal. Make sure to have cash ready on hand, because you’ll be paying for these rides via cash straight to your boat captain. The ride costs $4 per person for a one way trip to or from the island. 

Itinerary

9am: Ride to the island

Call me insane but I actually like to head to the island way earlier at 6.30am, so that I get to catch the sunrise on the bumboat or on the island. For those early birds like me, this could be an option.

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However, if you’re one of the sane ones, 9am works perfectly fine! This is especially since boats only set off once there are 9 to 12 people available for the ride. If you arrive at a later time, there might be more people around so you need not have to wait too long for a boat ride to the island. 

9.30am: Encik Hassan’s Cafe

Once you arrive on the island, grab a bite before setting off on your adventure. Right next to the jetty is Encik Hassan’s Cafe which sells the most delicious Malay dishes, no exaggeration. I’ve had the best Mee Rebus at this cafe. It’s a must-try.

10.30am: Ubin! Rent a bike

A short walk from the cafe and you’ll find a few bike rental shops. Given that you can ride a bike to almost anywhere on Ubin, a bicycle would be the best way to get around. Renting a bike can cost between $2-$10 a day depending on the bicycle you rent. They have all sorts of bikes. So choose wisely! My go-to is the road bike because I like to cycle on gravel, but if you’re looking for a calm ride, try the double-seated bikes. Remember to bring cash for this as well. 

11am: Explore Chek Jawa

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Chek Jawa is a must visit on Pulau Ubin. A miracle of an area, it houses 6 different habitats: a Coastal Hill Forest, Mangroves, a Rocky Shore, a Sandy Shore, a Seagrass Lagoon and a Coral Rubble Area. The convergence point for these 6 different habitats is in such a small area, making Chek Jawa unique and special. Nowhere else in Singapore can you find such a dense diversity of flora and fauna. 

If you’ve chosen to cycle, Chek Jawa is only a fifteen to twenty minute cycle from the jetty! Be careful cycling in though, there are steep slopes and uncemented paths. Alternatively, you could take a taxi from the jetty. Prices vary depending on location and amount of people per van, so do check with the taxi uncles lounging at the taxi stand near the jetty. And don’t worry, the ride is pretty cheap. Last I went, it only cost $4 per person. 

With so much to see, Chek Jawa is definitely a must-visit. You could head up Jejawi Tower amongst the mangroves for a bird’s-eye view of the area, or head down to the boardwalk to watch fiddler crabs and mudskippers basking in the sun. If you’re lucky, you may even catch sight of some sea anemones, knobbly sea stars, and even octopi. 

For even more beautiful views, you should visit House No.1, which was built in the 1930s as a holiday retreat for the Chief Surveyor of Singapore. Filled with history, it now serves as Chek Jawa’s Visitor Centre and is home to one of the most beautiful views on the island.

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As Chek Jawa is an intertidal area, do remember to search up the tides before heading there. It’s best to go at low tide so that you get to see all sorts of intertidal creatures on your trip. You may also wish to sign up for NPark’s guided tours for Chek Jawa.

12pm-12.30pm: Balai Quarry

Did you know that Pulau Ubin means ‘Granite Island’ in Malay? Pulau Ubin was once used to mine the granite that was used in the construction of the Causeway, the Istana and even early public housing. Since the quarries that were once used to mine this granite are no longer in use, they have been turned into beautiful views and habitats for biodiversity. There are six quarries on the island: Balai Quarry, Kekek Quarry, Ketam Quarry, Pekan Quarry, Petai Quarry and Ubin Quarry. If you’ve visited Chek Jawa, you won’t miss Balai Quarry! It is along the road to exit Chek Jawa and is definitely a sight for sore eyes.

12.30pm-1pm: Sensory Trail

Once you hit the main road on the way back from Chek Jawa, you might find a little clearing with a sign that says ‘Sensory Trail.’ If you’re on your bike, turn in here to take a look at Ubin’s garden and plantations!

1pm-2pm: Pekan Quarry and Butterfly Hill 

Following the Sensory Trail or heading down the main road from Chek Jawa, you’ll find yourself at the main jetty once again. If you still want to explore, head down to Butterfly Hill.

Butterfly Hill is an area about the size of a football field filled with over 50 butterfly-attracting plants. It was made specially to conserve and showcase butterflies. Today, it attracts over 140 species of butterflies. 

And if you enjoyed Balai Quarry, you’ll want to stop by Pekan Quarry, which is near Butterfly Hill.

2pm-3pm: Head back to the jetty for some coconut drinks and ice cream

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When all is done, head back to the jetty and have your pick of drinks and snacks from the many shops. Ideally, I like to sit down and have some coconut juice and ice cream, cooling off before heading home.

Not mentioned: Possible Must-Tries 

There are way too many things to do on Ubin. I’ve gone to Ubin countless times but I still don’t believe I’m done! Here are other activities of interest on Ubin:

1. For the active: Biking Trails and Kayaking expeditions

Pulau Ubin is home to Ketam Mountain Bike Park, the first bike park in Singapore that meets international standards for mountain biking competitions. With 3 different biking trails that cater to all sorts of cycling difficulties (from leisure to international), cycling enthusiasts feel right at home on the biking trails at Ubin. What’s especially interesting about these biking trails is that it has been relandscaped with over 2,000 native shrubs and trees which serve as habitats for wildlife biodiversity such as birds, butterflies and dragonflies. If you’re more into water sports, you could consider kayaking expeditions with kayaking guides such as Adventures by Asian Detours! They provide all sorts of kayaking packages such as Mangrove Kayaking or Round Ketam Kayaking. They also provide services for Ubin’s Bike Trails.

2. For the adventurous: Ubin’s Shrines and Abandoned Kampongs  

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Pulau Ubin is filled with more mystery than you think: it has several shrines and abandoned kampongs that are not for the weak of heart. Of particular interest to thrill-seekers may be the story of the German Girl shrine. Legend has it, she fell off a cliff while running away from the British military. If you do choose to visit these sites, do remember to be respectful of sacred places, and be wary of snakes in the abandoned kampongs! It may even be best to look from far if you do choose to look out for abandoned kampongs. The first and last time I went I wasn’t too careful, and only just luckily came out unscathed without incident.

3. For the friendly: Meet the people and learn Ubin’s history

With a population of 130 people as of 2019, Pulau Ubin hosts one of the last few kampongs in Singapore history. Cycle around the island to catch glimpses of Singapore’s past. You may also want to learn more about Ubin’s people by visiting Wan Ubin’s Instagram or drop by House 363B to learn more about life on Pulau Ubin. House 363B is only a short walk away from the entrance to the sensory trail. Be sure to look out for it

4. For aspiring volunteers: Volunteer with NParks  

If you’d like to be part of building Pulau Ubin, you could volunteer with NParks. Opportunities include becoming a nature guide, habitat restorer, wildlife researcher, photographer and so much more! As someone who offers her time to this whenever she can, I’d highly recommend this. It’s an incredibly enriching experience.

Unfortunately, Pulau Ubin cannot be explored in one day. There are way too many things for you to do and see. Frankly, I haven’t managed to put in all that you could do here. Even as an avid Ubin-adventurer, I find new things to do, see and appreciate each visit. Filled with so much history and biodiversity, it’s no wonder Ubin is such a popular site for tourists and visitors.

 

Siti Ayeeshah Zaki

Nanyang Tech '21

Ayeeshah is an undergraduate at NTU. She enjoys writing, exploring, and learning new things. Check out her website and Instagram below! ✨
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