Home to Singapore’s last village as well as the Chek Jawa Wetlands, Pulau Ubin exudes a rustic charm with its gravel roads, lush forests and abundant wildlife. Check out what to do on this gem of an island that is easily accessible via just a 10-minute bumboat ride from Changi Point Ferry Terminal, and get ready to be transported back in time to Singapore in the 1960s!
TOP 1 Rent a bike
The majority of attractions and landmarks on Pulau Ubin are linked by paved roads and gravel roads, and they are often not too far apart on the 10.2 km2 island. This makes bicycle the best mode of transport to go around the island due to the ease of mobility and convenience in parking. Once you reach the jetty at Pulau Ubin, you will be greeted by bicycle rental shops. Select the bicycle who will be your companion for the day, and hop on to start exploring the island! Cycle along the beautiful coastlines and take in the fresh air and sea breeze.
TOP 2 Visit the Chek Jawa Wetlands
The Chek Jawa Wetlands is undoubtedly the star of Pulau Ubin, and a heaven for nature lovers. With carefully preserved natural habitats, it is home to a rich ecosystem of flora and fauna, the likes of which is hard to find elsewhere in urbanised Singapore. Take a stroll along the 1.1km boardwalk that spans the mangroves during low tide, and you will be able to see coral reefs and other marine wildlife such as sea hares, sea squirts, octopuses, starfish, sand dollars, sponges and cuttlefish. Many birds have also made their homes here, so keep your eyes peeled for birds like hornbills, collared kingfisher and straw-headed bulbul. While you’re here, don’t forget to climb the Jejawi Tower too. The 20m tall observation tower will give you a spectacular view of the wetlands, the forest canopy and the nearby waters and islands.
You can also book a guided tour in advance where you can experience the natural wonders of Chek Jawa with the help of nature guides.
TOP 3 Discover Singapore’s past
A trip to Pulau Ubin is not complete without taking a closer look at the kampong (village). Wooden houses with Chinese scrolls hanging on the walls and incense burning on the altars, separated by unpaved footpaths with grass on both sides. Clothes hanging out on the clothes lines behind the houses, the elderly residents reading newspaper in the living room and sweeping the floor, while plants such as bougainvillea and other potted plants adorn the pavements and cats and dogs roam freely. This is where you can get a taste of life in 1960s Singapore. One of the well-conserved kampong houses is House 363B which was owned by Mr Chew Teck Seng, now known as Teck Seng’s Place. It was the residence of the Chew family from 1970 to 2005, who farmed vegetables and poultry and opened a provision shop. Upon refurbishment, the house is now open to the public on the 2nd and 4th weekend of the month and public holidays, from 10am to 2pm.
Cultural buffs would not want to miss the heritage guided tours organised by NParks, such as the Kampong Tour and Rustic Reflection Tour. These tours will cover the heritage sites on Pulau Ubin such as Teck Seng’s Place, Kampong House, Old Bin Kiang School site and Toa Pek Kong Temple, perfect for those who want to know more about the history of Pulau Ubin.
TOP 4 Visit the Quarries
Pulau Ubin was once the site of a thriving granite-mining industry where thousands of workers (mostly Chinese) lived and worked. The granite mined from Pulau Ubin played significant roles in the construction of early public housing and roads, and even structures such as the causeway, Istana and lighthouses. However, the last quarry was shut down in 1999 and the quarries were abandoned and turned into pools as they accumulate rainwater. Since then, the quarries have been transformed into scenic viewpoints and natural habitats for animals, with initiatives such as the installation of floating wetlands to attract wildlife. There are 5 quarries on Pulau Ubin today – Pekan Quarry, Ubin Quarry, Balai Quarry, Kekek Quarry and Ketam Quarry. The look-out point at Pekan Quarry has proved to be a hit with visitors as it allows them to catch a scenic view of the quarry and take that coveted photo.
TOP 5 Hiking
The forests and hills of Pulau Ubin can’t be explored using bikes, so put up those hiking shoes to conquer those rough terrains. Make your way up Puaka Hill, Pulau Ubin’s highest peak. The trail can be steep and rocky at certain points, but it is only a 74 metres hike and you will be rewarded with gorgeous views of a quarry surrounded by lush forests. If the weather is clear, you might even catch a glimpse of the skyscrapers in the central business district of Singapore!
TOP 6 Take Instagram-worthy photo @ House No. 1
This beautiful Tudor-style house was built by then Chief Surveyor Langdon Williams in the 1930s as a holiday house. Today, it has been refurbished and restored and serves as the Chek Jawa Visitor Centre. Take in the beautiful and unique architecture of the house adapted for tropical living, and look out for the working chimney. The fireplace and the original water tower was preserved as bats have taken residence there. The servants’ quarters have been transformed into restrooms. The jetty in front of the house was also rebuilt, so visitors can enjoy a scenic walk with great views of the neighbouring Pulau Sekudu and mainland Singapore.
TOP 7 Kayaking
Besides cycling and hiking, kayaking is another way to discover the gems of Pulau Ubin. Join an expedition and hit the waters on a kayak! Take your pick from the kayaking routes organised by Adventures by Asian Detours. Mangrove kayaking is ideal for beginners, and it’ll bring you through the mangroves where you can spot wildlife such as monitor lizards and mudskippers. The Ubin Bisect kayaking will take you on a 8.27km trail from the North to the South of Pulau Ubin, giving you a one-of-a-kind experience that you will not get elsewhere. Those who want an even more challenging trail can opt for the Round Ketam kayaking where you’ll be paddling around Pulau Ketam out in the open seas, a sure chance to flex your muscles and brush up on paddling techniques.
TOP 8 Camping
If you can’t bear to leave the rustic charms and tranquility of the island, setting up camp on the island is the next best option. There are 3 campsites on Pulau Ubin, namely Jelutong, Mamam and Endut Senin Campsites where you can spend the night by the beach. Camping permit is not required, but if you are going in a group of more than 40 pax, camping approval needs to be sought from NParks 2 weeks in advance.
TOP 9 Explore Temples and Shrines
As you go around Pulau Ubin, you will likely spot some temples and shrines. The Fo Shan Ting Da Bo Gong temple near Pekan Quarry and its accompanying stage is where festivities and celebrations were held, such as Chinese New Year, Hungry Ghost Festival and Mid-Autumn Festival. The Wei Tuo Fa Gong temple at Jelutong is an 80-year-old temple decorated with thousands of prayer flags which houses a number of shrines from various gods and religions such as the large golden Buddha and Hindu statues. Finally, the German Girl Shrine s dedicated to an 18-year-old German girl who reportedly fell to her death from a cliff while escaping from British soldiers during World War I.
TOP 10 Eat at Cheong Lian Yuen Coffee Shop
Round up your trip with a sumptuous Chinese meal at local restaurants such as Cheong Lian Yuen which offers affordable food and beer. Located just a stone’s throw away from the jetty, you can feast on fresh seafood such as pepper crab, prawns and other mouthwatering dishes such as salted fish fried rice and fried chicken before you head back to mainland Singapore!
Credits: onceinalifetimejourney, culturetrip, thehoneycombers, timeout, eventbrite
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