This little island (10 sq km) sandwiched between Singapore and Johor is a rustic reminder of how time stood still here while the rest of Singapore has progressed into the 21st century. The name Pulau Ubin means Granite Island in Malay, and true enough, there are a lot of abandoned granite quarries on the island. There used to be a few thousand villagers living on the island, but nowadays, there are only about a hundred or less, as most of the villagers have settled on Singapore island instead.
Easily accessible by small bumboats from Changi Point, you can visit the island in about half a day to a full day. The fare to get across to Pulau Ubin is $2.50/person one way. You can bring your bicycle along and the charge is an additional $2.
Each bumboat can carry up to 12 passengers and the captain will wait until there are 12 passengers before he departs.
What’s there to do at Pulau Ubin? It’s more of a nature retreat kind of place. The main town is near the jetty and you have the bicycle rental shops, restaurants, police post, volunteer guide center and several other amenities. As I went on a weekday, I found out that the restaurants don’t open. They probably cater only for the weekend and holiday crowds.
I decided to hike instead of renting a bicycle so that I could enjoy the sights along the road. Most of the tourists rented bicycles, although some others were hiking as well. There are several mini-vans and decommissioned taxis that operate on the island. If you prefer to be driven around in aircon comfort, you can hire these.
My plan was to hike to Chek Jawa and back. It should take 3 hours or less. Chek Jawa is a conservation inter-tidal zone and coral reef that has been receiving good reviews over the years since it was designated as a protected habitat, and is located on the eastern end of Pulau Ubin. It took me about and hour and a half to make a slow leisurely hike to Chek Jawa.
Ok, so I missed out on Chek Jawa’s wildlife. It was time to go back to the jetty. Back at the entrance, I encountered a pack of wild boars…
Besides the wild boars, the other wild life on the island include monkeys, birds, monitor lizards, and crocodiles. Many years back, an elephant had also swam across from Johor. Some of the other sights on the island that you can see are abandoned quarries and fish/prawn ponds.
A visit to Pulau Ubin should take you 6 hours or less unless you plan to do some extended sight seeing. There are campsites and a couple of resorts on the island if you plan to stay overnight. The bumboats don’t operate at night, so plan your visit well if you don’t want to get stranded on the island at night.
For visiting Chek Jawa, it’s best to check the low tide timings before you go and be disappointed like me.
For clothing, wear light cotton clothes since it will be hot and humid. Pack rain gear in case of thunderstorms. and mosquito repellant is very important.
If you are going on a weekday, remember to bring your own food and water since the restaurants on the island don’t seem to open on those days. Don’t leave your food unattended or the wild boars will have a feast.
The western half of the island is taken by the Outward Bound School and there are more quarries and a mountain biking trail.