Pulau Ubin: Singapore's Island That Time Forgot

| © William Cho/Flickr
Prianka Ghosh

Pulau Ubin is a small island located off the coast of Singapore. It is home to one of the last remaining traditional kampongs (village) in Singapore and visitors are drawn to the island because it gives them a chance to experience what the city-state was like before the rapid modernization that has taken place over the last two decades. Besides seeing 300,000 visitors annually, the island is also used for cadet training purposes, which is why it’s important to listen to signs that say ‘no entrance’, as well as an educational tool for local schools. The island was mentioned a few times in redevelopment plans in the late 1990s and early 2000s but due to considerable backlash, the government is now dedicated to preserving the rustic charm of the island and using the wetlands for research into marine flora and fauna.

Colourful flags greet visitors at the Pulau Ubin Jetty

To get to Pulau Ubin, you need to first get to the Changi Point Ferry Terminal (not to be confused with the Changi Ferry Terminal). Taking a taxi from the city centre will cost you about $40, or you can take the MRT to Tanah Merah and a taxi from there will be about 15 minutes and $10. Alternatively, you can take bus 2 or bus 9 from Tanah Merah which will take 45 minutes and cost $2 per person. When leaving Tanah Merah MRT, take exit B to get a bus or taxi. Once you arrive at Changi Point Ferry Terminal, follow the signs to Pulau Ubin that direct you downstairs to a waiting area. There is no schedule for the bumboats that ferry people the 10 minutes across the Strait to Pulau Ubin, they just leave whenever there are 12 passengers ready to go. Pay your $3 fare directly to the ferry operator once you’re onboard. Once you arrive at the island, turn left at the end of the pier to reach Pulau Town where you can rent bikes and buy water.

The best way to get around the island is by bicycle. It’s much too large to see on foot and you’ll miss a lot of the scenery if you charter a van, although they are available! Some tips for cycling include avoiding renting the cheapest bikes because the chain will fall off at the most inopportune moment, and carrying a lot of water as the trail going West from town doesn’t have much shade and it’s best avoided at midday.

There are many exciting things to see all over the island. This map is a useful starting point for planning your trip with information about different locations and the difficulty of the cycling trails. There are five former granite mines, which are now picturesque lakes and home to many types of birds and fish. Also, the island is home to many shrines worth seeing, the most famous one is the German girl shrine dedicated to a young woman who likely fell to her death at the outset of World War 1 when the United Kingdom declared war on Germany, causing the colonial government of Singapore to seize German assets including a plantation owned by German family on Pulau Ubin.

Balai Quarry

Nature lovers should head East to the Chek Jawa Wetlands where visitors can expect to see snakes, monkeys and even wild boars, as well as all kinds of aquatic plants and animals. The visitor centre alone is worth the visit, known as House number 1, it is one of the only Tudor style homes with a working fireplace in Singapore. For a close-up view, go when the tides are low and for a bird’s eye view, climb the seven stories of the Jejawi Tower and enjoy standing over the jungle canopy.

For more information about guided tours and the island in general, visit the Singapore National Parks website.

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