Just 15 minutes from Singapore’s mainland, nature lovers can discover a verdant paradise on Pulau Ubin, a 1020-hectare island teeming with wildlife, history and adventure. Day-trippers can leave behind the bustling city streets and towering skyscrapers for bike paths, boardwalks and biodiverse habitats. They can traverse ecosystems, come across Singapore’s last authentic rural village and stand in awe in front of the multitude of phenomenal vistas.
We’ve got three very good reasons why you should visit Pulau Ubin plus two of the best ways you can get out and about on the island and make the most of your day-trip adventure.
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Experience the natural environment
The eastern corner of Pulau Ubin is home to one of Singapore’s richest ecosystems—the Chek Jawa Wetlands. Six habitats can be found side by side, from sandy to rocky beaches, a seagrass lagoon to mangroves and coral rubble to a coastal forest. Visitors can traverse this natural wonderland via the 1.1-kilometre boardwalk as well as other trails.
But the island’s natural wonders don’t stop there. Island hoppers can make their way to Butterfly Hill (home to 140 species of butterflies including the previously-thought-extinct Dwarf Crow), check out the Ubin Fruit Orchid and make their way through the Sensory Trail ponds—one of the island’s highlights.
Although they’re no longer in use, the former quarries on Pulau Ubin (of which Pekan Quarry is the most known) have been transformed into biodiverse habitats featuring freshwater wetlands. They make for stunning scenic viewpoints and the perfect spot to stop for a moment, breathe in the clean air and take a snapshot of your day out in nature.
Where there is nature, there is wildlife. And Pulau Ubin is brimming with animal life. It does help to have a guide on hand to help spot the wild boars, Asian water monitors, fiddler crabs, red junglefowls and mudskippers from the trails in the Chek Jawa Wetlands. However, you can do it on your own and experience the real thrill of seeing wildlife without the help of anyone else.
Pulau Ubin is also home to monkeys as well as birds like various kinds of Herons, the Collared Kingfisher and Straw-headed Bulbul, which are best seen from atop the seven-storey high (21m) Jejawi Tower overlooking the tree canopy or at Pekan Quarry. Watch them nest and see them fly through the air.
Tour through history
Pulau Ubin was formerly known as the Granite Stone Island and its quarries provided the stone used in public housing as well as the construction of the Causeway, Istana and the Raffles Lighthouse among other structures in Singapore. The golden age of granite mining was in the 1800s and peaked in the 1930s.
During this time and up until the 1960s, a sizable workforce was formed made up of Kheks (Chinese dialect group) and Malay families who also provided labour for commercial crop production and lived in traditional Kampongs. Numbers have dwindled since then, but approximately 35-40 villagers remain living on Pulau Ubin in wooden kampong houses (some a century old) without running water or state-provided electricity.
Visitors to Pulau Ubin can revel in the 1960s charm, meander down winding forest paths for a truly off-the-beaten-track experience and visit a number of historical sites as well, including an old Wayang (“Chinese Opera”) stage, a Chinese temple built in 1969 and the German Girl Shrine dedicated to an anonymous German girl who fell to her death in the early 1900s.
Go on a cycling adventure
There’s a lot to explore on Pulau Ubin, which is why the best way to get around is by bike and with someone who knows the ins and outs of the island trails. That way you’ll be sure to find all the best, secret spots and the must-see sights when you visit. Besides, letting someone lead you on a leisurely cruise by bike down island roads and on trails is a wonderful way to decompress from city life.
The crew at Adventures by Asian Detours are some of the most knowledgeable people on Pulau Ubin and their tours can be customised to suit your mood and interests because their experience and their professionalism help them cater to what the group wants. The four-hour bike ride with a tour guide will take you through as many or as few of Pulau Ubin’s trails as you like.
From leisurely sightseeing to trying your hand at more challenging bike trails, they’ve got you covered. The tour guides will do everything possible to help you leave with an appreciation of this small parcel of paradise, including taking you past rural sights and the site of Singapore’s last remaining kampong where you might just be able to interact with the friendly local villagers who still call Pulau Ubin home.
The Ubin Bike Trail tours depart daily from the Asian Detours HQ at 9:30am and 1:30pm and include bicycle and helmet, English-speaking Adventure Leader, water refills and personal accident insurance coverage. A minimum of two people is required for each booking.
How to get to Pulau Ubin
A day out on Pulau Ubin is unlike any other adventure in Singapore and it’s one that’s worth revisiting time and time again. To get there, head to the Changi Point Ferry Terminal and catch a bumboat which will take you to the Pulau Ubin jetty. It costs just S$3.
Not a bad price for a day out in nature, seeing wildlife and discovering the history of the island. Although, you might want to hit up that bike tour first in order to know all the ins and outs and secret spots.
Whatever you do, don’t forget your camera.