A complete contrast to the main island of Singapore, Pulau Ubin (Ubin Island) brings a rustic 1960s feel to a group of islands that were once a cluster of five, separated by tidal rivers. With the building of bunds for prawn farming, all five islands have thus united into a 1020 hectare getaway for those seeking a day trip of adventure.
Located just off the north-eastern corner of mainland Singapore, Pulau Ubin is a 15 minute bumboat ride away. The ride across is truly scenic with fishing boats and huge container ships in the distance. As you reach the island, its soon dawns on you as to how charmingly simple everything is. There are no modern buildings with mostly everything built from cement and wood.
As home to one of Singapore’s last villages, Pulau Ubin allows you to experience nature and its simple folk either on foot or on a bicycle. With approximately a hundred villagers living on the island, Ubin residents rely on wells for water and noisy diesel generators for electricity. The main village located near the jetty has catered to a quiet tourist trade with a few houses converted into bicycle rental shops, restaurants and grocery stores.
Grabbing a simple bite on the island isn’t too costly with a scrumptious fried noodle coasting about $3 and a traditional Chinese coffee with a special two layer concept costing about $1. A must try is a lovely provincial restaurant called Sim Lam Huat. Managed by two sisters, their dishes are rich in flavour capturing the authentic taste of Singaporean Chinese cuisine.
One of the best parts of a visit to Pulau Ubin is the trek along the Sensory Trail. Launched on 15 April 2000 by The Honourable Steven Green, American Ambassador to Singapore, the trail takes you through a rich informational guide of the island’s plants, trees and birds.
You can choose to do the trail without a Park Guide, however the advantage a having a Park Guide along is the intricate details of vegetation that is provided. Avid nature enthusiast, would find a guided trek through the Sensory Trail very educational.
Some of the plants/trees that travellers come across are Betel Nut Palm, Torch Ginger, Lipstick Tree, Jackfruit to name a few. The initial trek takes you through many herbs used for medicinal purposes like the Creat Acanthaceae, Elephant’s Foot, Jewel of Opar, Madagascar Periwinkle, White Mugwort, Citronella and Neem.
The trek through the whole trail brings you to mangroves where you may find visitors fishing. The Oriental pied Hornbill, an endangered species has made the island its home, and if you’re lucky you’ll get to catch it in flight. Experiencing nature through your senses on the Sensory Trail takes approximately 2 hours.
Its an excellent introduction to the natural character of the island as you touch, see, smell or even taste fruit trees, spices and herbs. The extremely pleasant and informative Conservation Officer, Jacky Soh states that further in the island is Chek Jawa, an intertidal wetlands, with its various eco-systems unveiled at low tides of 0.5 metres and below.
Getting There: Take the MRT to Bedok Station and head towards the direction of the Bus Interchange and continue your journey on Bus No.2 (bus stop located on main road) that heads to Changi Village as its last stop. Once there, The Changi Point Ferry Terminal is a short 3 minute walk away. The bumboat ride cost $2.50 per person each way, with the bumboat only leaving the terminal once it has acquired 12 passengers. Travellers who don’t want to wait, can opt to pay the difference and take the bumboat over immediately.
What to bring: It is crucial to bring plenty of water, an umbrella or raincoat, mosquito repellent spray and wear comfortable footwear.
Sensory Trail Cost: Each tour cost $60 (maximum 15 persons per group). For more details visit Information on Guided Tours on Pulau Ubin.
Update 2015: This tour may no longer exist.