A lovely day retreat where you can experience a side of Singapore that has otherwise been forgotten, Pulau Ubin is often referred to as Singapore’s last remaining kampung (village). A rural and rustic island where the pace of life is slow and here you’ll feel like you’ve taken a magical step back in time to the Singapore of the 1960s, Pulau Ubin offers something for everyone. From encounters with nature and admiring gorgeous views, to seeing traditional homes and soaking up the island’s heritage and culture, don’t miss visiting Pulau Ubin when in Singapore!
Legend of Pulau Ubin
Local tales say that an elephant, a pig, and a frog challenged each other to swim from Singapore’s main island across the strait to Johor. Any creature that failed would be turned to stone. None of the animals were able to complete the swim. Pulau Ubin as the result of the elephant and pig becoming stone, and nearby Pulau Seduku (Frog Island) was once the competitive frog.
Nature and Wildlife on Pulau Ubin
The rich and diverse flora and fauna on Pulau Ubin makes the island a popular spot for day-tripping nature-lovers. Chek Java Wetlands are one of the main attractions, with a boardwalk from where you can peer down into the waters to see the aquatic wildlife that lives in the ancient coral reef. If feathered creatures are more your thing, climb up the Jejawi Tower armed with a pair of binoculars. Look out for rare and threatened species of bird. The viewing point also provides great vistas of the wetlands and the Johor River. Explore the mangroves by kayak and you’ll uncover a fascinating area of biodiversity.
The sanctuary at Butterfly Hill lets you see around 140 different varieties of beautiful butterfly, and the easy Sensory Trail leads you past an array of local plants, herbs, and trees. The aromatic spice garden is often popular for a quick stop.
The island as formerly used for granite mining and you can visit an old abandoned quarry, now filled with water. The resulting lake is not only beautiful to see, with the green waters reflecting the sun’s rays, but the area is also home to diverse bird, insect, and rodent species. Take some time to wander the walking trails to fully enjoy the calm atmosphere. You can also hike the rugged trail up Puaka Hill for delightful views of the old quarry.
Culture and Local Life on Pulau Ubin
See the traditional wooden homes that still house today’s residents of Pulau Ubin and you’ll appreciate how life has changed very little on the island over the years. It’s definitely a different world to the skyscrapers, businesses, and shopping malls of the downtown core! Generators provide electricity to the rustic homes, and fresh water is obtained from wells.
For a greater understanding of island life, be sure to visit House Number 1. Serving as a visitor centre for the island, the restored home was originally built in the 1930s. Several original features remain in the Tudor-style dwelling, including the fireplace and chimney. Another fascinating former home is House 363B, which shows visitors what a typical and traditional Chinese village home looked like inside. Period furnishings and utensils add to the experience.
There are many prawn farms on Pulau Ubin, and you’ll likely notice local fishermen at sea in their small boats. Plenty of seafood is available for you to sample the local catch, and you’ll find an assortment of local village dishes to really get your taste buds tingling.
Another place of interest on the island is the so-called German Girl Shrine, a memorial to the ill-fated daughter of a past plantation owner.
Getting around the Island
Walking or cycling around the 10.2-square-kilometre island is the best way to fully soak up the unique atmosphere and enjoy the varied sights. It is easy to rent bikes on the island. Whether you want a leisurely cycle or a day of thrilling mountain biking, Pulau Ubin is a haven for biking enthusiasts. There is also Ketam Mountain Bike Park if you want even more fun on two wheels.
Getting to the Island
Ferries connect the main island of Singapore with Pulau Ubin, leaving throughout the day from Changi Point Ferry Terminal. The journey takes around quarter of an hour and tickets cost just around 3 SGD. Do note, however, that boats don’t run to a schedule; they wait for a minimum number of passengers. If you are eager to get going, it is possible to pay for the extra places yourself and leave before the boat is full.
Add a visit to Pulau Ubin to your Singapore travel list and experience the idyllic island life from times gone by.