We ran out of time to drop by at Palawan Beach because we spent one whole day frolicking on rides and attractions at Universal Studios during our first family visit in Singapore. In my next visit in the country, I was happy that I set foot on one of its finest beaches.
Singapore may lack natural resources but with the government’s brilliant mind they developed and created man-made attractions such as the beaches of Siloso, Palawan and Tanjong which attracted a massive influx of tourists every year. Each has different attractions, tone and charm. Among the three, Siloso Beach is the liveliest as it offers various sports activities and is home to the coolest bars and restaurants. This is the most well-loved by fun-loving people because the beach is alive from day till night.
After an awesome nature getaway on a tiny island called Pulau Ubin, I boarded a bus going to Gardens by the Bay, a nature park spanning 101 hectares in reclaimed area. I will be exploring the amazing Gardens again and for the first time, I will visit the two cooled conservatories, the Cloud Forest and Flower Dome which I bought my tickets through Klook, a Hong Kong-based company that sells travel activities at lower prices.
Chek Jawa Wetlands or Tanjung Chek Jawa is the most popular tourist destination in Pulau Ubin and the highlight of our trip. The 100-hectare cape is located on the eastern tip of the island and is about 3 kilometers away from the public jetty. What makes it unique is that it is home to several ecosystems found in one area-the sandy beach, mangroves, seagrass lagoon, rocky beach, coral rubble and coastal forest. Indeed Chek Jawa Wetlands is unusually rich in biodiversity.
The interesting fact
Check Jawa Wetlands is an intertidal area where the perfect time to visit is during the low tides of 0.5 meters and below for a chance to see their rich ecosystems. To avoid disappointment, do refer to the tide table when planning your visit.
According to Wikipedia, intertidal referred to as the littoral zone that is above water at low tide and under water at high tide, in other words, the area between tide marks.
How to get there
Chek Jawa can be reached by hiring a local van for SG$35 or renting a bike at Kampong Ubin (near the entrance) from S$8.00, S$15.00 or S$25 depending on the style or condition. Just be reminded that it is not allowed on the Boardwalk. Park and lock your bike near the Punai Hut. If you want a dose of adventure, walking is the best for you.
As for me and my new found Pinoy friends whom I met inside the bus-Richel, Mavie and Pinky, we opted to take a walk. We visited Butterfly Hill, Sensory Trail, Pekan Quarry and our last stop is in Puaka Hill. From there we set out to continue walking to Chek Jawa Wetlands.
It was fun walking on the paved road because of the lush greenery and peaceful environment. Who would have thought that a highly urbanized Singapore managed to retain and safeguard the island’s natural heritage? Amazing!
It is Sunday today and I was so happy to see many bikers on the road. There were adults, young and even little kids.
We passed by the Ubin Fruit Orchard along Jalan Ubin. The fruit tree arboretum about one hectare in size planted rambutan, durian and starfruit.
A moment later we passed by a little store and stopped to buy cold refreshments. They were so kind that they allowed us to use their restroom free of charge.
Not all roads leading to Chek Jawa are paved. Few steps from the turnoff, the road was surfaced by gravel where some portions had patches of water. This is the most challenging part for the bikers. The road was one-way and some parts were steep. There is signage to dismount on a downhill part. It’s best to follow the rules to avoid an accident.
Meet-up with the animals
Along the way, we came across dogs, monkeys and wild boars. There were monkeys scattered on the road. It is advised not to provoke these primates because they might attack you. One of the monkeys looked at me straight to the eye and later it followed me humming an unusual voice. Pinky dismissed it by waving her hand then I slowly walked away. The monkey ran away from us.
Wild boars were so tame. A sow and its young were roaming around everywhere. They don’t mind if they were being taken a picture by lots of curious visitors.
In a little while, we reached the entrance to Chek Jawa and headed to Visitor Centre. Information Kiosk, rules and guidelines, concrete benches and a vending machine are found here. This is a nice place to stay after biking or walking.
These are the places to visit in Chek Jawa
House No. 1
This Tudor-style bungalow and the nearby outhouse were built in 1930 by the chief surveyor, London William for a holiday or weekend retreat. The architecture behind and its historical significance to Singapore attracted many tourists to visit the place. Aside from the house, there is the concrete jetty that extends about 100 meters to the sea and towards Pulau Sekudo or Frog Island.
Restoration had taken place and original materials were used to preserve the architecture behind it.
How I wish I have a rest house like this where I could sit near the sea to contemplate on many things or take a quiet walk along the concrete jetty. House No. 1 by the way, is the postal address in Pulau Ubin.
Standing at 21 meter high is a seven-story viewing tower where a panoramic view of the lush canopy of trees can be seen. It was so wonderful to stand a while at the viewing deck while looking at the awesome sight and the birds flying nearby. Only twenty persons could accommodate the viewing tower at a time. Be patient waiting for you turn.
They say the best part to see and enjoy the beauty of Chek Jawa is to take a stroll along the 1.1 km Boardwalk which is divided into Coastal and Mangrove Loops. For venturesome people who want to explore more of Chek Jawa can access both routes. But for us, we chose the latter to minimize time travel because afterward each one of us will visit other places on the mainland.
The time we stepped into the Boardwalk the water had engulfed the entire beach area. We were deprived of seeing the animals like Fiddler Crabs, Pistol Shrimps, and Barnacles. Anyway, we have to move on to enjoy walking on the boardwalk while savoring the beautiful view.
Along the way, there were educational boards telling what plants and animals can be seen in the area. It was flickering hot so we walked fast to avoid the heat. Halfway there was a rest station where we paused for a while to quench our thirst with water to avoid dehydration.
Who manages the island?
On June 4, 2016, National Parks Board was designated as the central managing agency for Pulau Ubin at Ubin Day 2016 by the Guest-of-Honor of the event, Minister Lawrence Wong. They are responsible for the maintenance of most aspects of the island, maintaining its greenery, the recreation for the public, education and research as well as the licenses issued to the community.
It’s good that there is an agency like this who will surely keep the island clean, green and safe for the residents and to the visitors as well.
Coming from an awesome adventure at Chek Jawa Wetlands, we took the Jalan Durian route in getting back to Kampong Village. The trek back was easier and seemed shorter. We made it for about 45 minutes only.
We were all famished when we reached a seafood restaurant Season Live Seafood Restaurant facing the mainland Singapore and the Ubin Jetty. As we browsed on the prices of the food we found out it was a bit pricey. My buddies decided to eat at Hawker Centre at Changi Village.
It’s time now to say goodbye to my new found friends. I thanked them for the unforgettable journey we had in Pulau Ubin. I decided to stay for I haven’t fully enjoyed exploring the island.
I went to the picnic area near the sandy shore and ate my packed lunch. There were several people having a picnic there. I felt I was in the Philippines because of the serenity and tranquility defined in that area. After I had my fill, I breathed deeply of the lovely afternoon air and let the beauty of the island sink into my consciousness. I listened to the silence of the place and to the friendly waves.
I was savoring the gentle wind brushing gently into my face. This is a wonderful quiet moment. I enjoyed watching the bumboats go back and forth to Changi Point as well as the airplanes hovering in the sky.
I went back in time and saw how life was in those days on this Island. This was a rewarding experience for I had gained a deep understanding of Pulau Ubin. The journey to the olden times was beyond compare.
After I regained my energy, I went to Nature Gallery and started reading about the rich history of Pulau Ubin. Then later I went back to Ubin Jetty and bid goodbye to what has been said, the last frontier of Singapore.
My next destination -> Gardens by the Bay, the Flower Dome and Cloud Forest.
You may download the map here.
- If you want to savor the lush greenery of the island, it’s better to take a walk in getting to Chek Jawa Wetlands.
- Singapore is a tropical country, expect it to be hot so wear comfortable clothes, shoes and also bring hats, sunglasses and arm warmer.
- Apply sunblock for there are portions of the roads exposed to sun.
- Apply also mosquito repellant for there are gnats and mosquitoes to some part of the island.
- Water in the public toilet is not potable so it is advised to bring at least two liters to avoid dehydration.
- Biking is safe but be sure to check the bicycle if it’s in proper condition, wear a helmet and follow the road signs. Take it slow during downhill and if possible dismount on the uphill portion to avoid an accident.
- For a solo girl biker, it is advisable to go to the island on weekend for your own safety because there are lots of people on the road during those days.
- Food and drinks are a bit pricey on the island compared to the Hawker Centre in Changi Village.
- It is advised to bring food, snack and water because there is only one store along the way to Chek Jawa and sells beverages only.
- Do not feed the animals nor provoke them.
- Stay calm and walk away slowly when you encounter a wild boar or a monkey.
- Do not use flash photography when you take pictures of the wild boar because this may upset them causing them to be aggressive.
- In case you encounter monkey, put all your things inside your bag because some of them are playful. They hastily grab things which attract their attention like water tumbler, monopod and sometimes even the bag is being taken away.
- For your safety, stay away from the edges of the river, cliffs and granite quarries.
- If walking, stay always on the left so as not to obstruct the others especially the bikers because some of them were in a group.
- Take good care of the facilities so that the others can enjoy using it.
- Do not litter.
- No fishing.
- No smoking.
- There is no wifi signal on the island.
- Appreciate the beauty of the island, the sound, the wildlife, the stillness and its rich biodiversity.
- Leave nothing but memories. Take nothing but pictures.
Chek Jawa Opening Hours: 8.30 am – 6.00 pm
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Just off the northeastern shore of mainland Singapore lies the tiny island called Pulau Ubin. It was pretty amazing how a highly urbanized country retains a rustic getaway where one can reminisce the past and enjoy the charm and simplicity of the olden times. In my third day in the Lion Country, I braved myself visiting Pulau Ubin alone which I considered the most anticipated part of my second visit to Singapore.
I was so grateful to Lyn, my sister in law for telling me about this island which they visited with her family last summer as part of their vacation in the country. I made a Google search about Pulau Ubin and found out that for the nature lover and venturesome people like me, this island will definitely give a unique escape from the grand buildings and glitzy avenues of Singapore.
Pulau Batu Jubin which means granite stone island is the original name of Pulau Ubin but over the time it was shortened to what we now know its name today. This 1,020- hectare island is home to Singapore’s last villages or “kampongs” and is shaped like a boomerang.
About the Past
When John Crawfurd, the Second Resident in Singapore landed on the island in 1824 he declared it a British territory. Major construction projects led to the demand for granite and soon mining operations had started. Other than this, the residents delved into other businesses like prawn farming, rubber tapping and coffee planting.
The mining industry had boomed and it attracted more people to relocate in Pulau Ubin. Schools had been opened, various temples were built and a community service was established.
But in the 1970s the mining industry declined and the granite quarries had closed. Schools were closed, rubber tapping ceased, temples were relocated to the mainland and residents began leaving.
Pulau Ubin today
As of this time, few people are now living on Pulau Ubin. But with its significant history, untouched nature, lush greenery, rich and preserved wildlife, visitors had increased over the years. Singapore had retained its culture and preserved the island from urban development thus making it the country’s last frontier.
The thrill of getting there alone
I was instructed by my brother Choy and Lyn how to go the island. Honestly, it was so easy. This is my first time that I will travel alone by bus. I had a packed lunch, water and crackers to save the day. Before I set out for my adventure, I prayed to God for my safety.
With confidence and faith in God, I boarded Bus 2 (coming from Simei) in getting to Changi Village Bus Terminal which is the terminating point for bus routes in Changi Village. During the trip, I met three fellow Pinoys who will be going to Pulau Ubin too. They haven’t eaten their breakfast yet so they headed to the Hawker Center and I set off for a stroll to Changi Village hoping to see each other on the island.
The amenities found in Changi Village are the hawker center, shops, market, bus terminal, ferry terminal, Sea Sports Club and the Walkway to Changi Beach. There are also the HDB low-rise flats and the Changi Village Hotel. I was aiming to take a quiet walk on Changi Boardwalk and stroll near the Change Beach but I will be running out of time so I have to go now to Changi Point Ferry Terminal.
In getting there:
The only transportation in getting to Pulau Ubin is through a bumboat. Getting down the ferry terminal you will see a right arrow pointing to Pulau Ubin and to the left is Pengerang (Johor, Malaysia). They have a well-organized system of loading passengers so all I have to do is wait for my turn to ride the boat in the waiting area.
It was Sunday and tourists kept coming in. The operator waited for twelve passengers to fill in and later he collected the fare which is S$3.00 per head and per trip. For people who do not want to wait may pay S$36.00 and can leave without waiting but it is for one way only. The boat operates from 5:30 am to 9:00 pm.
Inside the Island
I can’t sustain my excitement as we set off. The water trip lasted for ten minutes only. Stepping into the island was a breeze. Few distances from the port was the welcome signage “Welcome to Pulau Ubin” It was no longer an awkward feeling approaching tourists to take me a picture along with the signage. I started to get used to it when I was also in Hong Kong. I headed inside with a broad smile on my lips. I was so grateful for this stress-free day, to the sunny weather and to those nice people who smiled back at me. It’s time now to explore Pulau Ubin!
I was so excited!
There were a lot of exciting outdoor activities to do inside Pulau Ubin like biking, walking, picnic, kayaking, camping, nature tripping, bird watching, photo shooting, and fishing.
I will be going to Chek Jawa Wetlands so I will be riding a bike in getting there. Sounds exciting right? My brother warned me not to bike solo for my safety. But knowing there were plenty of visitors today and it is so safe to bike in Pulau Ubin even for a girl like me so I will brave this activity.
There were several stores offering bike rental at Kampong Ubin (near the main entrance) with prices depending on the style and condition of the bike. I was surprised when the old rate of S$5.00 was raised to S$25.00 There were the cheaper ones which cost S$15.00 but it is still so pricey for me.
I was told there was the cheapest rate of S$8.00 in the farthest corner of Kampong Ubin. While I was on my way there I was delighted to see again those people I met on the bus. But they told me they will not go on biking and they will not go to Chek Jawa Wetlands because it was located in the eastern end of the island, meaning it is so far to take a walk.
It seemed these three people are nice to be with so I decided to join them. I was so happy to meet Pinky, our tour guide, Rachel and Mavie.
These are the places we visited through foot navigation.
The community had put their efforts to create this area of about a football field in size to conserve and showcase butterflies. More than fifty butterfly-attracting plant species are planted on the landscape. It was so nice seeing butterflies freely fluttering around.
One of the exciting activities on the island is camping and Jelutong Campsite is one of the campsites nearest in Ubin Jetty. Camping overnight is allowed but campers should register at the Police Post and apply for a permit.
The trail was developed to showcase the cultural heritage of Pulau Ubin and engage not only the sense of sight but the other senses as well through the different plants the villages grew. What I enjoyed here is walking around to see numerous interesting ornamental plants, medicinal herbs, fruit trees and other plants that can be seen along the way.
I was mesmerized to see this beautiful and serene lake which was the old granite quarry. This is one of the five quarries in Pulau Ubin but its proximity to the main village and its scenic view attracted tourists to stop and take pictures. As of today, this is a habitat of herons.
Puaka Hill (Bukit Puaka)
They say the best time to visit Puaka Hill, the highest point in Pulau Ubin is nearing sunset to be captivated by the glorious setting of the sun and eventually capture a stunning photo. But since we were on a day tour only we went there and enjoyed looking at the picturesque view of Ubin Quarry, the mainland Singapore, and even Malaysia while standing on the edge. The hike coming from the road is about ten minutes only.
It was midday but the scorching heat of the sun wasn’t disturbing yet because of the lush greenery along the way. It was so serene and peaceful walking on the paved road. There were lots of bikers, young and old.
I thought this is the end of our visit to Pulau Ubin but I was so happy when Pinky suddenly declared, we will proceed to Chek Jawa Wetlands.
The first half of our adventure was definitely one for the books and I cant sustain the thrill and excitement as we set out to our next.
Chek Jawa Wetlands here we come!
- Be ready to get sweat for Singapore is a tropical country.
- Be prepared physically because you will need it as you explore the island.
- It’s best to wear comfortable clothes and shoes, bring sunglasses, hats, sun block and hats.
- Bring spare clothes because you will perspire while doing the desired activities.
- Bring water to avoid dehydration.
- Bring food, snacks to save you from starving.
- If you are planning to go on biking, use backpack for your comfort instead of a sling bag.
- Ask for a lock if you plan to go biking.
- Do not feed animals nor provoke them.
- Do not rush when you walk or bike, take a moment to rest and savor the lush greenery.
- Bring insect repellant.
- And of course, don’t forget your cameras to capture the moment.
- Be a responsible tourist, leave no trace.
How to get there from mainland Singapore:
As I’ve said it is so easy and convenient to go to Pulau Ubin. From mainland Singapore, ride the MRT, alight at Tanah Mera station then take Bus No. 2. You will never get lost because the terminating point is the Changi Village Bus Terminal. Walk your way to Changi Point Ferry Terminal and ride the bumboat.
Boat fare: S$3.00 per trip – with a maximum number of 12 persons per trip
Surcharge for bike: S$2.00 per trip
For special trip, no waiting time – S$36.00
Operating hours: from 5:30 AM to 9:00 AM
Water trip takes about ten minutes only.
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