Pulau Ubin: Nature Unspoilt

Off the coast of mainland Singapore lies the tiny island of Pulau Ubin. This haven for tourists and locals alike allows them to escape the urban sprawl of the mainland, and turn back in time, in a place which has been largely unchanged since days of yore.

The island is mainly famous for its unspoiled and un-urbanized locale. It can be reached by ferry, which can cost $2.50 and takes around 20 minutes from the Changi Ferry Terminal. Once there, the island can be traversed either by foot, or bicycle, which can be hired at a range of prices. There are other local shops and hawker centers around the area of the harbor, which offer the tasty local fare.

The main attraction is seeing the sights while trekking or cycling itself. The island is populated by granite quarries, and many of them have been abandoned. A particular quarry has rainwater that has been collecting in it for years, which makes it a truly beautiful sight to behold. The incandescent, glowing blue water, along with the mangroves clutching the soil, lined with lush, green treetops truly make it a scenic sight. There are many viewing towers as well, which give a panoramic view of the area, and with the wind blowing through your hair, it provides a refreshing break after a tiring exercise.

There are a variety of makeshift cycling tracks. Some of them can be a very tiring ordeal as they are steep, but suddenly break downwards, making it quite dangerous for the inexperienced rider. It does provide for a very good experience, as there are many other scenic locations dotted around the area to stop by. There is an actual lake with azure waters (unlike the one created by the quarry), two board walks, and even a small museum. The boardwalks provide a very unique view of the sea, as well as the mangroves which incline around the coast, and offer many other views not seen elsewhere.

Untouched by developmental activities, the island is also famous for its flora and fauna,. The forested areas house a wide variety of animals; wild boars being the most common of them all. Sea life is also bountiful, and although it cannot be viewed without special permission, similar species live in the mangrove swamps. It is very interesting to know, and for amateur scientists and zoologists the museum-like area can provide a reference point for most of the sea creatures indigenous to the local waters.

Although there are guided treks, exploring the area independently is the best manner of enjoying the island fully. Camping is very popular, especially in groups (which is applicable even to a day trip to the island).  Organized trekking trips are also available, which can help cover the whole of the island, but does not offer as much freedom.

The “Kampong” culture (old-style Singaporean, before industrialization) is still evident and the locals are resistant towards change. This can also be seen in their hawker centers, which offer scrumptious wares at cheap prices. Although it is not exclusive, it does offer a tasty respite after a hard day’s trek.

If you come to Singapore for a vacation, be sure to reserve a day for Pulau Ubin. The sights are beautiful, and together with the fresh air, a good exercise, and delicious food, it is sure to make the trip a truly memorable one.

Varun Srivatsan

Image Source [http://img.timeinc.net/time/photoessays/2008/singapore_10/pulau_ubin.jpg]