Though one could easily assume that Singapore is all concrete and glass, the small island nation home to 5.3 million people is actually home to a wealth of green spaces and national parks where you can seek respite from the city.
One popular oasis is Pulau Ubin, a small island located just off the east coast.
Accessed via a five-minute bumboat ride, Pulau Ubin feels like a time warp straight to the 1960s. But that’s not a bad thing. A welcome contrast to the hustle and bustle of the mainland, Pulau Ubin moves at a much slower pace.
The name Pulau Ubin means ‘Granite Island’ in Malay, which should give a pretty good indication of the island’s past use. Up until the 1970s, the island was a quarry for granite to build many of the city’s most iconic structures – including the causeway linking Singapore and Malaysia.
When the industry declined, many of the island’s residents moved on. As a result, Pulau Ubin has remained virtually unchanged ever since.
And that’s exactly why it is so popular with the Singaporean locals. It’s a vestige a simpler time when Singapore was less about technology and skyscrapers, and more about people enjoying time out in nature.
It’s also home to Chek Jawa, the largest intertidal flat in northern Singapore. It houses several ecosystems in one place, from mangroves to a seagrass lagoon, and is home to a diverse number of plants and animals no longer found elsewhere in Singapore. Mudskippers are one of the highlights.
There are very few vehicles on the island, so cycling and walking are the primary methods of getting around. If you’re feeling energetic, you can hire a bicycle from one of the stalls near the bumboat jetty, but they’re not essential for exploration. There is a good network of walking trails throughout the island, all clearly signposted so there’s little chance of getting lost.
Stop by the kiosk near the jetty to pick up a pamphlet and speak to the volunteer guides about what to see and do while you’re on the island. Volunteer guided tours are also available if you want to hear first hand about the history of the island.
Depending on how physical you want to get, three hours should be ample time to enjoy the island. Bumboats operate from dawn til dusk, so you shouldn’t really have any problems getting to and from the island either. If you leave your run a little late, you can negotiate with directly bumboat owners to take you back to the mainland.
Bumboats operate from Changi Point Ferry Terminal, near Changri Village Hawker Centre. The cost is around S$2.50 per person, plus S$2 per bike. The bumboats only leave when they have 12 passengers, so be sure to jump in line and wait for the next boat. Sometimes it’s quick, other times there’s a wait.
For more information, visit yoursingapore.com
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