Just a stone’s throw away from Singapore mainland, about 15 minutes away on a “bumboat” lies Pulau Ubin or Ubin Island, an untouched sanctuary of tropical, untamed wilderness where time seems to be remembered only by the rising and the setting of the sun.
This small 10km2 island is essentially the last ‘kampung’ (village) in Singapore. A stroll through Ubin takes you back to Singapore in the 1960’s with the simpler pleasures of life…vegetation, lush forests, no electricity or running water. Today, about a hundred villagers still live there, happy to leave behind the bustling, fast-paced metropolis that is mainland Singapore. With all the conveniences of today I find it so impressive that someone would choose a more difficult life per say. I mean, once upon a time that’s the way things were so people made the best of what they had but today, choice is so abundant…to willingly choose that sort of life says a lot about these people and how little they need to make them happy. But that’s a story for another day…
The adventure starts as soon as you join the queue for the bumboat at Changi Point Ferry Terminal. As you pull in, just a short ride later, all cares are left behind. It felt a little Robinson Crusoe to us as the difference between mainland Singapore and Ubin Island is very striking. It really did feel like stepping back in time.
Ubin makes for a fun day-trip excursion if you enjoy the outdoors. We spent it cycling through rustic roads and sometimes rough terrain under swaying coconut palms and through lush forests exploring shady trails, secluded beaches and flourishing mangroves. To be honest, there’s really not much to do but to cycle your way through the island where you can then explore certain parts on foot. We walked the whole length of the boardwalk and climbed to the top of the observation tower for a beautiful uninterrupted view of only the sky, trees and the sea with its ombre of blue and green colors.
While we do enjoy the rustic, we found the island to be really under-potentialized in its offerings. There were not many dining options and what water-side restaurant and “resort” they have are really 1-star. Definitely a lot of potential for a charming seaside restaurant or bungalows that can lure people to Ubin for the weekend. Nonetheless, it was a lovely escape from our daily life and a fantastic way to spend a day off.
If you do plan to visit, make sure to read my small tips below and check out the signboard below for bumboat fares and details!
Admission to the island is free. There are no opening or closing hours for the island per say however the bumboats only run during daylight hours so plan accordingly. Trust me, you do not want to be left behind there! We were joking that being stranded in that forest at night would be terrifying, a little bit reminiscent of that horror movie whose name I can’t remember for the life of me! The truth is there is nothing to be afraid of but my imagination likes to run away with me sometimes! lol
Be prepared for rough trails, a lot of bugs and harsh sun (and probably humidity). Dress accordingly, don’t forget sunscreen, insect repellant and lots of water! Stay hydrated.
There’s not much to do on the island besides cycling so keep that in mind. Don’t expect a walk in the park, especially in that weather!
Dining options are extremely limited so if you’re a fussy eater, come prepared with a few snacks or even a picnic basket, which is actually not a bad idea if you can manage to find a spot on the small grassy lawn facing the water.