Pulau Ubin Island
The small Pulau Ubin Island, located just a half kilometer away off Singapore’s northeastern coast, is the polar opposite to the loud and often crowded extravagances of the Sintosa Island. Today, it is probably the only area of this rapidly developing state that has managed to avoid urbanization and preserve the luxury of the primeval nature. It is a paradise for those who prefer quieter, tranquil recreation.
An entertaining legend exists with regard to the island’s origin. It states that once a frog, a pig and an elephant made a bet on who would be the first animal to reach the Malay state of Johor from Singapore, over the strait. The bet's conditions were that the one who failed would be turned into stone. However, none of three animals managed to reach their goal and all of them froze in the sea, forming stone islands. The frog turned into the Pulau Sekudu Island, while the elephant and the pig together formed Pulau Ubin. However, the legend is not all too far for geographical reality, considering that Pulau Ubin initially consisted of two parts, divided by a river. Later on, as shrimp enterprises on the island were developed, the river was filled up and the two halves were united into a single island.
The name Pulau Ubin, literally translated, means Granite Island. From the late 19th to the middle of the 20th century, British colonists quarried granite for new buildings in the local mines here, which were erected in Singapore. Today, the neglected mines serve as a peculiar historical monument to the island’s colonial past.
Currently, less than a hundred people, who stoically refused to move to the more urbanized Singapore, live on Pulau Ubin. Picturesque fishing villages border the uncrowded beaches, or alternately coconut fields, rubber plantations and palm groves, where tiny ancient temples can often be found. There are also a number of small restaurants offering original local dishes and huge selection of seafood here.
The best way to discover Pulau Ubin, which occupies a mere 10 square kilometers, is to rent a bike and to make a trip around the island. In addition, the park Ketam Mountain Bike Track features one of the best trails around, with steep inclines and slopes, especially created for tourists interested in biking.
The island’s main attraction however, is the swampy Chek Jawa Cape, with its mangrove forests located in the eastern part. It is one of Singapore's richest ecosystems, where six different habitats are mixed together. The cape has a nature reserve that is famous for its rich and varied marine fauna: from flat sea urchins to starfish in the most incredible shapes. It is possible to watch these species from the boardwalk that surrounds the island and hangs over the water's edge. Meanwhile, if the local exotic birds are more to your taste, you can ascend the purpose built, seven-tier tower.
Getting here. Pleasure cutters and other boats regularly sail from the station in the village Changi to Pulau Ubin. The village is located off the eastern coast of Singapore, not far from the international airport. The trip takes about 15 minutes and costs 2,50 SGD.