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Pulau Ubin Travel Guide: 231 reviews and 575 photos

Pulau Ubin, Singapore

Where?

The small island of Pulau Ubin, with a population of around 100 inhabitants, lies off the north coast of Singapore.

Pulau Ubin lies in the Johor Strait between Singapore and Malaysia.

How to get there?

To get to Pulau Ubin from Singapore, you will need to take a bumboat from Changi Point ferry terminal. The bumboats leave frequently throughout the day, leaving once there are 12 passengers waiting. In practice, you could be waiting from 5 minutes to 30 minutes for the required number of passengers to turn up - I waited about 20 minutes.

The crossing takes only 10 minutes and costs just S$2 (0.75 GBP) each way. Simply pay the driver once on board.

To get from the centre of Singapore to Changi Point ferry terminal (at Changi Village), I opted to take a taxi. The journey took about 25 minutes and cost S$14.80. Alternatively, it is possible to catch bus #2 to Changi Village, but I'm not sure where in Singapore you would need to catch it. It is not possible (as at December 2005) to get all the way to Changi Village by the MRT.

What is there to see and do?

Upon arriving at the jetty on Pulau Ubin, I made straight for the information kiosk (right next to the jetty), to pick up an invaluable free map of the island.

I then headed first in a westerly direction, along Jalan Jetulang, as far as Merbah Hut. This involved passing through the main village of the island with its handful of simple restaurants and bicycle hire shops. I opted to do without a bicycle and discover the island on foot instead (the vast majority of visitors opted to hire a bicycle for the day for just a few Singaporean Dollars).

I noticed a large spider in a web between the trees at the side of the road. This was the first large spider I'd seen on my trip, so I got a closer look and tried to get a good shot of it with the camera. I then noticed an even bigger spider a few yards away, and then another, and another, and another.....I soon realised that there were hundreds and thousands of huge spiders in the vast number of cobwebs between the trees. I made a very conscious decision at this point that I would stick to the main road and not venture off down any dirt tracks!

At Merbah Hut, I turned back and retraced my steps back along the palm tree lined road before taking the turn off along Jalan Batu Ubin. The map suggested that if I followed Jalan Noordin, I would arrive a few kilometres later at Noordin Beach on the north coast of the island. This I did, and arrived at the hugely disappointing beach some time later.

The map indicated another beach, Mamam Beach, further along the coast. So, I followed the various roads (Jalan Ubin, Jalan Sam Heng and Jalan Mamam) and some time (and effort!) later I arrived at the equally disappointing Mamam Beach. The beach was litter strewn, the water was murky and polluted and there were hundreds of large hornets buzzing around.

I headed back inland as far as Murai Hut and turned off along Jalan Durian, a road that contains a number of traditional houses. Some of these wooden huts look as though they've been long deserted, but for the fact that washing hangs out front. Untended gardens and rotting facades are characteristic of many homes on the island. After passing one home, with a cat wandering along the road outside, I heard a rustling sound in the undergrowth. I nervously moved closer to see what it was, and saw a giant monitor lizard strutting slowly through the plants.

Somewhere along my journey, I stopped at a house that had a sign out front advertising "Cold drinks for sale" and paid S$1 for a much-needed can of ice tea from an ice bucket.

Somewhere else, I passed a snake slithering along the top of a fence. It was the only snake that I saw during the day, despite the guidebook saying that I might be "lucky" and encounter an Oriental Whip Snake (yeah, that would have been lucky!). A large spider fell from a tree and landed (dead) on the road in front of me somewhere near Mamam Beach.

After enough close encounters with wildlife species that I don't particularly like (with the exception of lizards, which I do), I made my way back through the interior of the island to the relative civilisation of the main village and caught a bumboat back to "the Real World" of Singapore!

All in all, a very enjoyable day. At times, I felt like I was in the middle of a rainforest. The scenery was spectacular (large coconut palms, vast amounts of greenery and exotic animals), the exercise was good and the atmosphere was peaceful - I was occasionally overtaken by cyclists, but apart from them there were no other people of vehicles to be seen (or heard). A huge contrast to densely populated Singapore!

Anything else?

A few observations from my day on Pulau Ubin:

Wildlife

You could quite easily cycle along the main roads of the island and be oblivious to the insects and reptiles that are living just a few yards away. At times, I wished that I'd done this! I was blissfully ignorant of all that was around me until I spotted a large spider. And then I couldn't stop seeing them! They were everywhere! There are plenty of snakes, too. By sticking to the main roads, I only saw one - but if I'd ventured off the main road and into the forests I'm sure it wouldn't have been long before I'd seen more! Lizards are pretty common too - including giant monitor lizards which look a bit like crocodiles (especially when you're on your own, in the middle of nowhere and you're allowing your imagination to run wild!). There are apparently wild boars on the island, although I didn't see any, and a rich diversity of birdlife.

Traditional way of life

Pulau Ubin is a far cry fom modern Singapore despite its geographical proximity. It represents a snapshot of what Singapore used to be before it developed and modernised. There are no modern buildings on Pulau Ubin (just shacks made from wood and corrugated iron), water is obtained from wells and power is provided by diesel generators. The local population, which has dwindled to just a hundred or so inhabitants, makes a living from fishing and agriculture and, more recently, from tourism (bicycle hire, restaurants). An excellent retreat from fast paced Singapore - popular with locals and tourists alike.

Bicycles

With few motor vehicles on the island, the most popular way to get around is by bicycle. The vast majority of tourists hire a bicycle from one of the several hire shops in the village and set about exploring the island on two wheels. I can vouch that walking around the island is very tiring and it would be very difficult to see the whole of the island on foot in a single day. Therefore, at a cost of just S$3 per day, bicycle hire represents excellent value for money and a great form of exercise.

Pros and Cons
  • Pros:Quiet, relaxing, no traffic, few people, untamed nature
  • Cons:Big spiders and snakes!
  • In a nutshell:A relaxing retreat from fast paced Singapore!
  • Last visit to Pulau Ubin: Dec 2005
  • Intro Written Dec 17, 2005
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Reviews (11)

Comments (9)

  • Sambawalk's Profile Photo
    Dec 31, 2008 at 11:02 PM

    What an impressive and comprehensive description of this small island. I was there 3 years ago for cycling. Happy NY to u.

  • angiebabe's Profile Photo
    Mar 15, 2008 at 4:06 PM

    Frequent flyer points to your frequent visits to my pages lately!Nice page here - much like the scarey things in Oz - snakes,huge and horrific looking spiders, monitors. Think id give bushwalking a miss!

  • Bonobo2005's Profile Photo
    Aug 30, 2007 at 4:39 AM

    Excellent impression here and useful tips! Sounds like an awesome break from the city. I have seen more of the Northern Coastline, so I'm used to the sighting of the garbage. Can image this aspect for tourist bit disappointing!

  • uglyscot's Profile Photo
    Nov 20, 2006 at 9:59 PM

    Call those spiders big. they are all legs. Now camel spiders [as used to come into my house in Sudan] are large and have mandibles, and big hairy legs.

  • SLLiew's Profile Photo
    Nov 17, 2006 at 11:37 AM

    Confession: never heard of Pulau Ubin until VT. Went to Batam and Sentosa recently. Perhaps Ubin next. Spiders, snakes and falling coconuts yikes. But not as bad as blood sucking leeches and falling durians which attract tigers. Cheers, SL

  • xuessium's Profile Photo
    Jul 15, 2006 at 8:36 AM

    No worries, mate. No Mette effect here (GRIN) Well, one just can't win it all. Full credit to Mauresmo!

  • Apr 25, 2006 at 5:00 AM

    Lizards & snakes, those I like - but the spiders sound very much like the kind that would make me run away screaming... ;o)

  • DarkRay's Profile Photo
    Jan 17, 2006 at 9:28 AM

    One of the most fascinating species of spiders found on the island is the Saint Andrew's Cross Spider. It's 8 legs are actually grouped into 4 pairs. :-)

  • globerover's Profile Photo
    Jan 4, 2006 at 6:11 AM

    spiders, lizards and snakes - definitively no island for Mrs Globerover, I think I will have to go there on my own if I ever come to Singapore again ...

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