Pulau Ubin is a fun place for hiking or taking nature walks. On the move cyclling or in rental vans our city instincts take over and we are always thinking on the next place to visit instead of soaking in the surrounding sights and sound of the moment. If you are a regular to the island, you should definitely consider exploring Ubin on foot.
You can start by renting bicycles to give you an idea where are the places you like to visit on foot. Alternatively, stick to vehicle trails if you are new to Pulau Ubin and walking all the way to Chek Jawa. The trip (and back) takes about 7 kilometres which can be tiring as many found out. Instead, cover half of it by taking van taxis and walking for the other half. There are Npark rain shelters along the way to take rest stops.
Another walking route is follow the “Discovery trail” that lead behind police coast guard station, continue further north, taking a rest at Murai hut and exploring the surrounding Malay Kampong, then turning back and returning directly to Ubin village.
It may be quiet which is welcomed for some but unsettling for others. Pulau Ubin is safe with frequent police patrols and the villagers watching over. There are plenty of visitors in the morning and early afternoons although the crowds thin considerably toward late afternoons. This is when one is rewarded with sights of shy animals or hear full throated and melodious bird calls. But it not akin to visiting the zoo and being disappointed when you did not encounter any. Besides, it is far more enjoyable walk than Macritchie trails along Island country club (SICC) which is a dead zone due to frequent insect fumigation for comfort of their members.
Some people are spooked when they stumbled into gravestones. In the not so distant past Pulau Ubin is inhabited with more than 1,000 residents, many of who were Boyanese (or Baweanese) from Indonesia. Chek Jawa were so named because of their Javanese origins. It is common to have family grave plots although there are larger Chinese and Muslim cemetery plots in Ubin. Thankfully, the authorities are leaving them untouched to keep the island’s historical roots intact.
On the other hand, the authorities seem to be in a hurry to change names of old landmarks. Pulau Ubin is in danger of being smothered into another botanical garden by Nparks in its misguided efforts, with carpet grass on both sides of the road, instead of the riot of beautiful plants growing wild which visitors from afar come to see. Tree plaque are erected but limited (so far) to common trees like banana, oil palm with their Latin names. A short description would be more useful.
Type “rustic pulau ubin” in google search and one will find that it is most popular description for visitors. Tourist development of the island should proceed preserving its charms. Its disappointing to see jarring signs popping up like “private property” over scenic quarry lakes and advertising banners promoting $10 seafood, snorkeling over pristine coral reefs (there aren’t any) and fish spas with non native fishes.
Make sure you check NEA website on water quality before you swim in local waters or look out for this sign. I had a very bad ear infection in Koh Samui after dipping my head in a still water pond so its important to check if the waters is clean enough if you are planning to snorkel in it.
Kg Sungi (Sungai) Durian cemetery named for a few family grave plots
You may buy drinks along the way but do bring a small bottle of plain water as there are no drink stalls (or toilets) for 2 kms towards Chek Jawa. There are vending machines but the visitor counter was out of coins when I was there the last time. Although cases of malaria and dengue fever are almost unheard of in Pulau Ubin, do use mosquito repellents to keep biting insects at bay and for children comfort. Disposable plastic raincoats are useful which are sold at the village. Get some snacks also as one gets hungry soon enough.
Although Nparks have erected fences and barriers, it is safe enough to venture off beaten paths. Most of Pulau Ubin jungles were once rubber plantations, the rubber trees extensive creeping roots keep belukar or dense thickets from forming impenetrable barriers.
For bushwacking, a machete would be useful for crossing fallen trees (its easy to be disorientated if one walks around them) but knives are frown upon as some consider Pulau Ubin as just another city park where sights of jungle knives may cause alarm to the public. Make sure you bring along a compass even if you have a GPS with you. Do not ford deeper into sticky mud and get caught in returning tide.
If you are a student group leader, do ensure your group put away glow sticks and tree markers into trash bags instead of leaving them behind and allowing harmful tree fungi to take root. Alternatively you may use toilet rolls as trail markers which disintegrate harmlessly.
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