Pulau Ubin – Chek Jawa, Seafood, Quarries

We’ve visited Ubin quite a few times, so here’s a consolidated entry of all the interesting things to see and do on this little island. Situated in the northeastern coast of Singapore, this offshore island is being developed into a nature park. Much of its natural environment is being preserved and visitors will still be able to experience the rural community atmosphere encompassing granite quarries, coconut and rubber plantations, mangrove swamps, fish and prawn farms, and traditional fishing kelongs.

When you arrive at the jetty, you are greeted by many bicycle rental shops and a few seafood restaurants. Walking around the town centre brings you back to being in Singapore in the old days. A trip to Pulau Ubin is a throwback to Singapore in the 1960’s. Most of the shops are made of wood and zinc, very nostalgic indeed.

The Majority of shops in Ubin does bicycles, seafood, fruits, and drinks. The food here is cheaper compared to the mainland but just as (if not more) fresh. Whenever we visit Ubin, we definitely stop for seafood. Everybody loves seafood, and what better way to enjoy it than having it by the sea! For an average only $20 per person, we had a sumptuous lunch of fresh seafood, coconuts and beer!

House No. 1 is believed to be Singapore’s only  remaining authentic Tudor-style house with a working fireplace. It  is a A unique pre-war structure, it was variously called the English Bungalow/Cottage and House No. 1. A delightful home under pine trees, with its own jetty, it has a great view of Pulau Sekudu and mainland Singapore. The two-storey building has a lovely airy verandah and comes complete with fireplace. It was built in the 1930′s in the English Lytyenseque or Tudor style. Below is a photo of the Chek Jawa Visitor Center at House Number 1.

Located at the eastern tip of Pulau Ubin is a natural beach called Chek Jawa, on which marine life such as the horseshoe crab and sand dollar, a disc-shaped member of the star-fish family, thrive. It also houses sea-grass meadows that habour carpet and peacock anemones, as well as coral rubble that is home to sponges of various hues.

You can visit from 8.30am to 6.00pm every day. There is more to see more during a low tide so check the tides before your visit. Where you’re there, Jejawi Tower might be worth a climb. It’s a 7 storey / 21 meter tall observatory tower where a panoramic view of Chek Jawa and surrounding sea can be seen. it can hold up to 20 people at any one time. Also, keep your eyes pealed for Nypa Fruticans (atap seeds) lining the board walk.

On the way back to the jetty, we also stopped to view a few abandoned quarries, where herons sometimes rest among the drowned trees in numbers. We also saw a giant monitor lizard swimming across the quarry. Granite quarrying was once a major industry on Ubin. The first quarry was started in the 1800’s. The abandoned quarries at Ubin are now filling up with rainwater and the natural vegetation is recovering around their edges. Fish have somehow appeared in some of them, attracting birds such as herons. Although the quarries are now quite scenic, they remain dangerous places. Swimming and other activities near them should be avoided.

Scattered around the island, you might spot outcrops of rock or flood gates used for prawn farming back in the day. What you see are remains of inland swamps that were parcelled out with dykes and sluice gates that were constructed to control the flow of water.

The German Girl’s Shrine holds the remains of a German girl who died in 1914 when she accidentally fell off a steep cliff whilst running away from the British who had come to take over the plantation. It is said that her body was discovered the next day, covered in ants and buried at the beach where she was found. The villagers kept seeing her ghost so her remains were moved to a nearby Chinese shrine and kept in an urn. The remains were eventually looted, but the urn remains. It is not known how her shrine became popular with gamblers, among others.

The island is home to Singapore’s last villages or kampongs, and there are still about a hundred villagers living here. In contrast to the modern and efficient public utilities on mainland Singapore, Ubin residents rely on wells for water and noisy diesel generators for electricity. Some villagers depend on traditional farming and fishing for subsistence, while others tend to their provision stores and eateries. We stopped at one of the stalls on the island for a drink of fresh coconuts and had to take a photo of the sign quoting a local band singing “y u so like that!”.

Not far away was the Image of the Goddess of Mercy, A cut-out on the stone quarry that looks like a statue of Guan Yin. The locals claim that the quarry was closed for quite awhile, but the image of the Goddess of Mercy appeared only recently.

Getting there – Take the MRT to Tampines Station (EW2), then take SBS bus 29 to Changi Village bus interchange, followed by a 10-minute boat ride from the Changi Point jetty. Cost of the boat ride is SGD 2.50 and the service operates from 6.00 am to 11.00 pm. See more photos @ carol’s and jenny’s blog! To read more about the history and mystery of Pulau Ubin, click here.

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