On Saturday, I went to Pulau Ubin, off the coast of Singapore. The island is almost entirely forest, and the only people there lived in traditional kampungs, which were once the main style of house in Singapore. The villages are very old fashioned and the people rent bikes to travellers.
We went there with a university student from Hong Kong, and Singapore’s local historian KL Lee, who also took us to the Changi museum a week before. We walked approximately 12 kilometres for five hours across a third of the whole of Ubin island, and saw many interesting features on the island.
My first thought was how different Ubin Island was from the rest of modern Singapore. In one week I had stayed in one of the grandest hotels in the world – Marina Bay Sands Hotel, then days later I was walking in a completely wild forest. I had memories of the time we went to Baku National Park in Malaysia about six years ago, where I saw proboscis monkeys and flying foxes.
Luckily the weather was pleasant, as it wasn’t too hot, making it perfect walking weather. There were no tours so we could walk at our own pace and discover the beauty of the remote island slowly. Getting to the island was free, only requiring $2.50 per person per ride by boat. The boat could only fit 12 people at a time and it was a very old fashioned boat. It was very fast and rickety. It was an open boat, so the waves were very up close. In the boat I could see many islands and boats, some probably heading to Malaysia and Indonesia.
The animals on Ubin Island were completely wild, so approaching them would have been risky. There were monkeys which were very social and allowed me to take lots of pictures of them. The small monkeys were running across the trees and they didn’t seem to be too bothered about visitors.
There were also wild boars. There was a mother and four young. I warned my mum not to get too close, as the mother would probably be very protective. To be honest though, I’d rather have a female pig attack than a male one, as the males have tusks.
There was an observation tower with views of the undisturbed rainforest. The trees were full of birds, including some rare hornbills. I think the island breaks the perception of Singapore being just a massive city full of skyscrapers and no greenery or nature. Even on the mainland there are plenty of natural areas, such as the Botanic Gardens, and the zoological parks. I’ve seen all aspects of Singapore; the hyper-modern tourist side and the traditional side.
It’s great that Singapore still keeps these natural areas and old fashioned traditions alive so that everyone has a chance to experience both sides of Singapore. On the island, I wanted to try and find monitor lizards and pangolins but sadly I couldn’t find them.
The only people on Ubin Island were very old people who still maintained the old way of living. It’s hard to believe that it was how the whole of Singapore was like, before Lee Kuan Yew, the late Prime Minister of Singapore, transformed the island into the modern city it is now. It really felt like stepping back in time.
Overall the day was exhausting but worth it. Ubin Island was a natural experience full of wildlife and a glimpse into Singapore’s past. I say that this is a must do on any Singapore visit, if you want a break from the city life, and experience a unique, unspoilt part of Singapore.