Monday, February 2, 2009

Discover Ubin on 2 Feb 2009

Eighty Fifth Discovery Posting:

A bumboat ride to the destination? Check.A sight of how a kampung might look like? Check.
A day spent away from urban landscapes? Check.A close-up experience with nature? Check.The above mentioned are experiences which you can bring home after a trip to Pulau Ubin, a small island situated in the north east of Singapore.

Why is the island called Pulau Ubin?
According to what I know, 'Pulau' should be the Malay term for island. (update!) And according to SD, 'Ubin' means tile. Thanks SD! (update!) And the word 'ubin' is said to be a Javanese term for 'squared stone'. Together, 'Pulau Ubin' literally means "Granite Island" in Malay.

This name describes the island very well, as there have been fair amounts of granite found on the island itself. And granite quarrying, at one point in the 1960s, have managed to support a few thousand settlers on the island.

Today, only about a hundred villagers make their homes on the island and the visitors of the island do not go to the island for mining purposes but mainly for recreational purposes.

Things I can bring when visiting Ubin.
Well, besides the usual items you bring for an outdoor field trip (water, hat, poncho/umbrella, etc). You might also want to bring a camera to take records of the happenings and interesting flora and fauna you see along the way.

And a binoculars can come in useful at times as well. Well, for example, with a pair of binos, you will be able to look at birds like a grey heron (picture below) more clearly. By the way, this is the first 'discovery'. Discovery Note:
1. The grey heron is one of the largest birds one can find in Singapore.
2. It can stand at about 1 meter tall and have a wing span of about 2 meters.
3. Grey herons have long necks and powerful bills for a long and strong reach.
4. They can stand motionless for hours to wait on the mud or at the water's edge to wait for food to pass by.
5. Their diet usually includes whatever they catch. These can include, fishes, amphibans, insects, crabs, small mammals and reptiles like rats or hatchling turtles, etc.
6. Read more about them @

Well, as you know, whenever you visit anywhere, there are things which one can do and one should not. Let's look at some things one shouldn't do when visiting the island.
a) Please leave your litter in the rubbish bins provided found around the island. By doing this, you can help to keep the surroundings free of unwanted litter.
b) Keep along the paths and trails shown on the maps. This is important, as you do not want to get lost on the island and at the same time cause minimal distrubance to the wildlife found on the island.
c) Talking about causing distrubance, you might want to minimise any form of noise so that the wildlife will not be 'scared' off.
d) For your own safety, do not touch flora or fauna that you are unfamiliar with. This is because some flora when touched may cause irritation and some fauna can leave a painful bite or even poison you.
e) Please also do not take anything away from the natural environment unless it is litter. =D

Do take a close look around where you walk because you might miss some wonders along the way if a closer look is not attempted. Here's an example, a golden orb web spider (picture below) and this is the second 'discovery'.
Discovery Note:
1. This spider might not be the the largest spider but it does make one of the largest and strongest web.
2. The silk of the web is so strong that it is able to trap small birds, something the golden orb web spider doesn't really eat.
3. The strength of the web is comparable to Kevlar, one of the strongest man-made material which is extracted from concentrated sulphuric acid.
4. Its name is derived from the colour and shape of its web, golden and orb-shaped.
5. Read more about this spider @

Besides walking, one also has the option of exploring the island on a bicycle. A bicycle can be rented at the village of the island for from $2 onwards. But do look out for your own safety when cycling around the island, as there are several steep slopes found around the island (picture.
If you are a butterfly lover, Ubin would be one of the places on your list of must visit places throughout a year. On the day where we walk around, we sighted about a total of 10+ species of butterflies and some of them considered uncommon or even rare in Singapore! It is a pity that my camera isn't a top-notch camera, so I only managed to get one decent photo of one of the butterflies we saw. Here's a Tawny Coster (picture below) and the third 'discovery'.
Discovery Note:
1. From past records, it seems that this species of butterfly is an migrate from Thailand and West Malaysia. Read more about it @ (updated the link with thanks to Commander for informing me that the link I provided was updated =D )

And if you are lucky enough, you might even get to see insects which are considered endangered. Here are three Thespesia Fire-bugs (picture below) and fourth 'discovery'.Discovery Note:
1. This bug looks similar to the Cotton Stainer Bug, except that it as a black head instead of a red one.
2. They are found on the Portia Tree as its larvae feed on the seeds of the tree.

Chek Jawa, located on the eastern end of Ubin, is one of few places in Singapore where you can find 6 different ecosystems within a small area. These ecosystems include mangroves, coastal forest, rocky shore, coral rubble, seagrass meadows and sand bars. And with the offer of many different 'homes' comes the wide array of flora and fauna living in these different 'homes'. Combined with the media coverage given to the place throughout the years, Chek Jawa has become one of the main attractions on Pulau Ubin.

There are several ways to get to Chek Jawa. Like the other places on Ubin, you can get there by walking, cycling or taking a van taxi there (a ride to and fro usually cost at least $4 per person depending on how many people there are in the taxi). And if you are tired after the walk or cycle or just looking for a place to pinic, how about the colonial looking house no.1 located at Chek Jawa (picture below)?
Now let us take a look at one of the animals you can find in the mangroves of Chek Jawa and other mangroves, a giant mudskipper (picture below)! Fifth 'discovery'.Discovery Note:
1. Mudskippers are amphibious animals. So they are able to breathe on land and underwater.

2. Underwater, mudskippers breathe through gills like other fishes. On land, mudskippers use their enlarged gill chambers to retain water which aids them in breathing on land. Something like a scuba diver’s air tank, only that this work while on land.

3. Mudskippers also have to regularly replenish the water in their gill chambers so they cannot stay far from water.

4. Mudskippers can also breathe air through their skin like amphibious but they can only do that if their skin remains moist. That's why you might see mudskippers taking water dips at times.

That's about it for this post which I tried to give you a virtual tour around the island (not really an indepth one though =D). So before I end, here's a picture of a wild ixora blooming (picture below), another plant found on Ubin.
Oh, I almost forgot. How do one get to Ubin?
First of all, find your way to Changi Village. Look for the ferry terminal there. And at there, they provided bumboat rides to Ubin and back. Fyi, each ride cost SGD$2.50 (at this moment of writing).

Now, that's really all and thanks for reading!

PS: Thanks to all friends who made the trip enjoyable!

More flora and fauna sightings of this trip can be found on


SD said...


Actually in Malay, 'Ubin' means tile.
Useful to have a Malay dictionary around. =P

Commander said...

With regard to the Tawny Coster, please read the blog article at

The NSS article is wayyyy outdated. :p

In fact, from the comments written by an Indonesian reader of the blog, the Tawny Coster has reached Java and probably spreading across the Indonesian islands. :)

DreamerJuly said...

Thanks for the information and updates, SD and Commander! =D