Image credit: Entrance of Changi Point Ferry Terminal
There’s never a ‘perfect’ weather or day to explore new sights and sounds – you cannot dispute that the rain or shine is merely a description of the situation you were in when you discovered a new place. The weather, even if it’s bad, doesn’t take away the fact that you’ve successfully discovered something fresh! That being said, wearing a cap and a dollop of sunscreen with a poncho snugly packed in the bag wouldn’t hurt. Preparation is key, after all.
A unique, experiential side of Pulau Ubin is what we’re after and kayaking is how we’ll get there. But first stop, Changi Point Ferry Terminal (CPFT). Snapping pictures in this place is prohibited, so keep your cameras! Take a 10-minute bumboat ride from CPFT at only $3 and you’ll find yourself on a bumboat ploughing its way to Pulau Ubin. Do note that it’s 12 passengers per boat ride and there are no tickets. As long as there are 12 people waiting for a boat, a boatman will usher passengers to the ferry.
Car tyres are tied on the boats’ sides as fender to prevent damage when it collides against the walls of the jetty or other boats (which is why they are called bumboats!). The journey towards Pulau Ubin is an apt foreshadowing of Ubin, where the environment slowly recedes into the 50s and 60s.
Image credit: Honeycombers
Once at Ubin Jetty, be prepared to be knocked hard by the revelation that you’re still within the compounds of Singapore’s national borders, because it feels as though we’ve escaped the country’s reality. Walk down the long bridge to the welcome sign and turn left. Pass the van-taxi service and a slew of bicycle shops, we’ll eventually come across a white shophouse with green doodles. That’s Asian Detours’ house #34! Upon reaching, we were greeted fervently by our kayaking leader and instructor of the day. Detailed explanation of the kayak and fundamentals of kayaking will be taught and shown by the leader. It all comes down to your own ability to observe what they do!
Image credit: Honeycombers
After some quick coaching, we donned our Personal Floatation Device (PFD), grabbed a paddle and carried the kayaks out to the beach. We were then instructed to form into a circle before heading down to the water for something called the ‘Floatation Test’, to ensure that our PFDs were working perfectly – basically, it means we’ll have to float on water. Boy, was the water cold! Nonetheless, floating on water was more fun than anticipated and fortunately, the discoveries kept on piling.
Image credit: Honeycombers
As we launched off from the beach and headed out to sea on the kayak, we came into close proximity to the kelongs that surrounded parts of Ubin’s coast. The kelong’s sources of income came from fishing and breeding of fishes for restaurants as well as exporting them. We are adamant that getting this close to the kelongs and seeing the fishermen in action aren’t experiences accessible through hiking and biking as they were some distances off from the shore.
As we arched our necks up, we spotted some majestic raptors. The White-Bellied Sea Eagles may be a common sight in Ubin but we were lucky enough to spectate their meal-time hunt. These raptors were circling the seas before taking the plunge and diving to the surface of the water to fish for prey with their talons. BRING YOUR CAMERA. These wonderful moments may be a dime a dozen, however, experiencing it is not. As Singaporeans, catching a glimpse of these scenes happens once in a blue moon.
What is inside the Mangrove
Image credit: Straitstimes
As we paddled past Sungei Jelutong and into the mouth of the mangrove, we approached the only “Service Centre” for the bumboat in Pulau Ubin located at the south of Pulau Ubin. The owner, Mr Choo Seng Sim, has been in this industry for more than 20 years. The current location was an aftermath of a shift due to the nature of the business – the paint, noise and other factors were in discordance with other businesses that were operating around the former area. Nevertheless, it seems like a blessing in disguise though. The new location looks peaceful.
Image credit: asiaone
Deep within the mangroves, we spotted a myriad of wildlife living in Ubin’s habitat. Collared Kingfishers, Monitor Lizards, etc. We were told to keep our eyes peeled for the elusive otters. Our kayaking leaders knew the location of their den, but alas, they couldn’t tell us exactly where. One of the best parts about the Mangrove was the current flow – it was way smoother compared to the open sea and at times, we were able to stop kayaking to let the current drift our kayaks around as we took breaks and enjoyed the scenery and tranquility.
The final pit stop before heading back to mainland
Eventually, we’ll all arrive at Ah Ma Drink Stall. The cold drinks (and coconuts) available there (remember to bring some small change with you) were refreshing! It’s a proud experience to be able to reach the stall from a different entry point compared to other visitors that cycled. Ah Ma Drink Stall is also the pit stop for the Mangrove Kayaking before heading back to house #34. And so, it was time to turn back.
The journey back was exhausting, but the adventure was not. The kayaking programme provides ample chances of experiencing Singapore’s somewhat untouched wildlife – an exposure that is unlike in the mainland.
Leaving Pulau Ubin felt bittersweet; the strong feeling of wanting to revisit the island coupled with the assurance of urban life is jarring and dissonant. However, the promise of returning to Ubin’s mangrove is a definite. Overall, an awesome day of wildlife and exploration!