03 February 2013

Savouring Ubin

Tranquil Pulau Ubin is always soothing and reminds us why wild places are an important part of Singapore.
A few of us headed out there this morning to savour life in the slow lane at Singapore's last unspoilt island.

We begin the day with Ubin-only Sunday-only Lontong! Yummy as ever but bitter-sweet today because its days are numbered. November (who first discovered it in 2007) does a much better write-up on this endemic and endangered dish on the Ubin Stories blog. We are glad to introduce Pei Yan to it for the first time. And thanks to Andy for reminding us to take a photo before we gobbled it up. Hopefully, more Singaporeans will get a chance to taste it before its gone forever.
Lontong (right) with mee siam (left), also very nice.
After this lovely simple breakfast, we check up on the Bakau mata buaya (Bruguiera hainesii) growing on Pulau Ubin. This plant is rare globally, there are more pandas than this tree in the world! This large tree at Ubin was flowering profusely but the leaves seem to be affected by something. Oh dear.
The tree was producing lots of seedlings! Like many other mangrove trees, seedlings grow on the mother tree and drop off, ready to grow quickly into trees. Hopefully, the babies of this prolific mother tree have grown up elsewhere on Pulau Ubin!
Oh no, there were several fires when we arrived, lit by recreational users at the shore. This man put out the large one set in the mangroves when we asked him to.
There were two other fires along the short stretch of shore, and one more near the cliff at the edge of the road. This was at mid-day! I have no idea why people decide to set fires at this time of the day.
We took a quick stroll to have a look at some other rare mangrove trees. There is a small Tumu berau (Bruguiera sexangula) growing naturally here (arrowed in photo). This tree is so rare it was thought extinct in Singapore until some were rediscovered at Pulau Tekong in 2005. Although the tree has grown since I last saw it in Dec 2009, we noticed branches were broken, probably as people grabbed it to go down to the shore (see footprints on the mud in the photo).
Nearby is a small Gedabu (Sonneratia ovata) which are also not common in Singapore. The tree seems to be overwhelmed by other plants. The trunk (pale) seems to be squeezed by a Derris climber (Derris trifoliata).
We also came across a troupe of monkeys quietly foraging among the fruit trees. One of the many wild animals that call Ubin home.
Meanwhile, Andy took this lovely clip of munias at Pulau Ubin. Grassy areas are not wastelands!

We had a quick look at the iconic 'blue' kampung house on the way to Chek Jawa. I read today from sgkopi.com that the durian tree next to the house fell and destroyed the house! Mr Tan the van driver told us they are rebuilding the house. That's good to know!
We ended the day with another Ubin favourite, pepper crab at the restaurant run by the two sisters. Home-cooked with super fresh crabs that literally just came in from the sea. Not too many places in Singapore where we can still enjoy this.
And here's a fresh load of crabs coming into the restaurant!
The restaurant walls has photos of happenings at Ubin. From Chek Jawa before reclamation was deferred, to other wild sightings on the island. It's a living organic museum, showcasing the simple pleasures that the Ubin residents are proud of.
The weather was much wetter than we expected as we headed into a rain storm on the way back to the mainland. A wet ride in an old ricketty bumboat is not efficient, but is yet another precious memory of Pulau Ubin to treasure.
Anyone can visit Pulau Ubin, the last place in Singapore to enjoy kampung life: slow, cheap and easy. Among the upcoming Ubin activities are the free monthly guided walks at the Chek Jawa boardwalk by the Naked Hermit Crabs.

You can make a difference for Pulau Ubin! Volunteer opportunities include:

The 7million population plan has brought up in stark outlines the wild shores that we may lose, and Pulau Ubin is one of them. Many people have been working quietly on various aspects of these wild places for a long time. For a few of us, this trip to Pulau Ubin has renewed our determination to keep on going.

Elsewhere, many others are also working on the issues. From Faizah Jamal (Environmental Nominated Member of Parliament) who is working on tomorrow's parliamentary session. To continuing outreach work, like the Toddycats announcement of another Changi cycling tour in March.

Related links
  • About Pulau Ubin how to get there, what to see and do
  • Latest upcoming nature events on Pulau Ubin on wildsingapore happenings. You can subscribe to free email updates, one email every Monday on nature happenings in Singapore for the week ahead. Visit and explore our wild places while you can!
Posts by others on this trip
  • Pei Yan shares her first Ubin Lontong experience and other sightings on our trip.

Other recent posts about Pulau Ubin
  • Tze Kwan shares about birds she saw on a trip to Ubin and her thoughts about Pulau Ubin.
  • More blog posts about Pulau Ubin.

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