Pulau Ubin National Park and Chek Jawa – Singapore’s Secret Island

Pulau Ubin National Park and Chek Jawa - Singapore's Secret Island

Pulau Ubin and the Chek Jawa wetlands are a truly authentic slice of old Singapore. It’s a small island to the north east with only 40 residents and remains mostly untouched since the 1960’s. What’s more, Pulau Ubin is teeming with wildlife, so you can skip that expensive visit to Singapore Zoo.

View from a watchtower over trees and sea
Beautiful views across Chek Jawa wetlands

Singapore is so small that travelling anywhere is really easy. It’s a far cry from the megalopolis of Sao Paulo where we been just days before. To visit Pulau Ubin we boarded the MRT (Singapore’s ‘Mass Rapid Transit’ system) to Tanah Merah, then caught bus number 2 to Changi Village. Quickly stopping off for a freshly made Honeydew and Syrup Ice drink at Changi Village Hawker Centre, we then boarded a small boat (called ‘Bumboats’) for the 10 minute journey across the sea.

The bumboat to Pulau Ubin
The ‘bumboat’ to Pulau Ubin

Exiting the peer it was immediately obvious this was nothing like mainland Singapore. Our informant told us that it’s like the Singapore of 60 years ago and we could now see why. Wooden shack houses on stilts, overgrown jungle and little in the way of roads. 

Wooden hut on the beach
A hut house on the island

We rented bikes by the pier for a bargain price of $7 SGD ($5.15 USD) and set off. Pulau Ubin is an easy place to cycle. The few hills are thankfully quite small and everywhere is well signposted. Our first stop was to be Check Jawa Wetlands, but we ran in to a little trouble along the way.

Sighting Macaque monkeys en route, we dropped the kick stands in to the dirt and took a short walk. I’ve rarely seen so many wild monkeys in one place (Bali’s Monkey Sanctuary wins that one). As is always the way, if you see monkeys, make sure you keep everything close to you. We had, but there’s one thing we hadn’t thought about. A bottle of water in Rose’s cycle basket. Out of nowhere a monkey skipped down the road, climbed the bike and took it out. With a heavy two litres under his arm, he struggled to to carry it. 

But carry it he did. Across the floor and up in to the trees, where he frantically tried to open it. With the top still sealed, he attacked it with his teeth. Sharp incisors occasionally piercing the bottle.

As a troop of Macaque surrounded us, we decided it was time to get out of there. 


Check Jawa Wetlands doesn’t allow bikes on the paths, so we put them in the racks and started up the path. Within moments wild boars greeted us, trotting along and foraging amongst the wet leaves. The babies were super cute, trailing behind, confusingly following Mum. 

Wild Boar
Wild Boar roam the forests of Pulau Ubin

Of all the animals seen on Pulau Ubin, the rarest is the Oriental Pied Hornbill. Low and behold a man was staring up at a tree. He saw Rose’s giant Canon EF 600mm lens and waived us over. “You just can’t get the shot with a mobile” he said. He was right! At that height amongst the dimly lit trees it’s tough enough with a professional SLR.

Oriental-pied Hornbill
The rare Oriental-pied Hornbill (photo by Rose Kasili)
Yellow-vented Bulbul
Yellow-vented Bulbul (photo by Rose Kasili)
Oriental Magpie Robin
Oriental Magpie Robin (photo by Rose Kasili)
Robin bird Singapore
Robin bird Singapore (photo by Rose Kasili)
Javan Myna Bird
Javan Myna Bird (photo by Rose Kasili)

At Chek Jawa Wetlands there are two walking trails. The Mangroves and The Chek Jawa itself. Both are flat and really easy. Taking the Mangrove Trail first we scaled the 21 metre watchtower. From here there is a gorgeous view across the island and over the sea to Singapore City. I imagine those here early in the morning get treated to some incredible bird watching.

Wooden boardwalk through forest
The Mangrove Trail

The Mangroves are home to mud lobsters. Whilst we didn’t see any (they rarely ever climb out from under the mud and can live their whole lives in it), we did see some huge Malaysian Water Monitor Lizards. They’re common in this part of the world, often sitting  silently in camouflage. That is until you almost put the wrong foot forward.

Singapore Turtle Red Eared Slider
Singapore Turtle Red Eared Slider

For many the highlight of Pulau Ubin might well be the Chek Jawa walk. A 1km platform takes visitors out in to the sea and around the island. It’s a great experience, where at low tide you’ll be witness to hundreds of fiddler crabs. You also see planes coming in over the sea and landing at Changi Airport.

Boardwalk over the sea
The Chek Jawa boardwalk across the sea

Although Chek Jawa Wetlands is the ‘must see’ on Pulau Ubin, there’s so much on offer. The Sensory Trail shows the cultural heritage of the island’s people. Consisting of a fruit orchid, vegetable garden, spice garden, herb garden and economic crop. These areas give a glimpse in to what the early villagers grew.

Pulau Ubin Lake
One of the many beautiful lakes on the island

Also worth visiting are the island’s hidden shrines. There’s three shrines with it’s fluttering prayer flags and terrapin pond and Wei Tuo Fa Gong Temple where the air’s thick with incense.

Buddhist Prayer Flags
Buddhist prayer flags at a monastery

If you want to get off the beaten track and experience a rarely visited side of Singapore, take a day trip to Pulau Ubin. You won’t regret it!

Entrance to Pulau Ubin island
Tired, but ready to explore the island

How to get to Pulau Ubin and Chek Jawa

To get to Pulau Ubin by MRT, travel to the Tanah Merah station on the EW4 line. From here, bus number 2 goes to Changi Village which is the last stop. Do note however, that bus number 2 goes from bus station 1 at Tanah Merah MRT station. It’s confusing, but knowing this will see save you wasting half an hour.

At Changi Pier, boats to Pulau Ubin leave when there are at least 12 people waiting. There is no set timetable, but the first will leave around 8:00AM and the last will leave at 5:00PM. Returning from Pulau Ubin, the last boat leaves around 6:00PM, but don’t wait until then if you can help it.

How much does it cost to visit Pulau Ubin and Check Jawa

The boat costs just $3 SGD ($2.15 USD) per person each way. There is no charge to enter Pulau Ubin.

How long does it take to visit Pulau Ubin and Chek Jawa

Set aside a day. By the time you have got the MRT, boat, cycled it walked around and returned daylight will be drawing to a close. You can of course visit and just head straight out to Chek Jawa Wetlands and then return. This will save a couple of hours if not visiting the other trails and temples.

Where to stay on Pulau Ubin

For accommodation on the island there are some camping spots. It is of course much easier to go on a day trip from Singapore City. Check out Booking and Hostelworld for the best deals on accommodation.

Get the best value accommodation in Singapore here:


Essential Items for Your Trip to Singapore

It’s always useful to have a guide that helps you plan your travels. The Lonely Planet Guide to Singapore is ideal. Also available as Kindle.

The Rough Guide to Singapore is also an exceptional travel planner. Also available as Kindle.

I have taken one of these across the world. This power strip is essential for international travel. It charges multiple items at once and takes any kind of international plug. Perfect if you’re in a hostel dorm with limited plug sockets or have a lot of tech to charge.

You’ll need sun cream to fight against Singapore’s scorching sun. I recommend an eco friendly reef sun cream. This means if you also use it to go swimming, you won’t be harming the underwater environment and animals. You won’t get burned either!

Save the environment and stay hydrated with a bottle that filters your water. This is ideal for travelling overseas where people don’t have the luxury of potable tap water. It will mean you don’t get sick or use a lot of non-recyclable plastic.


How to visit Pulau Ubin and Chek Jawa wetlands

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2 thoughts on “Pulau Ubin National Park and Chek Jawa – Singapore’s Secret Island”

  1. We need to understand one thing about Singapore… We all know that Singapore is one of the best place to visit, sightseeing, travel and adventure purpose. You have described it well. Subscribed!

    1. Thank you so much for the kind words. I’m so pleased our love for Singapore came across 🙂
      All the best with the Reiki therapy sessions you’re providing for people.

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