Nature’s not the first thing that springs to mind when you think of Singapore, a city synonymous with sleek architecture, clean streets and somewhat of a shopping obsession. On a three day weekend getaway in Singapore I made it my mission to explore beyond the comforts of the city and to get out into nature.
Here at Tripsle we’re an adventurous bunch. We like to keep in touch with our operators and to check out as many experiences as we all can, as often as we can! So I jumped at the chance to try something new on a recent trip to Singapore.
It’s now routine for me to browse the Tripsle website before departing on any trip in Asia (and not just because I’m an editor at Tripsle, it’s actually a great way to find out what there is to do!) Browsing the tags, I filtered the experiences to ‘Nature Escapes’ and then ‘Outdoor Adventures’. The Nature Kayaking on Pulau Ubin has piqued my curiosity previously and I decided that this was the perfect time to give it a go. There are two trip options: Mangrove Kayaking, a four hours kayaking trip for all levels, or Ubin Bisect Kayaking for more adventurous types. Due to time constraints I went for the four hours but would have loved to try the full tour which actually cuts all the way through the middle of the island.
The ferry pier to Pulau Ubin is way out east beyond the airport. Not so many tourists make it out this far so you’ll be mostly joined by locals and expats getting out of the city for the weekend. As soon as you leave the city, it feels like the start of an adventure. And as every great adventure should begin, before boarding the ferry to Pulau Ubin I went in search of a hearty meal (it’s no secret that Singapore is home to some of the world’s best food). As luck would have it, there is an excellent hawker centre right by the pier. I gobbled down some chai tow kway (fried carrot cake) and spicy otah (minced fish wrapped and steamed in a banana leaf) before making my way to the Changi Point Ferry Pier.
Following signs for Pulau Ubin, you’ll then be asked to sit a few minutes while waiting for more people to arrive. The bumboat departs when there are twelve passengers. On a weekend, you won’t be waiting long, it only took a minute or two before we were ushered to the boat and on our way. The boat only costs SGD2.50 and it’s best to have the exact change if possible.
On arrival, turn left at the end of the pier, past numerous bicycle rental shops and head straight to the kayak centre (No.34). It’s one of the larger huts on the right. I met my guide, Fadil, and the American family I’d be joining on the trip. We selected our kayaks, walked them down to the water, and we were on our way.
We first paddled along the coastline where the sea was a little choppier before turning inland and entering the calmness and serenity of the mangroves. Gliding first past a few houseboats we then entered further into the undergrowth until we came to a large clearing where the stillness of the forest and the loud noises of chirruping nature transported me far away from the bustling CBD I had left only hours before. It was a leisurely paddle weaving through the mangrove routes, keeping an eye out for monitor lizards, otters and birds. Kingfishers, Eagles, Hornbills, Herons and Egrets are some of the birds that grace these waters though unfortunately we didn’t see any of them! Fadil challenged us to some games where we stood up on our kayaks, before it was time to head back out to sea and pay a visit to the fish farms just off the coastline. Our guide Fadil, an Ubin native, was eager to inform us of some interesting facts about the farms and the livelihoods of the fishermen who live and work there.
Fadil has grown up on the island and spent much of his life here so knows it, and it seemed, every resident, very well. Throughout the trip he was giving us little tidbits of information about the island, the nature, and the different types of mangroves (did you know that there are three: red, black and white?) and how to identify them.
Once back on dry land, the group helped put the kayaks away and wash off the salt from the gear. The kayak centre has some basic shower facilities and a place to change into fresh clothes. There are a few local restaurants on Pulau Ubin which looked worth checking out too. Pulau Ubin, unsurprisingly, is known for its fresh seafood and also durians which I’ve been told are like the ones Singaporeans remember from their childhood. I didn’t try them however as I live up to the foreigner stereotype of not being able to stomach that putrid smell!
Next time you’re in Singapore and want to get back to nature, I’d highly recommend checking out the Nature Kayaking on Pulau Ubin for the perfect half-day eco-adventure. It’s suitable for all levels and even kids, with only moderate levels of fitness required.