Celebrate Ubin

Take a boat tour through the secret mangroves of Ubin, kayak in the calm waters of the Ubin Quarry and embark on a night walk to spot the nocturnal creatures of the island.

These are just some of the highlights at the longest open house event held to date on the island.

Called Pesta Ubin, it will run for five weeks, starting tomorrow and ending on June 12. Pesta is Malay for festival or party.

More than 50 activities have been lined up, from nature walks and cycling tours to kayaking expeditions and nature sketching.

Previous open houses at Ubin were usually one- or two-day events. But organisers felt cramming so many events in a short time affected the experience for participants, says Ms Ria Tan, who is coordinating the open house for the third time this year.

Ms Tan, 55, who runs wildlife website Wildsingapore, says: "Ubin was crowded. There were queues for bumboats, restaurants and toilets. This was not the Ubin we love and want people to experience."

By organising the open house over a longer period, the organisers hope participants can experience "normal" Ubin with its life in the slow lane and its friendly people.

Ms Tan says: "It also spreads out the pressure on facilities and organising groups can choose from many dates to offer activities."

She says there has been an outpouring of support and more than 30 individuals and organisations have come on board to offer activities.

Besides familiar faces in previous Ubin open houses such as veteran nature guide Subaraj Rajathurai, green groups such as Nature Society (Singapore) and private companies such as Asian Detours, there are a number of new participants this time.

One of them is Dr Dan Friess, 33, and his group of volunteers from the Restore Ubin Mangroves or R.U.M. initiative. The group, comprising nature enthusiasts and mangrove researchers, will be conducting guided walks and boat tours of the mangroves at the south-eastern part of the island.

Dr Friess, an assistant professor at the department of geography at the National University of Singapore, says: "Singapore's coastline used to be largely covered with mangrove forests. Though only fragments remain, they still provide us with many benefits, which we will discuss on the tours."

He adds that visitors will get to see many of the unique plants and animals that have adapted to the coastal environment.

Also new to Ubin open house is Mr Joseph Sng, 26, project director of Treasure SG, a non-profit treasure hunt project held in Singapore last year to celebrate SG50.

Mr Sng, who works as a procurement executive, is taking the project to Ubin this time because he feels that the island is a part of Singapore that many people tend to forget.

He says: "How many people stop to appreciate the beauty and understand the story behind Ubin?"

On the treasure hunt, participants follow a trail of clues which will lead them to 10 spots in Ubin town. Each spot can be identified by an information tag or laminated cardboard containing information about the history of the place.

Another newcomer is Morocco- born photographer and visual artist Juria Toramae, 32, who works in Singapore. She will be putting up an exhibition called Islands Of Memories featuring 51 photos of things and people found in Ubin.

She says: "The exhibition serves as a peek into memories I have collected in the past few years. It includes photos I have taken, as well as photos found in flea markets and donated by others."

Her exhibition will be shown at the shop of retiree Henry Lim. Mr Lim, 63, has also offered his space for a free "kampung photo shoot" where people can don sarongs and red clogs for photos.

At the same venue, visitors can also colour copies of the Pulau Ubin Fun Map. Drawn by nature lovers 15 years ago, the intricate map is filled with details of places in Ubin, some of which are already lost.

Former Ubin open house supporters such as environmental education group Cicada Tree Eco-Place is taking the opportunity of the extended run to organise more activities for families.

Other than a night walk to spot critters, it will also be holding its first walk in Ubin for children to spot the musang, or common palm civet.

It will also organise a two-day one-night nature camp for families at the newly opened Ubin Living Lab. Located at the south-western tip of the island, the research and educational hub opened in February this year and comes with facilities such as seminar rooms and a campsite.

Using the Living Lab as a base, families can go on at least three guided walks along the kampung trails in Ubin.

Father of four and IT manager Andy Lee, 42, thinks it will be too challenging to take his four children, aged seven to 13, for the camp. But he plans to let them take part in the treasure hunt.

He applauds the idea to hold the event over five weeks. He says: "This way, we can choose to go on weekdays when it is less crowded."



Meet fish farmers on Pulau Ubin and learn how sea water fish are reared at some of their farms.

When: Tomorrow to June 12

Time: 10am to 5pm

Cost: $15 a person

Info: To register, leave a private message at Sea Angel Facebook page with your name, mobile number, number of people in your group and date and time that you want to visit the farm.


Find out how well you know Ubin town by taking part in this treasure hunt which features 10 hidden treasure tags in the main village of Ubin.

Take a selfie with each tag and upload it onto social media with #TreasureSG, #TreasureUbin and #PestaUbin and stand a chance to win prizes such as books, vounchers and goodie bags.

When: Tomorrow to June 12

Cost: Free

Info: No registration required. Go to Treasure SG Facebook Page and Instagram (@TreasureSG) to find the clues and start the treasure hunt


Try to spot a musang (above) or common palm civet as it looks for its dinner. Along the way, you may even spot other shy nocturnal wildlife such as the Buffy Fish-owl. Learn why these animals are important to the ecosystem.

When: May 27

Time: 7.30 to 10pm

Where: Meet at 42 Pulau Ubin, opposite the Wayang Stage, three minutes' walk from Ubin Jetty

Cost: $10 for participants aged five years and older


Try your hand at night macro photography and capture nocturnal creatures as they emerge from their hideouts to hunt.

When: May 28

Time: 7pm to midnight

Where: Meet at Uncle Lim's shop, 42 Pulau Ubin, opposite the Wayang Stage, three minutes' walk from Ubin Jetty

Cost: $120 (includes materials for flash diffuser and chartered boat ride back to Changi Ferry Terminal). Pay by bank transfer

Info: To register, e-mail nicky@bay.to with your name, contact number and a description of your macro photography experience


Join Subaraj Rajathurai from Strix Wildlife Consultancy as he conducts this nature walk and shares fascinating stories about the history and heritage of Pulau Ubin.

When: June 1 and 8

Time: 8 to 11am, meet at 7.40am

Where: Meet at assembly area opposite the HSBC Volunteer Hub, about six minutes' walk from Ubin Jetty

Cost: $15 a participant. Proceeds will go to the Vertebrate Study Group, Nature Society (Singapore)

Info: No registration required. Maximum 40 people


Experienced nature guides from Cicada Tree Eco-Place will lead at least three guided nature walks along Ubin kampung trails.

Families also get to spend a night in tents at a campsite at the rustic Ubin Living Lab (above). When: June 3 to 4

Time: 9.30am (June 3) to noon (June 4)

Where: Meet at Ubin Jetty

Info: Cost and other details to be confirmed. Go to pestaubin2016. blogspot.sg for updates


In these 11/2-hour tours, learn about unique mangrove plants and animals from volunteers with R.U.M., a ground-up community effort to restore mangroves at Pulau Ubin.

When: June 4

Time: 9, 11am and 1pm

Where: Meet at assembly area opposite the HSBC Volunteer Hub

Cost: Free. No registration required


Volunteer guides will be stationed along the boardwalk at Chek Jawa to point out the thriving wildlife at the wetlands, which were saved from reclamation in 2001.

When: June 5

Time: 9am to noon

Where: Chek Jawa information kiosk Cost: Free. No registration required


Join experienced kayak guides as they lead you on a short open sea jaunt before entering the serene mangroves of Ubin.

When: June 5

Time: 9.30am to before 2pm

Where: Meet next to Ubin Jetty, at the beach behind the bicycle shops

Cost: $35 an adult, $30 a child

Info: Register at pestaubin2016.blogspot.sg


Explore Ubin Quarry with instructors from Outward Bound Singapore and Republic Polytechnic, who will share the history and snippets about the wildlife of the quarry, which is usually closed to the public.

When: June 11

Time: 10am to 5pm

Where: Meet at the "Y u so like dat" drinks stall

Cost: Free (limited to 250 participants)

Info: For more details, go to www.obs.nyc.gov.sg and www.rp.edu.s

For more information on the above and other events at Pesta Ubin, go to pestaubin2016.blogspot.sg

Unless otherwise stated, participants will pay at the meeting point. Places are on a first-come, first-served basis.

Take a boat ride through Pulau Ubin's mangroves. http: //str.sg/4oqz


This article was first published on May 13, 2016.
Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to straitstimes.com for more stories.