Adventure

Exploring Pulau Ubin, Singapore’s Incredibly Beautiful Haunted Island

Feeling nostalgic? Has the hustle of modern inner city living got you feeling exhausted? Look, Singapore is home to some incredible architecture. And these landmarks are truly a testament to the capabilities of man, but a city is a city, and by that I mean there’s bloody people everywhere. Just. So. Many. People.

Singapore is home to just over five and a half million people, all squeezed into a fairly compact area. This can leave even the most zen of monks feeling a little overwhelmed. Enter Pulau Ubin, a quaint little island located to the northeast of Singapore. With its lush forests, gravel roads, and scores of wildlife, visiting Pulau Ubin is like stepping into a time machine. Destination: Singapore, 1960.

 

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Legend has it that the 10.2 square kilometre, boomerang-shaped island was formed when an elephant, a pig, and a frog all challenged each other to a race from Singapore to Johor across the straits. This race was high stakes, as failure would mean being turned into a rock. As it happens, they all failed. The frog turned to stone and became Pulau Sekudu, and the pig and elephant both turned into Pulau Ubin.

Oh, and it’s haunted. Or so the story goes. But more on that later. First, a quick history lesson. Pulau Ubin was home to a few thousand settlers back in the early ’60s, most of whom were granite miners and their families (Pulau Ubin literally translates to: “Granite Island” in Malay). These days fewer than a hundred people call the island home, leaving behind a string of now-abandoned granite quarries. This little oasis across the water is a fascinating contrast to the fast-paced nature of what most people associate with Singapore, in fact it is one of the only remaining truly rural areas to be found in the country and is widely considered its last surviving true village.

 

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Okay cool but tell me about the ghosts

Okay, relax, I hear you. There are a few tales of eerie and ghoulish happenings surrounding Pulau Ubin, but the most widely known is the story of the German girl, which goes like this: A century ago, a German family called Pulau Ubin home. They owned a plantation and employed several locals. But shortly after the World War I broke out, British military arrived on the island and almost immediately detained the German family. The girl managed to escape, though her respite was short lived. In her haste she fell to her death down a steep cliff. Her remains were found days later by villagers and laid to rest.

In the 1970s a shrine was erected to house her remains, and the shrine is still there today. In the century since her death, there have been numerous reports of sightings of the German girl, as well as strange goings on once the sun goes down and the majority of visitors leave. Still, this doesn’t put off an almost endless stream of visitors coming from all over the world to pay their respects, often leaving gifts of flowers, toys, and even cosmetics.

But don’t let the ghosts and ghouls keep you away, Pulau Ubin is renowned for its pristine nature, as it is home to a rich ecosystem brimming with a rich tapestry of native fauna and flora, as well as a number of endangered species of birds. The Chek Jawa Wetlands are especially popular among visiting nature enthusiasts. Home to an array of sea life such as octopus, starfish, sea hares, otters, sea sponges, cuttlefish, and so much more; not to mention the lovely coral reef, all of which call this intertidal flat home.

 

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Whilst further inland you’ll likely spot long-tailed macaques, hornbills, and even wild boars. Because of this, the small island is an ideal weekend destination tourists and Singaporeans alike looking to escape the city and take in some much needed vitamin mother nature. And don’t worry too much about the ghosts. They’re most likely too busy enjoying the soothing sights and sounds of the island to worry about little old you.

Getting to Pulau Ubin

 

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It’s a fairly straightforward 10-minute bumboat ride from Changi Point Ferry Terminal to Pulau Ubin. Whilst the ferry ride will set you back SG$3 (SG$5 with a bicycle), admission to the island itself is free. There are no opening or closing hours, but the ferries on and off the island only operate from sunrise to sunset. Bumboat tickets cannot be purchased beforehand, instead you pay the driver directly. Keep in mind that the boats depart on an irregular schedule, only jetting off once 12 people have arrived.

Another important note: bring cash. There aren’t any ATMs on the island, and you’ll be hard pressed to find any of the little stores on the island accepting credit cards. Once you’re actually on the island, a highly recommended way to get around is via rental bicycle.

Staying overnight?

You can camp for free and without a permit at Ubin’s Jelutong and Mamam Beaches. Though, Pulau Ubin officials strongly encourage overnight campers to let the officers at Pulau Ubin Police Post know they’re intending to do so when they arrive on the island, for safety reasons.

(Lead image: Annie Spratt / Unsplash)