It's been raining pretty much every afternoon for the past month and the weekend forecast predictably included rain for Ubin. Our tent didn't come with a rain fly so before we left for the island we decided to detour to VivoCity to pick up a tarp. VivoCity had a cool sculpture that I missed on our last trip there.
After VivoCity, we headed to Changi Point Ferry Terminal to catch the bumboat to Ubin. The bumboats run on a pretty casual schedule; boats just leave whenever twelve people arrive. The ride's cheap (S$2.50 a person) and short, only about 15 minutes. When we got to the island, we talked to an NParks guy about our campsite options. He said that they were all pretty similar, except that campfires are only allowed at the site nearest to the jetty, the one called Jelutong. Since campfires are half the fun of camping we decided to check that one first. It turned out to be a little disappointing because the sites were all very close together and the fire pits were huge and looked like they were meant to be shared by multiple sites. It was also facing toward the main island of S'pore, so there was a lot of boat traffic.We decided to check out Mamam campsite, on the opposite side of the island, facing the Johor Straits and peninsular Malaysia. But first we rented bicycles since the bag I was lugging (which contained all our camping gear) was getting a little heavy and the walk wasn't exactly a short jaunt. Poor Bryan is still injured so I did all the heavy lifting. He felt pretty silly for toting a small daypack while his girlfriend huffed and puffed with the big pack. It probably looked like I was being punished.
Anyway, we got on our rickety bikes and pedaled across the island to Mamam campsite. It was all right- it seemed quiter than Jelutong, but it still wasn't the best place for camping. There's a path that goes off to one side of the campsites, and it gets a fair amount of bike traffic. We briefly contemplated checking out Noordin, the third camping spot, but at that point I was ready to put the bag down, so we just set up camp there. The sites are first-come first-serve, and we were the only ones there, so we picked a shady spot and pitched our tent with our jury rigged tarp on the outside to protect from rain. The tide was low when we set up our tent, but it was high the next day. It made a huge difference!After setting up camp, we decided to go on a hike. We headed off in the direction of the Chek Jawa area, on the east side of the island. Along the way, we took some side paths. At one point Bryan got all excited about a bird that he had spotted but I didn't see it. We rounded the corner and I spotted a bird that sounded like the one he'd described. It was on the ground, nestled into the underbrush. We looked it up later and discovered that it's a large-tailed nightjar, a nocturnal bird.Not long after we saw the bird, we spotted this crazy spider. It was gigantic! If you include its legs, it was bigger than Bryan's hand. A little research revealed that this is a female golden orb web spider, and the tiny red spiders in her web may be male spiders who are so incredibly minute that they can sometimes live in the web of the female without her even knowing! Or they could be a separate species of spider called red silver spiders, which live in the nests of other spiders and snatch their prey. Sneaky!On the side of one path we found an abandoned building!!! Everyone knows how much I love abandoned things, so I was pretty stoked. And this one was pink! Pulau Ubin has a lot of abandoned buildings, most likely because many of the inhabitants left Ubin for mainland Singapore as S'pore became increasingly urbanized.The skies were growing darker and thunder was grumbling, but we kept going and eventually arrived at Chek Jawa. I went to the toilet there and saw a bride putting the finishing touches on her makeup while glancing nervously at the sky. What a cool place to get married! And in the end, the rain held off for her.
We caught the tail-end of low tide at the intertidal flats, so we saw some cool shells, snails, mudskippers, and fish.
Judging from information I found in the Chek Jawa Guidebook, I think the photo below shows knobby periwinkle, tiny algae-grazing snails.
The mussel with the green rim was my favorite!
These yellow, snot-like blobs are actually colonial ascidians, a type of simple animal.
As we moved off of the Chek Jawa boardwalk and back onto the mangrove area we began seeing more and more crabs.
In one spot we'd stopped to watch the crabs when we heard some squawking and branches crashing. It was an Oriental pied hornbill!! Apparently they're not very graceful.
After walking all over Chek Jawa, we decided to go back to our campsite to pick up our bikes. On our way, we stopped by one of Ubin's abandoned quarries. The island used to be heavily mined for granite ("Pulau Ubin" actually means "Granite Island"), but now all the quarries are abandoned. This one was called the Balai Quarry and was my favorite because of all the colors- rich red earth, cerulean water, bright green trees, and a baby blue sky with fluffy white clouds. I look really moody in this picture, but it's only because I'm squinting at the brightness.Back at the campsite, our tent was now surrounded by other tents. The people to the right of us had a huge group and about six tents. So much for for a campground all to ourselves! Anyway, we picked up our bikes and rode into town for some dinner. I wasn't too optimistic about my options, since I was attempting to get something vegetarian on a seafood-crazy island, but my fried rice turned out to be delicious and Bryan raved about his black pepper beef. An ice cold Tiger washed it all down. We got a couple more beers and some bottled water (you can't drink from the tap on Ubin!) and headed back to the campsite. Sitting by the beach and watching the sun set was a great way to end a day full of hiking.
We sat around for awhile longer, draining our Tigers and waiting for it to get completely dark. There was some moonlight and Bryan and decided to go for a walk to see if we could spot any night wildlife. We brought along my headlamp to try to find some eyeshine.
The island was so much quieter at night. During the day, it's crawling with people on bikes, cycling all over the place. At a talk I went to last week, I heard a guy who does research on Ubin say that people may be "loving it to death," by frequenting it for its nature. It's not so surprising I guess, S'pore is so packed that people, ourselves included, are often looking for a getaway and Ubin is one of the most convenient options. It was much more peaceful at night after most everyone had departed on the last bumboat at 9 PM.We roamed awhile and didn't see much, but it was enjoyable anyway. It was so nice to hear the night sounds and to not see anything that reminded us of the city- no lights, no skyscrapers, no cars, not even any other people.
I spotted some eyes off to one side and I think it might have been a civet, but I'm not sure. We saw lots of little glints that turned out to be spiders, and we also spotted another nightjar. At one point we stood perfectly still and turned off the light. After a few seconds, something BIG started crashing around in the trees to our left. Even after we turned on the light and pointed it in that direction we couldn't see what it was, but it really sounded huge!
After our walk, we headed back to the tent and got ready for bed. Someone else had set up a tent right next to ours, which seemed a little obnoxious to me, but I supposed that this was just like the rest of S'pore- there are just a lot of people and not much space. Our neighbors (the big group) was being pretty loud and listening to music, but it was still pretty early and I figured they would quiet down soon. Oh man, was I wrong. The night went like this:
11 PM: Try to go to sleep, despite the horrible, old American pop blaring from a boombox about 15 feet from our tent (LeAnn Rimes? N*SYNC?!? Boyz II Men?!?!?!)
12 AM: After stewing about the rudeness of these people for over an hour, I put on my boots and go over and ask them to turn down the music, because we are trying to sleep. One girl in the group is very apologetic and suggests that they move the party up the beach. Everyone leaves, but GET THIS. One guy stays. With the stereo. And doesn't turn it down.
1 AM: Still awake, silently cursing these people and wondering what on earth is wrong with them. Have they absolutely no consideration for other people? Why is this one guy such a loser? Is he leaving the music on just to be a mean jerk?
2 AM: The party that had moved up the beach returns, and the fun rages on...for them.
3 AM: I conclude that death is a suitable punishment for disturbing the peace. Right around when I decide this, everything abruptly gets quiet. The music turns off and everyone goes to bed. I finally fall asleep.
6 AM: THE MUSIC IS BACK!!! WHY?!?!?!
9 AM: Give up trying to sleep, and get up to start the day. Am unsurprised to see that everyone else that was not associated with the raging party has already packed up and left. The partying neighbors are hanging out in front of our tent.
I brushed my teeth while glaring at our neighbors, and then Bryan and I left for a hike. As we were walking away, we found cool wildlife right by our tent. Jellyfish!And a
In the afternoon, we biked back to our campsite and packed up our tent (it was a good thing we did- our neighbors had moved some of their tents so that they were boxing us in on all sides. They had pretty much absorbed us. Weirdos). Anyway, we went back into town, dropped off our bikes, and walked over to the jetty. Catching a bumboat back is a distinctly unSingaporean experience. I'm used to everything in S'pore being somewhat orderly, but the bumboat ordeal is disorganized and there are lots of people shouting and pointing and it's hard to tell who's in charge. We just stood patiently and waited for someone to point us in the right direction and it all worked out in less than 10 minutes. Here we are on the boat, a little sunburned and sleepy but happy nonetheless!Back in Changi Village, we were looking forward to Mexican food at Tequila Blue, but they were only serving drinks at that time of day so we went to Subway instead. As we headed there, Bryan heard some screeching up in the trees. In the trees were two very colorful birds! They're red-breasted parakeets, which are not native to S'pore but have been introduced here and now survive in the wild in a small breeding population. They were likely introduced from Java and Bali as part of the bird trade.