Charming Chek Jawa

July 7th, 2007   •   18 comments   

Yesterday morning, my wife and I attended the official launch of Chek Jawa by Minister of National Development Mah Bow Tan. One of the last remaining vestiges of nature in Singapore, Chek Jawa Wetlands is located off the east coast of Pulau Ubin, which is a charming and rustic island getaway stuck in time.

Managed by the National Parks Board, this unique tidal treasure trove boasts of some of Singapore’s richest ecosystem, and showcases a rich biodiversity that is almost unparalleled on our otherwise concrete jungle. Some may remember how Chek Jawa’s survival was the result of active lobbying by nature lovers back in December 2001 which resulted in the government overturning its decision to transform it a military training area.

To get to Pulau Ubin, one needs to hop onto these bumboats from Changi Point Ferry Terminal. They are in operation from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily. Ticket prices are only $2 per pax with an additional $2 extra per bicycle.
Our bumboat ride was pretty fun, although the weather was quite wet that morning.

A coastal view of Pulau Ubin, taken from the jetty. Kelongs and seafood restaurants dot the landscape.

Our journey on an NParks van took us along windy forested roads like this.

Hordes of hungry nature lovers congregated to support the launch.

Guest Of Honour Minister Mah Bow Tan addressing the crowd and sharing the story of Chek Jawa.

This outdoor toilet provides sweet relief for those in urgent need of answering err….nature’s call.

Tina in a yellow rain coat standing at the newly constructed 500 metre boardwalk which takes one through the mangroves.

The pencil-shaped breathing roots (pneumatophores) of these Sonneratia plants helps it to manage the harsh inter-tidal conditions of being submerged and exposed throughout the day.

Bakau (Rhizophora) plants have stilt roots to help it breathe. Do you know that the tough and sturdy wood of this plant is used for charcoal and scaffolding?

A yellow sea hibiscus flower which apparently turns red and dies within one day. What’s interesting was that the plants were full of ants which drank nectar from its leaves while fending off beetles and other unwanted insect pests. A nice example of symbiosis.

Can you guess what this palm species is famous for?

The answer – attap chee! These fuits of the Nipah palm need to be de-shelled and processed considerably before landing in your bowl of ice kachang.

What does this look like? A pile of mud with holes?

Well, the mound is the home of the mud lobster, a much loved denizen of the mudflats. Its burrowing behaviour helps to aerate the soil and make it more hospitable for plants and other organisms.

We were very fortunate to catch this highly venomous banded krait slithering through the muddy terrain. As I learnt from intrepid naturalist Siva, this is a very rare occurrence as its natural habitat is out in the sea.

We next proceeded to climb up the 20-metre tall Jejawi Tower…

…and was rewarded with this panoramic view of Chek Jawa’s forest.

Shelters like this provide a nice respite from the rain or sweltering noon day heat.

Back near the visitor centre, we visited House No.1. This Tudor-style cottage was built in the 1930s by then Chief Surveyor Langdon Williams as a holiday retreat. It is now a conserved building and an interpretative centre for Chek Jawa.

This aquarium shows the different marine aquatic organisms thriving in different depths of the littoral flats.

The only working fireplace in Singapore!

Panels like this educate us about the value of Chek Jawa to our island.

On the board walk behind House No.1, we spotted this amusing cartoon about Pulau Sekudu or frog island.

Here’s a view of the island in question. Does it look amphibious to you?

Naturally, Chek Jawa is awarded for its efforts in preserving our natural environment.

Finally, the true heroes of Chek Jawa are the many volunteers, activists and helpers who made it possible.

Update: Check out Siva’s post here.

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  1. Lam Chun See
    posted on Jul 08, 2007 at 6:10 AM

    I think it’s good that many younger Sporeans have a keen interest in nature and ecololgy, judging from what I see in the blogosphere. Although the littering problem seems to have gotten worse lately, I think in general, Sporeans are more informed and concerned with environment compared to my parents’ generation.

  2. posted on Jul 07, 2007 at 11:28 PM

    Nice! Comprehensive account will be useful for new visitors. And your photo of the krait is the best one I’ve seen so far. You can see an incomplete black ring near its head.

  3. posted on Jul 07, 2007 at 11:30 PM

    About the award, from the media release:

    “Green Mark Gold Award

    The new amenities at Chek Jawa were developed with minimal impact on the environment. The use of environmentally friendly features in the design of the new amenities earned the Chek Jawa Wetlands development the Green Mark Gold Award. This includes the use of simulated timber for the planks of the boardwalk, as well as energy efficient lights, motion sensor lights, and solar powered battery cells. The design of the visitor centre also made use of natural ventilation and daylight. “

  4. posted on Jul 07, 2007 at 11:40 PM

    About the Banded Krait – see Ecology Asia – a rare sighting!

  5. posted on Jul 08, 2007 at 12:45 AM

    Cool Insider, I am now tempted to visit Chek Jawa in the near future.

  6. posted on Jul 08, 2007 at 1:06 AM

    Amazing! Great photos there… wish I had gone too! 🙂

  7. Endoh Taiki
    posted on Jul 08, 2007 at 9:59 AM

    It’s cool that they are leaving Chek Jawa untouched. The same can’t be said for the corals somewhere and also Pasir Ris’s Sungei Api Api. These places are already damaged.

  8. posted on Jul 08, 2007 at 10:03 AM

    Re: this statement – “We were very fortunate to catch this highly venomous banded krait slithering through the muddy terrain” — you mean you were fortunate that it didn’t catch you guys. It’s highly venomous, for goodness sake! Ah, city folks, heh. Seriously though — nice post. Makes me want to make a trip there.

  9. Endoh Taiki
    posted on Jul 08, 2007 at 6:35 PM

    Yea I actually meant Sentosa. The last time they relocated was 5 years ago… and now within 5 years again. It goes to show how much effort and commitment they are putting into their so-called conservation. There isn’t anywhere they won’t leave untouch…

  10. posted on Jul 08, 2007 at 2:58 PM


    Thanks for the links, especially on the award and the banded krait! We were all pretty excited when we saw the venomous sea snake, knowing how rare it was. I remembered the last time I visited Sungei Buloh about a couple of months ago, and we spotted both crocodiles and monitor lizards.

    This experience has got me really hooked on nature and you can bet that I will find excuses to be more involved. 😉

  11. posted on Jul 08, 2007 at 3:00 PM


    Thanks dude. You should get out once in a while and get a tan!

  12. posted on Jul 08, 2007 at 3:02 PM

    chun see,

    I see that the latest alarm bells ringing over the environment, with the latest Live Earth Concert (lots of views on that one!) seen as an endorsement on its importance. We have far too little of Mother Nature at our doorsteps and we should try to appreciate whatever we have. My only hope is that there will be enough of nature – and wildlife – for my son to appreciate when he grows up!

  13. posted on Jul 08, 2007 at 3:04 PM


    Well, I guess its hard to conserve all the mangrove and coral areas when Singapore is so land scarce. For the corals, I guess you must be talking about Sentosa? They are trying to relocate a few of the corals to safer havens but I am personally unsure if they can still survive. Well, I guess its always a dilemma that we have to face between progress and preservation.

  14. posted on Jul 08, 2007 at 3:06 PM


    Seriously though, I wasn’t really afraid of being bitten even though I know how venomous these snakes are. Most of them are pretty shy creatures that will only bite if being provoked. To me, it was a real treat as I have read about these beautiful reptiles before but didn’t have a chance to see them in the wild until now. Of course, I also enjoy reliving my past years when I was training to be an ecologist.

  15. posted on Jul 10, 2007 at 7:58 AM

    Chek Jawa is one wicked place to visit man..can learn alot about biodiversity from there..

    I did rem going there sometime last year or something with my ministry..lost my sandals but was great fun..

    I dun rem checking out the exhibits tho..issit new?

  16. posted on Jul 10, 2007 at 1:44 PM


    Well… I do know that when Resorts World at Sentosa is built, they will try to maintain as much green cover as possible. May not be entirely like the original lush vegetation but at least a concession.

  17. posted on Jul 10, 2007 at 1:45 PM


    Ahhh… like I said your Ministry is one very “Green” one.. hehe… I think the interpretative centre housed in the Tudor Cottage was quite a recent thing. It opened together with the relaunch which we attended.

  18. posted on Jul 12, 2007 at 2:34 AM

    Ahh..ic..coz the last time we went there was just walk around the muddy area..wondered how I managed to go back home without my sandals that day man..hmm…

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