The year-end holiday season is upon us! But regulations are constantly changing and travel is pretty stressful. If you’ve already been on cruises-to-nowhere and staycations in Singapore why not try a different type of getaway without leaving the country? Gather your family or friends for an adventure holiday – take a sailcation to Pulau Ubin! You get to steer the sailboat plus a special for Expat Living readers for this adventure holiday!
Sailing trip + Vacation = Sailcation
This unique two-day, one-night vacation takes place mostly on a sailboat. The destination is a quiet spot off Pulau Ubin island, where you’ll spend the night on the boat. It takes away the hassle of figuring out how to go to Pulau Ubin and where to camp on the island.
What happens in between setting sail from Singapore until your return the next day? I took the sailcation by Discover Sailing Asia with fellow Expat Living editor, Dinesh, to bring you all the details!
How to go to Pulau Ubin without a fuss
I’ve been keen to visit Chek Jawa for years. But the logistics on getting to Pulau Ubin have always put me off. This sailcation takes away all the planning – we simply turned up at the SAF Yacht Club, hopped on Megan (the sailboat) and let the crew take us towards the island!
Before we set off on our adventure holiday, we were given a safety briefing as well as a tour of the cabins. Then the sails were unfurled and, as the sailboat moved in the wind, we were roped in to assist with the sails. Besides pulling on a rope to determine the tautness of the mainsail, I also worked the winch to tighten the ropes. It seemed easy when the crew did it, but it actually requires a great deal of upper body strength!
I also had the chance to steer the wheel, with loads of guidance from the captain who pointed out what to look out for on the digital map.
Sights & sounds of a sailboat adventure holiday
Turning eastwards in Singapore waters just after Sembawang Shipyard, we sailed past a few kelongs (traditional fish farms), and also past Punggol and Coney Island in the direction of Pulau Ubin. Before we arrived there though, we headed to Smith Marine Floating Restaurant, Singapore’s first floating seafood restaurant.
The seafood is the freshest you can get, literally from water to table. Oh, and lunch is served only after you’ve caught it yourself from the kelong! I decided to leave the catching of the sea bass to expert hands after failing at my attempt. While we sat savouring our meal, we could feel the gentle rolling of the restaurant. It definitely was an interesting experience!
After lunch, we continued on to Pulau Ubin. Since this is an adventure holiday, you can expect some adventure, right? Rather than sail up to the jetty at Ubin, we anchored Megan slightly offshore, hopped into a motorised dinghy and headed towards the beach adjacent to the jetty. We got our feet wet and muddy when alighting but were able to wash them at the toilet nearby.
The time on Pulau Ubin is free and easy but we hopped immediately on a local taxi van to bring us to Chek Jawa. Before we arrived at the boardwalk, we popped into the Chek Jawa Visitor Centre, also known as House No. 1. This cottage was built in the 1930s by Landon Williams, then Chief Surveyor of Singapore, as his holiday home. The views of the sea from the back terrace are absolutely breath-taking!
We didn’t linger as Chek Jawa closes at 5pm. The stroll along the coastal took us through four different habitats with an abundance of biodiversity. We saw the nipah palm where the atap seed found in the local chendol dessert comes from, spotted some monkeys among the trees and tried to identify the birds on the wetlands. We even stopped to watch planes approach Changi Airport for landing.
After our walk, we rested at the town centre for a refreshing fresh coconut before making our way back onto Megan.
Barbecue dinner under the stars
We navigated Megan towards a tiny strait between Pulau Ubin and Ketam Island. This was where we dropped anchor and prepared for our overnight on the sailboat.
As the sun set, we prepped for the next part of this adventure holiday – cooking our own barbecue dinner! On the menu was chicken franks, chicken wings and fillet, lamb loin chops, dory fillet, squid, chicken satay, vegetarian pasta salad, corn cob, potatoes and garlic bread.
As we savoured the fruits of our own labour, dusk turned to dark and we marvelled at how quiet the surroundings were. The moon was bright and we attempted to spot planets and stars.
Sweet dreams under the stars or in a cabin
When it was time to call it a night, we could opt to sleep under the stars in an inflatable canoe or hammock, or in the cabin. I opted for the latter while Dinesh decided on the former as it adds to the experience of the sailcation. All he needed was a pillow; it didn’t get cold and it was quiet enough for him to sleep until sunrise.
Below the sailboat’s deck, I had master cabin with the entire queen size mattress and ensuite bathroom with shower to myself. The air conditioning could be adjusted to my comfort level and there were ample points for me to charge my phone (bring your own charging head and cable).
Perhaps it was all the exciting activities of the day or maybe it was the silence, but I slept very well.
Sunrise breakfast and back to shore!
When you’re among nature, the day begins early – it was bright by 6.30am on the second day of our sailcation. We enjoyed a continental breakfast onboard as we heard the morning calls of birds. There was coffee, tea, juice, milk and Milo to accompany the selection of breakfast cereals, bread, muffins, fresh fruit and jam and cheese.
Then it was time to lift anchor and sail back towards Singapore. We arrived back at the SAF Yacht Club at 10am and said goodbye to our skipper and crew as they began preparing for the next adventurers to come onboard.
Customise your sailcation adventure holiday
The sailcation is highly customisable since it’s an adventure holiday away from the rigours and demands of daily life. If you prefer to skip lunch at Smith Marine, which is an add-on cost, you can bring your own lunch onboard or even dine at one of the eateries on the island. Note that only cash is accepted on Pulau Ubin.
Similarly, if you prefer to skip Pulau Ubin, you can spend your time with activities such as swimming, stand-up paddle boarding, canoeing or even catching mangrove oysters instead. Just let the crew know and they’ll accommodate.
Set sail now with a special deal!
The 2D1N Pulau Ubin Sailcation (from $1,805 per sailboat) with Discovery Sailing Asia departs daily at 12 noon and returns the next day at 10am.
The sailboat can accommodate up to six people in its cabins but current restrictions on passenger numbers apply. To book your own sailcation, head to Discovery Sailing Asia’s website for available dates.
Expat Living readers receive 10% off the Pulau Ubin Sailcation with the code “EXPATLIVING10” at checkout. The code is valid from 1 December to 14 December, 2021 for sailing on any dates from 1 December, 2021 to 28 February, 2022.
Written in collaboration with:
Discovery Sailing Asia
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