Chek Jawa At Long Last

Fiddler crabs

I’ve wanted to walk the Chek Jawa intertidal wetlands at Pulau Ubin ever since I returned to Singapore after university, and after about six years I finally managed it. This was back in June, but first I was slow about processing the photos, and then Michael Jackson died.

A little background for anyone reading this who isn’t from Singapore: when nature enthusiasts discovered that the government planned to reclaim this area, they conducted a biodiversity survey, submitted a report to the government, and petitioned against the reclamation. They were partially successful – the government agreed to defer its plans until 2012, but after that Chek Jawa’s fate remains unknown. In the meantime, the National Parks Board has had to balance huge public interest in the area against the necessity to preserve the fragile ecosystem. An elevated boardwalk takes you through the wetlands without letting you trample them into oblivion, but if you want to actually set foot on them you have to register for a guided walking tour. These are only available on a handful of dates per quarter, due to the need for suitable tide levels and times and of course in order to control visitor impact, and are so wildly popular that places are snapped up almost as soon as the tour dates are released.

Boardwalk and viewing tower

After trying and failing to get on these tours since 2003, I was delighted when my company got a block booking and organized an employee outing. I’d missed the opportunity to join a previous employee outing because all available places were taken as soon as the email advertising it was sent out, but this time they sent out the email quite late on a Friday evening and I was one of the few poor sods still at work. Score, kind of! So here are some pictures of what I waited 6 years to see. I’m a little drained from all the Michael Jackson posts – they’re not easy for me to write – and tonight I enjoyed a change of scene.

Sandbar lightThe puddled ground of the sandbar shimmered in the morning sun.


Fiddler crabsFiddler crabs scurried back and forth on the sand.


Crab's eye viewTinier crabs clambered in and out of little assembled sandball piles, their homes. These are dotted everywhere and it’s almost impossible to avoid stepping on one every now and then. Sorry, crabs. :(


Our guide showed us:

Hermit crab

Flower crab moult

Rock starfish

Rock starfish (underside)

Sea cucumber

Carpet anemone

Please, Powers That Be, let things remain as they are in this beautiful part of Singapore.

Beachscape at low tide

And just for once, let civilization advance no further.


  1. great shots! especially love the shimmering sandbar and that creepy blob (2nd last shot). :D the creepy blob looks a bit like a fake tilt/shift miniature, cool effect!

  2. Thanks everyone, I’m glad you like them. My favourite is the last one, which I purposely kept a little low-contrasty and grey in the conversion to black and white. I wanted it to look depressing.

  3. Sorry about the double post: I’ve just checked the schedule, there’s an upcoming date that’ll be open for booking soon: 18th Oct 09 Sun 4.00 PM – but I’ve to form a group of max 15, it’s at $60 a group. i.e. the more people I get, the cheeeeaper it becomes. So…. the cheepie in me is wondering if you’d be keen to go again?

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