For 18 Sheltered Workshop trainees, caregivers, volunteers and staff, the rustic outdoors of Pulau Ubin was transformed into a learning laboratory and Mother Nature became their guide on their recent trip to the eastern island.
Preparation for the visit started months ago. Wooden pallets found in the workshop were used to practice boarding of the bum boats which was necessary for those who have mobility issues.
When the day came, the group headed straight for the Sensory Trail, led by Tan Choon Ming, one of the workshop’s trainers. The muddy and uneven trail posed numerous challenges for the trainees who had little experience with nature and the outdoors. However, this did nothing to suppress the excited trippers who were thrilled by the smell, touch, taste, sights and sounds of the island.
Stepping into the Sensory Garden, they were greeted by the fragrance of the pandan leaves. The trainees also learnt to differentiate lemongrass from citronella through smell. One bite of the extremely sour mini star fruit called ‘belimbing’ also instantly awakened their taste buds.
The mangroves were their next stop. The trainees were eager to spot the shy mud lobsters hiding in their knee-high mud castles. A few waited patiently by the water’s edge to catch sight of the fiddler crabs peeking and waving their enlarged colourful mating claws.
At the end of the trail, the intrepid eco-tourists from SPD stood in awe in front of a hectare-sized pond that was fully covered by lotus leaves, and also sought out the village well.
“I have problems getting up and down the jetty but I’m able to do so today with the help from the trainers. There are many types of plants here and I hope there will be volunteers who will continue to plant more and take care of them,” said trainee Mable Yee who is a first –time visitor to the island and loved the lush greenery she saw there.
Shutterbug Eloise Lim agreed, ”Pulau Ubin is so different from the familiar city we come from. There are no cars here, only bicycles and the kampung scenery is so beautiful. I captured them all in my camera for memories. Time and forever, I hope that Pulau Ubin can remain like this.”
The various sensory encounters were a first for the trainees, making this trip memorable for many.