You can find several interesting eco-friendly landscapes in Singapore, such as Bukit Timah Nature Reserve and Pulau Ubin, where the flora and fauna have more and less been left to take their own course. These green-lung areas, while well-known to locals, are slightly off-the-beaten-track for most tourists. If you’re really into ecology and the environment, check out these stunning nature reserves below.
Pulau Ubin island
This is one of Singapore’s several offshore islands which have been left more or less untouched by urban development. Getting there is all part of the fun – take a bus or taxi to Changi Point jetty, which is about 40 minutes from the city centre. Then, take a bum-boat ride to the island. The boats leave when they’re full and charge from SG$1.50 for a one-way ride. There’s no admission fee to the island. Spend the whole day on Pulau Ubin, dividing your time between biking on the rocky trails, bird-watching, swimming on the beach and trying out the fresh seafood.
Bikes can easily be rented, though don’t expect a state-of-the-art 10-speeder. The rusty, rickety machines on offer are part of the island’s charm. You’ll pass mangrove swamps, coconut and rubber plantations, an unused quarry lake, even a Buddhist temple. Don’t be surprised to see wild pigs roaming the island or huge flying fox bats at night.
Sungei Buloh Nature Park
The Sungei Buloh Nature Park is a great place for bird-watching, being a regional stopover for birds on their North-South migrations. An 87-hectare wetland reserve, the park is a little less than an hour’s ride by car from downtown Singapore. The park gives you an idea of the mangrove swamps that once surrounded Singapore. Admission is from SG$1.
There’s a visitor centre, boardwalks and bird-watching hides, from which you can spot night herons and the white-breasted water hen. Also keep a lookout for various species of butterflies, mud-skippers and monitor lizards. If you’re interested in aquaculture, prawn and fish farming is carried out in the park.
Location: 301 Neo Tiew Crescent, Singapore 718925
Open: Daily from 7.30am to 7pm (Saturday and Sunday open from 7am)
Phone: +65 6794 1401
Bukit Timah Nature Reserve
Bukit Timah Hill is Singapore’s highest point, at a mere 163 metres. The Bukit Timah Nature Reserve is a 164-hectare primary rainforest reserve just a half-hour ride from the heart of the city. It’s located along Upper Bukit Timah Road, at the end of Hindhede Drive. Admission is free, and the visitor centre opens daily from 8.30am to 6.30pm. The reserve is a popular spot during the weekend, with visitors ranging from teenagers on mountain bikes to groups of serious joggers.
The park is clearly marked with trails, and you can breathe in the sights, smells and sounds of an authentic primary forest as you walk. This essentially, was Singapore hundreds of years ago, before development. Tall timber trees, liana vines and huge ferns abound in the forest. The place also boasts of abundant wildlife – watch out for the noisy long-tailed macaques, who may just decide to follow you on part of your walk, swinging above you from tree to tree.
Location: Bukit Timah Hill, Singapore
Open: The visitor centre is open from 6am to 7pm (night walking within the reserve is not encouraged)
Central Catchment Nature Reserve
If your idea of a true nature adventure is to trek for hours on end, always running the risk of getting lost, then Central Catchment Nature Reserve would probably come closest to satisfying you. This 2,000-hectare reserve is made up of the forests around the Upper Peirce, Peirce, MacRitchie and Seletar Reservoirs. You can enter the Upper Peirce forest via the Old Upper Thomson Road.
There’s no admission fee, which also means there’s no visitor centre and you are left to your own devices. Unlike the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve, though, the forests of the Central Catchment are secondary forests. You can hike for quite a long distance here, as the park leads right on to Bukit Timah Reserve and beyond. Bring a hat for protection from the blazing equatorial sun and lots of water.
Phone: +65 1800 471 7300