With its stunning skyline and densely packed buildings, Singapore is often viewed as a concrete jungle. Yet, there are numerous pockets of green spaces and wilderness on this little red dot that are well worth exploring.
Spending time in nature contributes hugely to our mental and emotional well-being. During the Circuit Breaker, many of us were feeling cooped up and dreamt of being out among the trees and flowers. While it may be some time before we can visit the likes of Yellowstone National Park, why not take advantage of the beautiful parks at our doorstep. Do, of course, practise social distancing while you are there, and check their individual websites before you go as some parks may be closed. The National Parks Board has set up a webpage (https://safedistparks.nparks.gov.sg/) that monitors in real time the density of people visiting the many parks around Singapore, so you should also check that first before heading out.
Bukit Timah Nature Reserve
A mere half-hour drive from the heart of the city, this 164-hectare nature reserve features an incredible range of plant, animal and insect life, typical of an equatorial climate. Look out for the tall timber trees, liana vines and huge ferns as you trek through the forest. It also contains the highest point in Singapore — Bukit Timah Hill, which retains one of the few areas of primary rainforest left in the country. Home to a high percentage of our native flora and fauna, this treasure trove of biodiversity is a must-visit for nature lovers.
Location: Hindhede Drive, Singapore 589318
If you are a birdwatching enthusiast, Coney Island should be high on your list of parks to visit. The island’s different habitats — such as coastal forest, grassland, mangrove, and casuarina woodland — allow for a high diversity in bird species. As you meander through the park, try spotting one of 80 species of birds, including the resident male Baya Weavers, which weave their large and intricate nests on the flowering acacia trees. Keep an ear out for the Oriental Magpie-robin’s songs, or follow the parakeets as they fly through the forest canopies. Birds aside, the island has a rich variety of fauna and flora, some of which are critically endangered.
Location: Beside Punggol Promenade Nature Walk
Open: 7am–7pm (Gates will be closed at 7pm)
Sungei Buloh Nature Park
Another paradise for bird lovers is the Sungei Buloh Nature Park, which sprawls across 87 hectares. The area was fittingly discovered by a group of birdwatchers from the Malayan Nature Society. In 2002, it was recognised as a site of international importance for migratory birds, as it is a regional stopover for birds on their North-South migration. Migratory birds can be seen escaping the cold in the northern latitudes — some from as far away as Siberia — making their way to Australia. Boasting mangroves, mudflats, ponds and forests, the Park is home to a large variety of flora and fauna. As you trek through its many trails, you’ll discover crabs, mudskippers and mud lobsters, as well as spot resident birds such as herons, kingfishers and sunbirds. To properly experience the wetlands, consider taking a guided tour.
Location: 301 Neo Tiew Crescent, Singapore 718925
Open: 7am–7pm (Last entry at 6.30pm)
Located on the eastern tip of Pulau Ubin, the Chek Jawa wetlands is a unique natural area where six different ecosystems — sandy beach, rocky beach, seagrass lagoon, coral rubble, mangroves, and coastal forest — meet. These ecosystems provide refuge for plants and animals seldom seen in mainland Singapore. Rare birds you may come across include the Oriental pied-hornbill and the Red junglefowl. As you explore the coastal hill forest, look out also for unusual trees, such as the critically endangered Delek air tree and the Seashore nutmeg.
Location: Pulau Ubin. Upon arrival at the Ubin jetty, you can hire a van or rent a bicycle from the main village. A walk to Chek Jawa takes about 40 minutes.