home about us team initiatives contact us

singapore >> singapore scene :: green scene

Bukit Timah Nature Reserve
HSBC TreeTop Walk
Pulau Ubin
Singapore Botanic Gardens
Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve

Bukit Timah Nature Reserve
Designated a protected reserve way back in 1883, Bukit Timah Nature Reserve is the only substantial area of primary rainforest left in Singapore. It is one of the only two primary rainforests to be located at a stone’s throw from the city (the other is in Rio De Janeiro).
The 163-hectare Nature Reserve hosts Singapore’s highest hill at 164m (Bukit Timah Hill) and its native flora and fauna.

Though much of Singapore’s original vegetation had been cleared for logging and cultivation, the forest at Bukit Timah Nature Reserve remained relatively undisturbed.  The equatorial climate ensures that the Nature Reserve houses one of the most diverse ecological systems you can enjoy – in fact, the number of tree species growing in a mere hectare of the Reserve is more than the total number of tree species in all of North America.

The forest is typical of lowland coastal Dipterocarp forest characterized by the presence of Seraya (Shorea curtisii) and S. macroptera. The dominant tree family Dipterocarpaceae is an important family which yields the bulk of commercial tropical hardwood timber. Other than the Shorea, Dipterocarpus, Vatica and Hopea species can be found in the Nature Reserve.

Besides trees, woody lianas, ferns and palms are commonly seen in the reserve.   Some of the epiphytic ferns (for example, the Bird's Nest Fern) grow on the trunks and larger branches of big trees.  Another type of climber, lianas, grows from the ground to the canopy, twining itself around host trees for support.

The forest is also home to many species of animals and insects. Most of these animals and insects are often difficult to spot, as they are usually shy and blend in easily with the forest environment.

The Nature Reserve’s well-known residents, the Long-tailed Macaque (Macaca fascicularis), are bold creatures and a trip to the reserve would not be complete without spotting these playful primates.
Keen observers may spot the Common Treeshrew (Tupaia glis), the Flying Lemur (Cynocephalus variegatus) and sometimes, the nocturnal Pangolin or Ant-eater (Manis javanica).

Other denizens in the reserves are the cute Plantain Squirrel (Callosciurus notatus), Common Sun Skink (Mabuya multifasciata), the mildly venomous Oriental Whip Snake (Ahaetulla prasina), and forest birds like the Greater Racket-tailed Drongo (Dicrurus paradiseus), Crimson Sunbird (Aethopyga sipahaja) and the clouded monitor lizard.

Today, the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve is home to more than 840 flowering plants and over 240 species of vertebrates (excluding the butterflies and insects). Under the management of the National Parks Board, it is set aside for the propagation, protection and preservation of the indigenous flora and fauna of Singapore. 

Do You Know?
The forest on Bukit Timah has been a botanical collecting ground for more than 100 years, and from it the first known specimens of many species of Malayan plants were obtained.

“Local Lingual” - Bukit Timah is pronounced as “Book-it” “Tea-mar”.

Getting There
Take a taxi, or a bus (Services 170, 67, 75, 171, 173, 184, 852 and 961). Alight along Upper Bukit Timah Road, opposite Bukit Timah Shopping Centre and walk to the end of Hindhede Drive.

Opening Hours / admission: 6.30am to 7.30pm, entry is free

Contact: 1800-468 5736

Free Guided Walk: Every 1st Sunday of the month at 4 p.m.  To register, please call 6554 5127.

HSBC Tree Top Walk
Before the early 19th century, Singapoe island was almost completely covered with lowland dipterocarp forest. Between 1820 and 1870, vast tracts of the pristine rainforest were cleared for cultivation. By 1882, less than 10% of the original forest cover remained. Today, only 3% of the original forest is left standing and about 2,000 hectares of these is found in the Central Catchment Nature Reserve. Other than Bukit Timah Nature Reserve, which remained relatively undisturbed, the forests in Central Catchment Nature Reserve were cleared for logging and cultivation. It now consists of a mixture of young and mature secondary forests.

Though Central Catchment Nature Reserve represents only a tiny fraction of the island’s original vegetation, it remains an important refuge for a rich assemblage of plants and animals, many of which are forest-dependent.

Located in the midst of our lush rainforest, the HSBC TreeTop Walk is a 250-metres-long suspension walkway between the two highest points – Bukit Peirce and Bukit Kalang in MacRitchie. With a maximum height of 25 m from the forest floor, one will be able to observe the canopy layer of the forest. Perched on this vantage point, one can also enjoy the panoramic view of the Central Catchment Nature Reserve.

Pulau Ubin
Want to step back in time – Singapore style?  Then head for Pulau Ubin, a small island off the northeastern coast of Singapore.  Shaped like a boomerang, it has long been a favorite haunt of locals seeking a break from the humdrum of urban life.

Rustic villages dot the island; fondly called kampongs by locals, these are the remnants of the island’s heyday when thousands of people settled there to work the granite quarries.

There are a lot of forests, plantations and abandoned orchards you can explore. Look out for kampong houses, scenic quarry lakes and fascinating range of flora, birds and small animals.

The best way to see Pulau Ubin is on bicycle, and ride off the beaten track. There are shops renting out bicycles at very affordable rates at the tiny town centre by the jetty.

Keep a lookout for the Nipis kulit, a rare seashore tree with flowers in blue and light purple, which transforms the forest into a beautiful landscape when in bloom.  The Red Jungle fowl, the ancestor of the domestic chicken, may also make an appearance, as Pulau Ubin is the only place in Singapore where this rare bird occurs naturally. 

The sharp observer may also observe hoof prints in the ground belonging to the Wild Pig, which is usually difficult to encounter as it hides in the forest.  Up on the trees are the Oriental Pied Hornbills, which are characterised by their raucous cackling.
Alternatively, you can take Sensory Trail and walk yourself through a 1.5 km stretch of vegetable and fruit plots, mangroves, forest and an old prawn farm.

Chek Jawa, a natural beach teeming with marine wildlife, boasts a collection of distinct habitats like coastal forests, mangroves, sandy beaches, mudflats and coral rubble.  It is now a protected area and guided tours are the only way you can view its natural splendor.  The Carpet Anemone, one species of sea anemones, which are like flowers in the sea, exists in a variety of colors and is abundant at Chek Jawa.
Do You Know…

The 1052-hectare Pulau Ubin was a cluster of 5 smaller islands separated by tidal rivers, but the building of bunds for prawn farming has since united these into a single island.  Two other islets, Pulau Kelam (Crab Island) and Pulau Sekudu (Frog Island), lie to its south.

“Local Lingual”

Pulau Ubin is pronounced as “Pull-lull” “Ooh-bin”.
Getting There

First, go to the Changi Point Jetty by taking the train to Tanah Merah MRT Station and then Service 2.  The jetty is adjacent to the Bus Terminal.

Alternatively, take a taxi and inform the driver specifically that your destination is Changi Point Ferry Terminal at Changi Village.

At the jetty, take a bumboat (S$2 one-way).  Do note that the boats will leave when there are 12 passengers but you can also opt to pay the difference for the boat to leave immediately.

Open hours / admission

Island can be visited as long as the bumboats are still ferrying passengers (Bumboats operate from 6.30am to 8pm); entry is free.

Contact: 6542 4108 (Pulau Ubin Information Kiosk – Business hours: 8.30am to 5pm)

Guided Walk: There are guided trails / walks available.  For more information, please contact the Pulau Ubin Information Kiosk for more details or visit National Parks Board website (www.nparks.gov.sg, look under “Parks and Gardens”).

Singapore Botanic Gardens
Almost a stone’s throw from the busiest shopping district in Singapore is this 147-year-old horticultural garden.

The Singapore Botanic Gardens at Cluny Road was founded in 1859 by an Agri-Horticultural Society, and was later handed over to the government for maintenance.  From an ornamental garden with roads, terraces, a bandstand and even a small zoo, it has come a long way in evolving into a leading equatorial botanic garden of 52 hectares.

Orchid breeding and hybridisation started in the Singapore Botanic Gardens in the 19th Century and resulted in the discovery of Singapore’s national flower, Vanda Miss Joaquim.  Today, there is the National Orchid Garden, situated in the Botanic Gardens, with three hectares of carefully landscaped slopes providing a setting for 60,000 orchid plants comprising of 400 species and more than 2,000 hybrids.

The distinctive feature of the National Orchid Garden is its design concept which presents the display of plants in four separate colour zones over most of its areas:

-            “Spring” zone with its prevailing colours of bright and lively shades of gold, yellow and creams;

-            “Summer” zone with its major tones of strong reds and pinks;

-            “Autumn” zone of matured shades; and

-            “Winter” zone of whites and cool blues.

These zones of different colours are a careful blend of selected trees, shrubs, herbs and orchids (mostly hybrids) with matching foliage and floral colours.

The Gardens also played a key role in Singapore’s Garden City programme by introducing a variety of plants of horticultural and botanical value.  The herbarium and reference library at the Gardens houses an extensive collection of critical resources on horticultural and regional flora.  True to the Gardens’ traditions, the living plant collection, the Education Outreach, and the various publications all serve to promote public education on landscape planting, horticulture, botany and nature appreciation.

Among the other attractions at Singapore Botanic Gardens are the Shaw Foundation Stage, a leading outdoor venue for musical performances, the Ecolake, a range of microhabitats for a wide variety of aquatic plant life, and the Burkill Hall, home to many generations of the Gardens’ directors (and got its name from one of them) and an excellent example of tropical British colonial architecture.

There is something for everyone at the Gardens, be it nature lovers, exercise enthusiasts, patron of the arts and the local resident.

Did You Know…

Sir Stamford Raffles, the founder of Singapore and a keen naturalist, set up the first Botanic Garden on Government Hill at Fort Canning in 1822 mainly to introduce into cultivation economic crops such as nutmeg, clove and cocoa.  This Garden was closed in 1829.

Getting There

By Car: Car parking facilities are available at the Singapore Botanic Gardens’ Visitor Centre, Bukit Timah Carpark at Bukit Timah Core and public parking along Tyersall Avenue.

By Bus: Get to the Gardens by public bus via Holland Road or Bukit Timah Road.

Via Holland Road – Services 7, 105, 123, 174, 75, 77, 10

Via Bukit Timah Road – Services 66, 151, 153, 154, 67, 171

Opening Hours / Admission

Botanic Gardens:
Opening hours: 5am to 12am daily
Admission fee: Free

National Orchid Garden
Opening hours: 8.30am to 7pm daily (last ticket sale at 6pm)
Admission fee:
Adults  -- S$5
Students -- S$1
Senior Citizens (60 years and above) -- S$1
Children (below 12 years) -- Free

Contact: 6471 7361

Guided Tours:

For both guided tours, please register at the Visitor Centre 15 minutes before start of each walk.

Rain Forest Guided Tours: Every 2nd Saturday of the month at 9am, 10am, 11am and 4pm.
National Orchid Garden Tours: Every 3rd Saturday of the month at 9am, 10am, 11am and 4pm.

Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve
On the northwestern end of Singapore is a rare oasis, a thriving wetland of brackish and fresh-water ponds, mangrove mudflats, estuaries and swamps.  Welcome to Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve, the only ASEAN (Association of South East Asian Nations) Heritage Park in Singapore.

The Reserve is a landmark in the history of nature conservation, as it was one of the two first new Nature Reserves to be gazetted since Singapore’s Independence in 1965 (Labrador Nature Reserve is the other).

Enjoy the tropic wetland version of “Sistine” ceiling inspired by nature at the shelters of the mangrove boardwalk.

Walk right up to the mangrove formations and wonder at the wealth of wetland wildlife like mudskippers, spiders, sneaky water snakes, tree-climbing crabs and the lounging monitor lizards.  The 130-hectare wetland reserve will allow visitors to view the 47 species (75% of Singapore’s total) of native mangrove fauna without getting their feet wet.  Also, try to spot the family of Smooth Otters frolicking and fishing in the river of Sungei Buloh Besar, which runs through the Reserve.

The show-stealers are the birds, big and small, majestic and exquisite.  Bring binoculars to spot residents like herons, kingfishers, coucals and fish eagles.  The months between September and March see the arrival of migratory birds from as far as Siberia to refuel along their arduous journeys.  Look out and listen to the wild birds in the Reserve where 212 species have been recorded (about 60% of Singapore’s total).

Splash on sufficient insect repellant and you can brave the boardwalk and trails that take anything between half hour or up to five hours!
The Visitor Centre houses an informative display area and a theatrette that regularly screens a video about the Reserve.  There are lockers if visitors wish to stow their belongings before they start.  A combined cafeteria and souvenir shop overlooks the pond, where White-breasted Waterhens (Amauronins phoenicurus), swimming monitor lizards and fruit-eating birds are regular attractions.  Binoculars can be hired from the souvenir shop.

Do You Know...

The 130-hectare Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve was once a rich place to harvest for prawn and fish farmers.

“Local Lingual”
Sungei Buloh is pronounced as “Soong-eye” “Bull-low”.

Getting There

Take a taxi, or a bus (From Kranji MRT Station, take Service 925 which stops at the entrance on Sundays and Public Holidays; on other days, alight at Kranji Reservoir car park, follow the signs and take a leisurely 15-minute walk).

Opening hours / admission:

7.30am to 7pm (Mondays to Saturdays), 7am to 7pm (Sundays and Public Holidays); entry is free except for weekends, Public and School Holidays – S$1 (adult) and S$0.50 (child).

Contact: 6794 1401

Free Guided Walk:

Every Saturday (except Public Holidays) at 9am, 10am, 3pm and 4pm.



festival events
lion awards



Singapore Scene
Green Scene

festival review
festival events