Amidst Singapore‘s glittering skyscrapers, spectacular shopping malls and busy hawker centres lie pockets of rugged and rustic trails that show off the city state’s wilder side. Wander around a reservoir to spot macaque monkeys and monitor lizards or along a nature reserve that transforms from mudflats and mangroves to coastal forests and rocky shores.
The MacRitchie Trail is a popular trek among nature lovers looking for an escape from the bustling city life. This 11km-long nature trail loop located within the tropical rainforest of Central Catchment Nature Reserve will take you through a variety of scenic landscapes, and you might even bump into wildlife such as long-tailed macaque monkeys, monitor lizards, colugos (flying lemurs) and owls. Its highlight is a gorgeous body of water surrounded by tall and lush trees that closely resembles an emerald lake. Another highlight is the MacRitchie Treetop Walk that offers a magnificent bird’s eye view of the forest canopy. It is closed until May 2021 for maintenance works so check its website for updates.
Bukit Timah Nature Reserve was established in 1883 and is one of the first forest reserves created in Singapore. This trail boasts one of the richest ecological systems within the country with a variety of plant and wildlife to witness. Hiking through the trails here, you might encounter towering dipterocarps (a species of lowland rainforest tree), reminders of World War II history and thorny rattan trees. It is also where you can find Singapore’s highest hill, Bukit Timah Hill, which stands at 163m. With numerous different routes to choose from, you can decide for yourself what kinds of scenery you want to view on the way to the peak.
3. Pulau Ubin
The paved road from the main village leads to the Chek Jawa Wetlands, one of Singapore’s richest ecosystems. The route, about 3 km away from the public jetty at Pulau Ubin, passes the former Headman’s House and the Ubin Fruit Orchard, where you might spot monkeys swinging in the trees. There is very little shade accompanying the trail but the breathtaking view of the sea and salty breeze is worth it. When the low-tide comes, hikers can get a glimpse of the marine life on the ocean floor. Over at Chek Jawa Wetlands, explore the area via a 1km boardwalk and climb up the 20m Jejawi Tower for a better view.
Near the Downtown Line is the 75-hectare Dairy Farm Nature Park which features many hiking routes that vary according to difficulty. Visit the permanent exhibition along the rustic trail called the Wallace Education Centre, named after English naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace, to learn about his contributions to natural science and the biogeography and biodiversity in the region. The nature park offers a relatively easy 2.2km trail besides the occasion steep ascends.
This hiking trail boasts a scenic route that bridges modern architecture and Mother Nature. Travelling along the Southern Ridges will take you to Henderson Waves, the highest pedestrian bridge in Singapore which connects Mount Faber Park to Telok Blangah Hill Park. It’s one to marvel, thanks to its artistic, distinctive wave-like structure consisting of a series of undulating curved ‘ribs’. Other features of this trail include the Forest Walk and Canopy Walk where visitors can view the tree tops.
Fancy slow trekking by the sea? Punggol Promenade Nature Park is the place to be for quiet strolls and scenic sights. This 2.4km walking trail is popular among fishing and marine enthusiasts because of the multiple fishing platforms. Across the Nature Park is Pulau Serangoon, better known as Coney Island. Trekkers can access the island by reaching the end of the trail and crossing over to the road connecting the Nature Park to Coney Island’s West entrance.
Labrador Nature Reserve is a section within the Southern Ridges that overlooks the Southern China Sea and Southern Islands. There are two routes you can take for the Labrador Nature and Coastal Walk, both of which are moderately challenging and can take 3 hours. Your walk will take you through a wide variety of habitats from mudflats and mangroves to coastal forests and rocky shores. Along the way, you get to admire rich biodiversity and look at scenic views of Keppel Harbour, the lush greenery of Bukit Chermin hill, and the distant rocky cliffs of Sentosa island. History buffs will be interested to view relics left behind from World War II at the nature reserve, such as tunnels, a fort and a pill box.
Please check the establishments’ respective websites for opening hours before visiting, and remember to adhere to safe-distancing measures while out and about.
This article was originally published in the July 2019 issue of SilverKris magazine and updated on 23 March 2021.