While the island of Singapore is renowned for its role as an Asian Tiger, boasting a booming economy and heavily developed city center, the country also prides itself on being a “garden city,” taking careful attention to preserve the remainder of its lush wilderness. Biodiversity abounds, with local flora and fauna thriving in a number of parks and reserves scattered about the region. Read on for a collection of wildlife destinations both in and around Singapore.
Free from the heavy industrialization and development that occurred in mainland Singapore, this tiny island off of Singapore’s northeast coast is a window into the country’s past. Guests can spot wild boar and monkeys while cruising on the island’s many bike paths, and nature lovers will feel most at home in the Chek Jawa wetlands in the southeast corner. Tide pools develop within the rugged coral reefs, rife with sea stars, sponges, cephalopods, and other sea life. Pulau Ubin is ten minutes from Changi Point Ferry Terminal, where bumboats ferry passengers across for just $3.
Bukit Timah Nature Reserve
While Singapore is lacking any true mountains, hikers can reach the country’s highest peak, Bukit Timah Summit, through a leisurely stroll on the paved footpaths that cross throughout the area. Curious monkeys watch visitors from the shadows, while some bolder individuals may appear to beg for food or even snatch personal belongings from unwitting tourists. First established as a nature reserve in 1883, the park hosts some of the country’s last pristine, undeveloped forests, and yields a huge amount of native plant species. Visitors can access the park at the Beauty World MRT stop, where the visitor center is just a short walk away.
MacRitchie Reservoir Park
Originally created in 1868, MacRitchie Reservoir is the oldest reservoir in Singapore. Visitors can march across the MacRitchie Trail, spotting massive monitor lizards basking along the shore, as well as rent kayaks and canoes to search for fish and turtles within the water. Hiking north will lead one to the TreeTop Walk, a free-standing suspension bridge connecting the two highest points within MacRitchie. From the dizzying heights of the bridge, spectators are treated to spectacular views of the surrounding forest. The park is most easily accessible by alighting at Caldecott Station.
Gunung Pulai Recreational Forest
A bit north of Singapore in the Malaysian province of Johor, Gunung Pulai Forest offers a glimpse into the pristine wilderness that once covered the Malayan Peninsula. Sporting a walking trail that leads to the picturesque Pulai Waterfall, the forest is about an hour north from Johor Bahru, the Malaysian city lying on Singapore’s northern border. Though bustling with wildlife, the forest is in jeopardy due to deforestation and littering. One can only hope that the Malaysian government will take the proper steps to maintain the area, as ancient untouched forests such as this one are rare across Peninsular Malaysia.
Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve
Located far from the city in the northwestern corner of the country, Sungei Buloh offers an incredible opportunity for those who are curious about the inner workings of a mangrove forest. Boasting a huge number of migrating bird species, the park also hosts fascinating species such as mudskippers and mangrove crabs, and saltwater crocodiles have even been spotted in the past. Long boardwalk paths stretch across the reserve, and visitors can experience two completely different worlds by visiting first at high tide, and returning for low tide. Take the MRT to the Kranji stop and board SMRT Bus 925 for access to this treasure trove of biodiversity.
Labrador Nature Reserve
A prominent park on the southern shores of Singapore, Labrador Nature Reserve contains a craggy coastline rife with birds, crabs, coral, and fish species. Formally established as a nature reserve in 2002, the dilapidated jetty was restored to provide visitors with a functional footpath along the water. History enthusiasts will be fascinated by Fort Pasir Panjang, constructed by British forces during Singapore’s time as a colony. Massive guns dot the outside of the fort, set up to defend Singapore from any potential invading forces. Labrador Nature Reserve is located just outside the Labrador Park MRT station.
Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park
Containing playgrounds, restaurants, and a dog park, Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park has undergone more development than some of the wilder parks across Singapore. However, this park gained fame by hosting the “Bishan 10”, a family of ten smooth-coated otters. A critically-endangered species, their discovery in the park was lauded as a major success in the Singaporean government’s efforts to foster coexistence between Singaporeans and local species. While the otters have moved on, now living in Marina Bay, the park remains as an emblem of Singapore’s commitment to biodiversity. The park can be found a short distance from the Bishan MRT stop.
Sekupang Ponds Park
Just a 50-minute ferry ride south across the Singapore Strait, the Indonesian island of Batam stands as a great option for a day trip outside of the Little Red Dot. While most of the island’s natural wilderness has been cleared away over time, the Sekupang Ponds Park hosts a sizeable amount of wildlife. Home to large swathes of lily pads where fish and ducks spend their days, visitors can stroll along the water and head to any number of nearby restaurants after for midday refreshments. Those wishing to experience Batam can head to Singapore’s HarbourFront Centre, where ferries set off for Sekupang several times per day.
Kent Ridge Park
Just a short walk from the Kent Ridge MRT station, Kent Ridge Park offers numerous aquatic species along with a fascinating role in Singapore’s history. Today, a popular destination for bird watching, the area once played host to a ferocious and bloody battle during World War II, one of the final battles on Singaporean soil between the forces of the Japanese Empire and the British Empire. Today, visitors can spot turtles and fish in the Kent Ridge Park Pond, as well as numerous bird species along the Canopy Walk, a 280-meter raised boardwalk within the park.
Singapore Botanic Gardens
While the Singapore Botanic Gardens can’t quite be considered “wild”, the park deserves a mention due to its stunning display of local plant life. Over a century old, and serving as Singapore’s first UNESCO Heritage Site, one of the major highlights of the park is the National Orchid Garden. Displaying over one thousand plant species, including Singapore’s own national flower, botany enthusiasts will be happy to lose themselves amongst the abundance of flora across the property. The gardens can be reached most easily through the Botanic Gardens MRT station.