Few know Singapore for nature. Yet amidst stately skylines and bustling urbanity, the country hosts hundreds of endemic species of flora and fauna, sprawling marshlands, and century-old forests. The country is a veritable playground for nature lovers, and has tons of parks and reserves for hikers and campers to explore. Here are 10 of the best hiking spots in the country:
The Chestnut Nature Park
The Chestnut Nature Park is a sprawling 81-hectare adventure. The site is Singapore’s largest nature park, and contains two sections: the Northern and Southern trail. The Northern trail takes you through a thick copse of trees, streams, and old kampung foundations, remnants of Singapore’s humble beginnings for nature and history buffs to discover. The Southern trail takes hikers past impressive granite structures, which is great for geology enthusiasts. Chestnut Nature Park also has numerous bike trails that amateur and pro cyclists can tackle. There is a bike rental kiosk at the site for those who don’t want to lug their own bikes from home.
Flora and fauna alert: The park is home to some rare birds like the Brown Chested Jungle Flycatcher, the Straw-headed Bulbul, and the Orange-bellied Flowerpecker. Adventurers can also find multiple tree species that can only be found on Singapore, like the Braided Chestnut, Singapore Walking Stick Palm, and the Jelutong.
One can’t talk about hiking in Singapore without mentioning Coney Island, a rustic island off the coast of Singapore whose charm lies in being unspoilt. The park was only opened to the public last October 2015, and used to be part of an urban development plan for residential and recreational use. The island is home to 5 beaches, a natural playground made wholly of wood from uprooted Casuarina trees , and the picturesque Punggol Waterway Park.
Flora and fauna alert:There are over 80 species of birds on Singapore’s Coney Island, and if you’re lucky, you can even spot otters roaming amidst the grass or turtles at the turtle pond over at the Punggol Settlement.
Dairy Farm Nature Park
You actually can’t find any dairy on the Dairy Farm Nature Park. The park was named after a farm which belonged to Fred Heron in the 1930’s. Heron brought 23 Friesian cows, known for their milk production, and for being an oddity in the tropics. Today the cows have long since gone, but the name stuck. The site is now a 63-hectare park that has multiple biking and hiking trails,
Flora and fauna alert: Visitors have reported spotting different species of insects, such as the Common Mormon butterfly, or the wonderfully odd Hasselt’s spiny spider. You may also spot the distinctive Crimson Sunbird flitting between trees.
The Southern Ridges is a 10 km trail that connects and crosses through several parks, namely Mount Faber Park, Telok Blangah Park, HortPark, Kent Ridge Park, and Labrador Nature Reserve. The Southern Ridges is one of the best places for casual hikes, and visitors can get the best panoramic views of Singapore through here, as well as experience the unique architecture of the Henderson Waves pedestrian bridge, which stands 36-metres above ground. Night hikers can enjoy the site of the changing LED lights of the Alexandra Arch, which goes on every 7pm.
Flora and fauna alert:The Southern Ridges is a good spot for bird-watching, as its elevated Forest Walk cuts directly through Telok Blangah Hill’s forest, giving bird watchers the rare opportunity to spot rare birds at eye-level.
Similar to Coney Island, the Macritchie Reservoir is a common entry on every Singaporean hiker’s list. Founded in 1868, the country’s oldest reservoir plays host to a number of events and solemnisation ceremonies, held on the famous Macritchie bandstand. The site’s 3.2 and 4.8 km-long hiking trails are often used for marathons and running events. The Tree Top Walk, similar to the Southern Ridges’ Forest Walk, takes visitors through the forest canopy with a suspension bridge. Macritchie Reservoir’s suspension bridge is the first of its kind in Singapore.
Flora and fauna alert: A multitude of different animals call the Macritchie Reservoir home, including the Blue-Rumped Parrot, Lesser Mousedeer, endangered Temasek Shrimp, and the Sunda Pangolin.
The Kranji Marshes is a freshwater nature reserve that is perfect for hikers who want to avoid the crowds of more popular destinations like Macritchie Reservoir. The hiking terrain around the marsh can become narrow and uneven, and as such it is often not recommended to bring children if you wish to explore deeper into the woodlands.
Flora and fauna alert: The reserve fosters several birds that can only be spotted in marshes and freshwater wetland habitats, like the Purple Swamphen and the Common Moorhen. Monitor lizards can be spotted trudging through the Neo Tiew Woods, as well as the rare Changeable Hawk Eagle or White-bellied Sea Eagle.
Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve
The Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve holds the status of being Singapore’s first ASEAN Heritage Park, and rightfully so. The site is a dream for animal lovers. Migratory birds pass through on their way to Australia, some as far as Siberia. Treks take visitors through several trails. Hikers can choose between the Coastal Trail, the Forest Trail, the Mid-canopy Walk, or Migratory Bird Trail. These trails go through mangroves, mudflats, ponds, and forests, a mix of habitats that has granted the reserve its rich biodiversity.
Flora and fauna alert:The Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve is famous for being one of the few places you can find the Estuarine Crocodile in its natural habitat. Visitors may also stumble upon monitor lizards, Mangrove pit vipers, the rare family of smooth otters, and a variety of birds such as storks and Kingfishers.
Bukit Timah Nature Reserve
The Bukit Timah Nature Reserve houses Singapore’s highest hill, the 163 metre Bukit Timah Hill. The reserve is also a popular spot for extreme sports enthusiasts, and is frequented by mountain climbers and mountain biking.
Flora and fauna alert: The reserve holds one of the country’s richest collection of plants. Many of Singapore’s Malayan plants were first discovered here. Rattan and fig trees are common in the area. Animals such as the Malayan Colugo, colloquially known as the flying lemur, can be spotted here.
Botanic Gardens’ Rainforest Walking Trail
Singapore’s Botanic Gardens is one of the richest rainforests in the country, housing over 314 species of flora. The forest takes hikers through a boardwalk trail, which makes the location accessible to children and seniors. The 600-metre trail contains a walk through a century-old forest, a museum of natural history, and a massive area called the Learning Forest that showcases different species of bamboo and fruit trees.
Flora and fauna alert: The gardens plays host to a myriad of animals, including the Pink-necked Green Pigeon, the Common Tree Shrew, and the Common Flameback. Visitors can also marvel at the massive Strangling Fig trees that seemingly grow from the sky to the ground.
Bukit Batok Nature Park
Similar to the Botanic Gardens, the Bukit Batok Nature Park is a laid-back trail, perfect for hikers who just want to a leisurely walk through nature. Built on an abandoned quarry, visitors can head to look-out points that rise 10 storeys high from the ground to get great views of the park. At the top of the trail lies a memorial dedicated to soldiers who died during World War II. A quarry pool waits at the foot of the hill.
Flora and fauna alert: The park hosts a bunch of fruit bearing trees like the durian, rambutan, and Singapore’s own native mango tree. Lucky hikers might be able to spot a monitor lizard or two hiding amongst the grass.
As with any trip, be sure to pack essential outdoor gear for all types of weather. Singapore’s weather can be unpredictable, and no one would want surprise rain showers ruining what would have been a nice hike. Adventurers who plan on venturing off the usual trails and onto more challenging routes through the forest should also look into bringing sturdier backpacking essentials than the standard fare. Some brands that have been proven and tested to hold up well against the elements are OverBoard, Lowe Alpine, Camelbak, Montane, Deuter, Stanley, and Nalgene.