Walk on the wild side: 5 ways to get back to nature in Singapore

Nearly half of Singapore’s land area is under green cover, meaning there is so much unspoilt space for sustainable adventures in nature…

Olivia Lee
01 October 2022
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If you look at a map of Singapore, you’ll see just how much green space the island has. Nearly half of Singapore’s land area is under green cover – and there are plans to make this even more definitive.

The Singapore Green Plan 2030 is a national sustainability movement that charts ambitious targets to achieve net zero emissions in the next decade. As part of the inspiring roadmap, there will be a million more trees planted by 2030, and every household will be within a 10-minute walk from a green park.

For a country already considered one of the greenest in the world, these plans will only strengthen Singapore’s status as a leader in sustainability. Soon, ‘getting back to nature’ will be as simple as stepping outside. For now, check out five great ways to appreciate Singapore’s wild side…

1. Explore The Singapore Botanic Gardens

The Singapore Botanic Gardens might just be my favourite place in Singapore. These sprawling gardens are a wonderland of flora and fauna, with over 10,000 types of plants – including colourful orchids, enormous palms, and fragrant herbs and spices. Around every corner you’ll find something new to appreciate, from the swaying leaves of Palm Valley to the mirror-smooth Symphony Lake, where enormous lily pads float on the surface.

In 2015, the gardens were designated Singapore’s first UNESCO World Heritage Site. They’re a favourite among joggers and walkers alike, as well as a popular place to laze away a few hours with a picnic. Plan your visit to coincide with Singapore Symphony Orchestra’s free concerts – they play on a platform above the lake alongside a chorus of birds.

The gardens comprise a series of mini gardens, including the Healing Garden where you can find over 400 types of medicinal plants, and the Ginger Garden, displaying hundreds of species of brightly coloured ginger. The most popular is the National Orchid Garden, where you can find thousands of orchid species (referred to as VIPs: Very Important Plants) – some affectionately named after visiting foreign dignitaries, like the Prince and Princes of Wales, the late Queen Elizabeth II, Nelson Mandela and Barack Obama.

2. Visit Gardens by the Bay

Gardens by the Bay is a perfect example of how Singapore exists so harmoniously with nature. This enormous park – about the size of 180 football fields – is a real-life urban jungle, where huge, metal ‘trees’ form frames for living plants. Many of these iconic ‘supertrees’ are decked out with photovoltaic cells on their canopies to harness solar energy, or to serve as air exhaust receptacles – further contributing to Singapore’s sustainable goals.

At the far side of the gardens, you’ll find a pair of huge glass domes, enclosing their own ethereal mini worlds. The enormous Flower Dome is the size of 75 Olympic swimming pools, home to a plethora of unusual plants – from the ancient baobab trees of African savannahs to Monkey Puzzle Trees native to Central Chile.

The second dome, Cloud Forest, takes its name from its misty interior – thick clouds evaporate off its thundering 35m-high waterfall, one of the largest indoor waterfalls in the world. You can ascend to the peak of the dome via a series of unique aerial walkways, taking in some of the world’s most exotic plant species. If you’re afraid of heights, make sure you don’t look down.

3. Go in search of wildlife

When you think of ‘city wildlife’, you probably don’t think of monkeys and wild boar – but in Singapore that’s exactly what you’ll find. Living in the parks and wetlands that fold into the city, you’ll find everything from long-tailed macaques and monitor lizards the size of crocodiles, to actual crocodiles themselves.

Singapore has a whopping 40,000 varieties of non-microbial organisms, with 390 recorded varieties of birds. That’s enormous, considering it’s just half the size of London. One of the best places to take in all this nature is Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve. First discovered by a group of birdwatchers back in 1986, the site is home to migratory birds like the Mongolian Plover and the Whimbrel. Stroll along the boardwalks and you’ll see crabs, mud lobsters, otters and even the occasional sleeping crocodile among the mangroves.

While you’re in Singapore, make sure you also tick off a few other species from your list. Look for the adorably tiny mouse deer at Bukit Timah Nature Reserve, peer up at flying lemurs in the Central Catchment Nature Reserve, and – if you’re extremely lucky – spot the rare and elusive pangolin.

4. Hike the many nature trails

For a country as flat as Singapore, it has an impressive number of hiking routes. One of the most popular is MacRitchie Nature Trail, an 11km jungle loop around a huge reservoir, with a 250-metre-long suspension bridge connecting the park’s two highest points. The trail is pretty flat, but the ground underfoot can be uneven. Make sure you detour via Jelutong Tower for beautiful views over the park.

If your goal is to hike ‘up’, the highest point on the island is Bukit Timah Hill, standing at 163 tall – about twice the height of Primrose Hill in London. It’s a fairly short and steep climb, but it’s worth taking your time to enjoy the surrounding Bukit Timah Nature Reserve – said to contain more tree species in a single hectare than the total number of tree species found in North America.

Another great route is the 10km network of trails known as the Southern Ridges – stretching through Mount Faber Park, Telok Blangah Hill, Hort Park and finally Kent Ridge Park. This route takes you over the iconic Henderson Waves bridge – one of the most photographed spots in Singapore and another great example of how man-made structures can blend so seamlessly with nature.

5. Find your inner zen

Despite being the beating heart of Asia’s business and commerce, Singapore is surprisingly laid-back. There are plenty of ways to unwind in nature, from a morning walk at Fort Canning to an evening cycle along East Coast Park.

Yoga is huge in Singapore these days, with sleek studios on almost every corner – although no studio can compare to the great outdoors. Join a sunrise yoga class in the Botanic Gardens every Saturday and Sunday and flow through asanas listening to the birds and cicadas. Or if spas are more your thing, head to Aramsa Spa, where each room is set against a private courtyard of tropical flora. You can watch out for purple herons and white-breasted waterhens from the outdoor garden bath.

But for all the charms of modern-day wellness, sometimes the best way to relax is just find a calm spot and sit quietly. I can’t think of a better place to do this than at Little Guilin – a turquoise lake backed by a rocky cliff that feels so at odds from the nearby roads that you can’t help but feel calm. Bring a picnic, find a spot on the grass and stare out at the glassy waters – I promise you’ll leave feeling revitalised.

Feeling inspired?

Start planning your dream visit to Singapore now by heading over to the official website.

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