Hiking swamps and jungles in Singapore

Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve in Singapore

Today we have a guest post from Sam Walker regarding outdoor adventure destinations in Singapore. Who knew there were beautiful outdoor places in this concrete urban metropolis.

Seeking outdoor adventure in Singapore

When I first moved to Singapore many years ago, I went a bit batty. Singapore is a nice city, but I’ve always been more of a nature lover, and could no longer escape to the mountain hilltops on my days off. To the cities credit, Singapore has done an excellent job of creating as much greenery as possible throughout the city. But you are not going to find rugged mountains to explore here, cascading waterfalls or breathtaking hilltop views. As time passed, I sought out and explored the more natural beauty that this island has to offer, and have found a number of great hikes along the way.

Here are two of my favorite Singapore hiking locations that I would recommend to anyone passing through this country, and that you may not find so well advertised in the tourism brochures:

Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve

Sungei Buloh is on the outskirts of Singapore, and not the easiest place to get to if you don’t have a car. But the beauty of Sungei Buloh is that you are really getting out into an environment that existed before humans every entered the scene. Singapore, at one time not so long ago, was a mangrove swamp.

Upon entering the reserve, you will be hard pressed to miss the giant water monitor lizards, which like to hang out near the entrance. They look intimidating and can reach up to 2 meters long, but we are not part of their menu and they will keep their distance. They have taken on the hard job of basking in the sun or hanging out in the water until they can digest whatever the heck they recently ate.

Monitor lizard Singapore

Monitor lizard lounging at Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve

I have also spotted a crocodile once, below the main bridge, which was the most impressive creature I’ve ever seen in the wild. However I was informed by the ranger that it was a rare sighting.

Crocodile at Sungei Buloh Singapore

Crocodile floating at Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve

Bird lovers are fond of this area, because at certain times of the year, various birds use the reserve as a major transit point on their migration travels. The ranger station at the start of the reserve is an interesting place in itself. They have displays on all the natural wildlife that exists in the area with plenty of interesting facts.

A few notes of advice on Sungei Buloh:

  • Getting there is easiest by car. You can find driving and bus instructions on their website.
  • This is swamp-land so bring your bug spray. The mosquitoes will definitely want to say hello.
  • If you are into bird watching, bring your binoculars from Sept to March. You can often see some interesting feathers at these times.
McRitchie Park Singapore

MacRitchie Park Singapore

MacRitchie Reservoir Park

MacRitchie Reservoir is much easier to access than Sungei Buloh. This is a very large, and beautiful park that has often been my saving grace when I needed to get out of the city. Whether you are just looking to take a stroll along the entrance of the park, go for a half-day walk around the lake, or journey deep into the jungle through the hiking trails, MacRitchie is a natural oasis for most anyone. One of the better hikes to take here in my opinion is the recently created “Tree Top Walk”.

MacRitchie Park monkey

MacRitchie Park monkey

Near the entrance, and along the outskirts of the jungle, you’ll likely see plenty of wildlife that has grown accustomed to humans. Monkeys can be easily spotted swinging from the trees. They will swipe your food in a heartbeat if you reveal any of your snacks (so be careful that you don’t). Large tree-climbing lizards can often be spotted near the tree line if you keep your eyes open. Turtles and fish are plentiful in the lake.

McRitchie Park in Singapore

A MacRitchie Park jungle trail

If you decide to take the tree top walk (they have signs to show you the way) the trail will lead you deep into the forest. At certain points, the crickets and the bugs create a symphony of strange sounds. If you happen to be around in the trees at dusk, it is unbelievable to hear how much noise bugs can make! Spotting wildlife inside the jungle is more rare, as the creatures are shyer. But pangolins, flying squirrels, and snakes do exists here. There is no real dangerous wildlife in MacRitchie, so you don’t need to worry about anything surprising you.

The tree top walk is located at the halfway point of your journey. It is a large suspended bridge that has been built from one hill to another, along the top of the jungle tree line. Maybe not the best place to go if you are scared of heights, but it is a secure bridge with high railings. It’s a one way bridge, and once across you’ll pass through a door that doesn’t allow you to go back, so be aware that once over the bridge there is no turning back. You will continue along the trail into a more peaceful part of the jungle, and you can follow the signs to take you back out the same way you came in.

McRitchie Park Singapore

Tree top walk in MacRitchie Park

A few notes of advice:

  • The treetop walk bridge closes at 5:00pm. So make sure you get there before it closes, as otherwise the ranger cuts off access. Give yourself at least 2 hours to reach the bridge from the main entrance.
  • Just before reaching the bridge, you’ll come across a ranger station, with bathrooms and water. Make sure to fill up your water bottles here. The humidity drains you quickly, and there is a steep up hill climb that you will need to take in order to reach the bridge.
  • If it rains in Singapore, it pours, but the hard downfalls are often brief. There are odd shelters built along the deeper parts of the trail that you can hide under if you get caught. Avoid the bridge during thunderstorms.

I’ve hiked in many parts of South East Asia, and the nice thing about finding places to hike in Singapore, is that you can explore some of the South East Asian tropical climate, without the irritation or danger of unwanted pests that you might find in larger countries. You won’t have to fight off leeches during the wet months, mosquitoes are manageable if any, and the chances of seeing a cobra, python, leopard…etc., are pretty much nil. Perhaps that is less exciting to the hard-core explorer. However life is abundant anywhere in nature within South East Asia, and the above locations are both interesting and worth a trip if you’d like to see some of the more natural environment of Singapore.

Sam Walker is a freelance writer with a passion for traveling and outdoor living. He is currently reviewing the cycling gear at Gear Reviews Online, including a recent series of articles on bike tool kits and the Park Tool PCS-10 for cycling enthusiasts.

Thanks Sam for the great guest post!

Adventure on!

The goal of Traveling Ted is to inspire people to outdoor adventure travel and then provide tips on where and how to go. If you liked this post then enter your email in the box to get email notifications for each new entry. Daily travel photos are excluded from your email in order to not flood you with posts. There is no spam and email information will not be shared. Other e-follow options include Facebook (click on the like box to the right) or twitter (click on the pretty bird on the rainbow above).

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About Traveling Ted

Ted Nelson has been adventure traveling since he was 10 years old on camping trips with his Dad to places like the Great Smoky Mountains, The Everglades, and Big Bend National Park. In 2005 he added international travel to his repertoire with a three month trip to Southeast Asia.

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12 Responses to Hiking swamps and jungles in Singapore

  1. Robb714 March 13, 2012 at 9:00 pm #

    This looks like an absolutely beautiful place to visit. Thanks for sharing your experience and the great pictures. MacRitchie Park looks totally enchanting.
    Robb714 recently posted..Handling The Holidays

    • travelingted March 13, 2012 at 10:44 pm #

      I agree. Who would have thought there is nature in Singapore?

  2. Robb714 March 14, 2012 at 1:37 am #

    Ok, you started it. Having had co-workers from Laos, I know that region is lush with nature and I know it’s not your (mine) forte to point out that despite that part of the world housing a very large part of the human populace; they do very well with land management and preservation. I am not going to say they are smarter but they do have a seemingly much better grasp regarding being friendly to their environment unlike some other cultures. It is my responsibility to point that out and I am working on it (without any compensation whatsoever) to the best of my ability (by promoting your wonderful blog).
    Robb714 recently posted..Handling The Holidays

    • Robb714 March 14, 2012 at 10:36 pm #

      I stand corrected then. I have not traveled to South East Asia and have only seen pictures and heard the discriptions of Loas. I was under the impression that over all the region had a better preservation policy, mostly because I thought it was linked to their desire for tourism dollars. Nobody really wants to travel to see clear cut devastation, that’s not relaxing.
      Robb714 recently posted..Handling The Holidays

  3. Sam Walker March 14, 2012 at 7:07 pm #

    I’ve had a similar experience with Ted regarding South East Asia, although Rob is really right about Laos being so lush. I think it’s tough for a lot of countries to think about protecting the environment when they are struggling to survive. Singapore is more developed and has done a great job of adding a lot of greenery to the city and is still improving on that. But initially they didn’t do so well at protecting their natural environment when they were in the develop or die stage. The preservation of Sungei Buloh has been a good example of more recent effort in that direction.
    Sam Walker recently posted..Park Tool Advanced Mechanic Tool Kit Review

    • travelingted March 15, 2012 at 2:47 am #

      Good point Sam. It is the same with the rainforests in South America. Eventually, countries will learn there are economic opportunities in conservation and with hope, some of the damage can be reversed in future generations. Costa Rica is an example of this although they are guilty as well of too much deforestation.

  4. santafetraveler March 14, 2012 at 8:56 pm #

    Great photos!

  5. disney scooter rentals March 15, 2012 at 5:02 pm #

    I always new Singapore as a shopping and dining City for tourist and not a nature type of tourism. I have never seen this side of Singapore and I’m glad they have preserve this beautiful park. Next time I’m in Singapore I will explore this side of I know nothing about.I hope many tourist can view this post Sam and visit this place.

  6. Leslie March 18, 2012 at 11:47 pm #

    That monkey is so cute! Looks like there is a lot of wildlife. When we visited Singapore it seemed like a giant mall!
    Leslie recently posted..Top 8 must-see attractions in the Australian Outback (photos)

  7. William March 19, 2012 at 5:21 pm #

    What a tour !!! traveling gives us much refreshment. When you visited there?

    William recently posted..How To Get A Girl To Like You

  8. Cindy March 20, 2012 at 7:10 pm #

    This looks genuinely impressive! Especially the bridge! The more i browse the web the more i convince myself that really each country have something special and unique to offer for tourists.
    Cindy recently posted..Free Hd Movies

  9. istanbul tours March 26, 2012 at 6:03 am #

    I joined three Original Singapore Walks: Chinatown, Little India and Kampong Glam. All three guides were entertaining, with an excellent knowledge of Singapore’s history. I was initially concerned that each of the tours involved stops at local shops but these stops turned out to provide insights into local Chinese http://www.privatetoursinistanbul.com Indian and Malay traditions. They included a Chinese herbal medicine shop, an Indian sweet shop, a shop where Muslims can buy non-alcholic perfumes, a sari shop, a sarong shop. There was never any pressure to buy from these. The walks included things you would miss if you travelled around the areas alone, e.g. an unidentified graveyard where members of the original Sultan’s family are buried, as well as provided interesting insights into Singaporean temples and mosques.

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