For many Singapore may bring to mind skyscrapers with financial corporation headquarters, high-tech industry and one of the largest harbours in the world. And this is true, but Singapore is no concrete jungle — on the contrary it was the vision of founding prime minister Lee Kuan Yew, that it should not be so. The Government often refers to Singapore as "City in a Garden" and that is largely true; there are plants and trees everywhere, even in the CBD, and apart from the many great parks there are also a number of wild, green patches. One patch, the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve consists almost exclusively of primary rainforest, and is said to have more species living there than North America, and although that is debatable the biodiversity is indeed extremely high. Singapore has tropical rainforest within its city limits, and the Singapore Botanical Garden is one of only three botanical gardens to have UNESCO World heritage status (The other two being Kew Gardens in London and Padoa Botanical Garden in northern Italy). In Singapore you can board a train or bus and go directly to primary rainforest or mangrove swamp, and at the same time you don't really have to worry about horrid tropical diseases, poisonous snakes (do exist, but are quite rare) or giant spiders.
Singapore is part of the Indomalayan Realm, with South Asian wildlife.
Singapore is generally an extremely safe place to be and very easy to navigate, and you can buy almost anything after arriving. But being placed in the "high tropics" just a few degrees north of equator you will need to deal with both heat (always) and strong sun (when the sky is clear, more rarely). Be sure to check the weather forecast particularly if you plan to visit in the afternoon or early evening where there is a higher probability of rain. Wherever you go into nature bring water. A cap is a good idea, as well as sunblock and covering but very light clothing. When going into nature you will need to balance between the long pants and sturdy shoes required by location, and the shorts and sandals required by the climate.
Also note that Singapore has (and enforces) very strict regulations on collecting plants and especially animals, and even on straying from the official paths - and this is good for there are a lot of people sharing the nature!
All publicly accessible nature comes well signed, and it pays off to read the information given as it will tell in those few cases where caution is needed!
For a high-tech country like Singapore, it is in some cases amazingly dependent on cash; when going into nature you will find soft drink vending machines in the most unlikely places (to avoid people dehydrating) but they usually accept only coins (≤$1) and small notes (~$2).
While not really a sight in itself, Changi airport is the point of entry for most visitors and deserves mention for the impressive greenery displays found everywhere in the airport - worth mentioning is a large stand of Agathis at immigration (one side). Jewel Changi Airport is a mixed-use development at Changi Airport in Singapore that opened in 2019. It includes gardens, a hotel, aviation facilities and 300 retail and dining facilities
Central and North
- 1 Singapore Botanic Gardens, 1 Cluny Road, Singapore 259569 (Metro to Botanic Gardens MRT or one of numerous buses to either the MRT or the Southern Tanglin gate. Main entrance at Cluny Road only by car.), ☏ , firstname.lastname@example.org. 5AM–midnight. Singapore's only UNESCO World Heritage site was once considered among the finest botanical gardens in the British Empire, and it is still a firm favourite for visitors and locals alike. Features trees and plants from tropical climates around the world, and is also home to a small patch of the primary rainforest that used to cover Singapore. Walking and jogging trails are throughout, and you can register for regular free guided tours highlighting different themes or areas. Picnicking is allowed, but there are also quite a few cafes and restaurants. Free.
- There are a number of special themed gardens within the garden
- The Orchid Garden (8:30AM-7PM, $5): One of the worlds largest accessible collections of Orchids. Also features a bromeliad house, epiphyte house and coolhouse.
- The Ginger garden: Collection of Zingiberales.
- Evolution garden: Bryophytes, Lycophytes, Ferns, Cycads, Gymnosperms and basal angiosperms. The evolution trail also features models of Lepidodendron from the Carboniferous.
- Healing garden: Collection of healing herbs.
- Rainforest walk: Small patch of conserved primary rainforest. Focus on a number of common and some large trees and the processes in the forest floor. Near the entry to Liane Road is a 50 m high Terminalia subspathulata, the highest tree in the garden and one of the highest trees in Singapore.
- Learning forest: Patch of secondary rainforest with small canopy walk.
- Keppel Wetlands: Restored wetland area.
- 2 Gardens by the Bay, 18 Marina Gardens Drive, Singapore 018953 (Metro to Bayfront MRT, walk from Marina Bay Sands or bus 40x to the main entrance), ☏ , email@example.com. 5AM-2AM.
An edutainment-style park focused around botany, horticulture, garden heritage, green-tech and biodiversity. Spanning 101 hectares (250 acres) of reclaimed land in central Singapore, adjacent to the Marina Reservoir, the park consists of three waterfront gardens: Bay South Garden, Bay East Garden and Bay Central Garden. The largest of the gardens is Bay South Garden at 54 hectares (130 acres). Gardens by the Bay is part of a strategy by the Singapore government to transform Singapore from a "Garden City" to a "City in a Garden". The stated aim is to raise the quality of life by enhancing greenery and flora in the city. Free.
- The Gardens by the Bay includes a number of special attractions or themed gardens:
- Super-Trees: Supertrees are tree-like structures that dominate the Gardens' landscape with heights that range between 25 metres (82 ft) and 50 metres (160 ft). They are vertical gardens that perform a multitude of functions, which include planting, shading and working as environmental engines for the gardens. The Supertrees are home to enclaves of unique and exotic ferns, vines, orchids and also a vast collection of bromeliads such as Tillandsia, amongst other plants. There is an elevated walkway, the OCBC Skyway, between two of the larger Supertrees for visitors to enjoy a panoramic aerial view of the Gardens. A food and beverage outlet is planned atop the 50-metre (160 ft) Supertree.
- Flower Dome conservatory (09:00-21:00, entry fee): A cooled, dry conservatory replicating a mild, dry climate and features plants found in the Mediterranean and other semi-arid tropical regions (e.g. parts of Australia, South America, South Africa). The Flower Dome is the lower but larger of the two, at 1.2 hectares (3.0 acres) and 38 metres (125 ft) high and maintains a temperature between 23 °C and 25 °C, slightly lower at night. The Flower Dome is the world's largest columnless glasshouse.
- Cloud Forest conservatory (09:00-21:00, entry fee): A cooled, moist conservatory replicating the cool moist conditions found in tropical mountain regions between 1,000 metres (3,300 ft) and 3,000 metres (9,800 ft) above sea level, found in South-East Asia, Middle- and South America. It features a 42-metre (138 ft) "Cloud Mountain", accessible by an elevator, and visitors will be able to descend the mountain via a circular path where a 35-metre (115 ft) waterfall provides visitors with refreshing cool air. The "Cloud Mountain" itself is an intricate structure completely clad in epiphytes such as orchids, ferns, peacock ferns, spike- and clubmosses, bromeliads and anthuriums. It consists of a number of levels, each with a different theme, while the dome covers 0.8 hectares (2.0 acres).
- Heritage Gardens: 4 historically themed gardens, Colonial Garden, Malay Garden, Chinese Garden and Indian Garden
- World of Plants: 5-6 botanically themed gardens
- 3 Bukit Timah Nature Reserve, 177 Hindhede Dr, Singapore 589333 (Metro to Beauty World MRT or 67, 75, 170, 171, 184, 852, 961 to Jalan Anak Bukit Road), ☏ . 7AM–7PM.
A small 1.64 square kilometre (400 acre) nature reserve, one of the largest patches of primary rainforest left in Singapore, located on the slopes of Bukit Timah Hill, Singapore's highest hill standing at a height of 163.63 metres, and parts of the surrounding area. The forest reserve was formally declared as an ASEAN Heritage Park in 2011. Lots of very large trees and the heritage trees are signposted. Free.
- 4 Central Catchment Nature Reserve (MacRitchie Nature Reserve) (From MacRitchie Park or Venus Drive Carpark (and other locations)), ☏ . 24 h (but many paths are not lit).
One of the largest and wildest green patches in Singapore. Mostly secondary rainforest padded with some primary rainforest and scattered smaller wetland areas. Also contains the two lakes MacRitchie Reservoir and Upper Pierce Reservoir. For history buffs, the ruins of the Syonan Jinja, a Shinto shrine built during the Japanese occupation, can also be found here, though it is difficult to access as it is located in the middle of the jungle with no paths leading there. Free.
- Contains a number of more specific activities
- 5 Bukit Batok Nature Park, Bukit Batok East Avenue (Metro to Bukit Batok MRT, then walk or bus), ☏ . 7AM–7PM. Nice lake in an old quarry. Free.
- Heritage Trees. The Singaporean government does a great deal to protect and teach about trees, and therefore signposts heritage trees all over the country
- There are a number of specific tree-trails in several places, below is listed a few of the more prominent
The Southern Ridges
The Southern Ridges is a sequence of parks in the southern part of Singapore. The parks are connected by a system of paths known as the Southern Ridges Walk.
- 6 Mount Faber Park, Mount Faber Rd (Metro to HarbourFront MRT), ☏ . 24 hr, with lights on 19:00 - 07.00. Mount Faber, formerly Telok Blangah Hill, is a hill about 105 m (344 ft) in height, overlooking the Telok Blangah area, and the western parts of the Central Area. The vegetation around Mount Faber is secondary rainforest that is smaller and less dense than on Bukit Timah Hill. Check out the Merang trail. Free.
- 7 Sembcorp Forest of Giants, Telok Blangah Green (Walk from Henderson Waves or Telok Blangah Green). 24 h. A special collection of giant trees native to the region. It comprises over 600 trees that dominated the regional landscape before the advent of urbanisation. Also known as emergents - large trees that grow above the forest canopy - some of the 55 species selected for the collection can attain heights of over 80m in the wild. As these giant tree species can take more than 50 years to mature and reach such great heights, NParks has also planted a visually striking collection of trees with large leaves. Free.
- 8 Southern Ridges Forest Walk, Telok Blangah Green (From Telok Blangah Green or Alexandra Road). 1.3 km elevated metal walkway soaring as high as 18 meters above the ground, on level with the treetops. One of the most impressive sections of the Southern Ridges Walk. About halfway through, the walk returns to earth for a moment, paralleling Preston Road and its impressive collection of "black and white" bungalows that were built for the officers of the British army and now much favored by wealthy expats in Singapore. The triangular-shaped leaves of the fast-growing “Mile-a-Minute” plant (Mikania micrantha) inspired the elevated floors of the walkway. From there, you can spot Simpoh Air (Dillenia indica), a large common shrub. In the past, hawkers and villagers used its leaves to wrap food items. Free.
- 9 HortPark, 33 Hyderabad Rd, Singapore 119578 (Metro to Labrador Park MRT or one of several buses to Alexandra Pt), ☏ . 07:00 - 19:00. A one-stop gardening resource centre that brings together gardening-related, recreational, educational, research and retail activities under one big canopy in a park setting. It is also a knowledge centre for plants and gardening, providing planting ideas and solutions, and offering a platform for the horticulture industry to share best practices and showcase garden designs, products and services. Every 1-2 months features the event "Gardeners day out". Free.
- 10 Southern Ridges Canopy Walk, Kent Ridge (from HortPark, Pepys road or Kent Ridge Park). Another trail on the Southern Ridges that offers trekkers the experience of walking through a secondary forest at eye-level with the forest canopy. It takes about 10 minutes to explore this 280-m-long boardwalk that links Kent Ridge Park to the museum “Reflections at Bukit Chandu”. Listen out for the sounds of birds and insects interrupting the serenity of the park. Sunbirds, doves, squirrels, lizards and the White-crested Laughingthrush (Garrulax leucolophus) are part of the rich biodiversity thriving here. Free.
- 11 Berlayer Creek, Labrador Nature Reserve (Metro to Labrador Park MRT). 05:00 - 24:00. Boardwalk along a Mangrowe swamp Free.
- 12 Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve, 301 Neo Tiew Cres, Singapore 718925 (Bus 925 from Kranji MRT or Kranji Express), ☏ , firstname.lastname@example.org. 07:00 - 19:00. 130 hectares of wetland and mangrove listed as an ASEAN Heritage Park in 2003. It is an important stopping point for migratory birds during the northern hemisphere winter. Free.
- 13 Kranji Marshes, 11 Neo Tiew Lane 2, Singapore 718814 (Kranji Express), ☏ , email@example.com. 07:00 - 19:00. 56.8-hectare freshwater marshland that is home to unique biodiversity. Located along the northwestern shore of Kranji Reservoir, it is one of the largest freshwater marshes in Singapore. Free.
- 14 Pulau Ubin, Pulau Ubin (Motorboat from Changi Point Ferry Terminal (3$)). Laid-back rural island situated in the north east of Singapore, to the west of Pulau Tekong. Only about a hundred villagers live at Ubin today. It is one of the last rural areas to be found in Singapore, with an abundance of natural flora and fauna. The island forms part of the Ubin–Khatib Important Bird Area. Of special interest is the Chek Jawa Wetlands, one of Singapore’s richest ecosystems.
Singapore has extremely strict rules on collecting live plants as most nature in Singapore is either a garden, park or nature reserve. However there's a fair number of nurseries where you can by a huge number of tropical plants, often at bargain prices.
- 1 Nurseries at Thomson Road, Around 565 Thomson Rd, Singapore 298184 (Metro to Caldecott MRT or bus to "Mediacorp" busstop). Ca. 08:00 - Ca. 21:00. In Singapore they like to organise everything in "hubs" and the area around northern Thomson Road just south of MacRitchie Park is certainly the main "nursery hub" - around 10 different nurseries are here.
- 2 World Farm, 15 Bah Soon Pah Road, Singapore 769962 (Metro to Khatib MRT or bus to "Dieppe Barracks" busstop), ☏ , firstname.lastname@example.org. M-Sa 08:00 - 18:00, Su 09:00 - 13:00. Nice, well assorted nursery
- 3 Chengtai Nursery, ☏ , email@example.com. Another well-assorted nursery
Singapore is generally a hotel country, although hostels and B&Bs do exist too. But if you want to sleep in contact with nature the options are limited. The few available are listed below:
- Camping. Camping is allowed in designated areas of East Coast Park, West Coast Park and Pasir Ris Park. All have showers and toilets and are free to use for stays of up to five days, although you have to register with park officers or online. You can also camp on some of the offshore islands such as Pulau Hantu, St. John's Island and Pulau Ubin, but in addition to getting a permit, you will also need to charter a boat to get there.
- 1 Kranji Farm Resort, Neo Tiew Lane 2, Singapore 718813 (by car or the Kranji Express), ☏ , toll-free: , firstname.lastname@example.org. Collection of luxury huts (referred to as villas).