I’ve realized that I’ve been behind in my blog posts lately. I had planned to update more frequently, but you know how it is, life happens and somehow before I knew it, weeks have passed and I haven’t done a single entry (pop culture posts of videos and links somehow don’t count)! Mabel, a good friend and wonderful blogger (check out her blog here) said she missed my “walking around Singapore” entries, so I thought I’d post these images of Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve today…. Actually, I had planned to post this a few weeks back, when I had the crazy idea of downloading and filing all my photos from the phone, but got sidelined because of a bum back (more on this in a future post).
A bit about Sungei Buloh and the images here: Most people have an image of Singapore as a city of futuristic buildings and high-rises and fabulous malls, and they’d be half right. If there’s ever a city of the future, where things run smoothly, Singapore is it. It’s not the place people think of when they want to head out into the wilderness or go bird-watching in the wilds. But what most people don’t know is that Singapore does have nature reserves and wetlands. One of these is Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve, an 87-hectare nature park that’s home to migratory birds, otters, monitor lizards, mangroves and other flora and fauna.
These images were taken more than a year or so back (!!) when I assigned one of my writers to do a piece on the park for one of the publications my firm produces. I came along because I was curious about the place and it was a good chance to see a part of Singapore that not many people know about. Most of the images are of the scenery because it was hard to take photos of the mudskippers with a phone and the birds, which we could see in the mudflats were just too far out to take photos of clearly. However, for me, just being around this much untamed greenery was enough.
Within the reserve, there are three trails you can follow, depending on the time you have and also your capacity to walk around in humidity and heat, which can be stifling to those not used to Singapore’s tropical weather. The best time to explore it would be ideally early to mid-morning or mid-afternoon to around 5pm, when the sun theoretically won’t be too hot. We opted to explore it around 11sh to 2pm, arguably not the best time, but the heat was bearable. It helped that there were a lot of trees, though, because we were in the wetlands, the humidity was terrific! Bring a small towel or lots of wet wipes/tissues!
Typical dirt path around the reserve. Wear sensible sneakers/sandals/flipflops (not the Havaianas-type) because you will be doing a lot of walking. Bicycles are not allowed within the reserve, due to unevenness of some of the paths, which can change from this to a leaf-covered walkway to a bit more muddy areas
When we were there, there was a surprising number of visitors — well, surprising to me, because I didn’t really think it was the kind of place that attracted a lot of visitors. Shows you what I know! Even so, the number of people visiting would be a tiny fraction of the visitors who go to the zoo, Universal Studios, Sentosa or any of the attractions that Singapore has to offer, which is a pity really, because Sungei Buloh exudes its own quiet charm. Though I do get that for people who are not particularly fond of gazing at muddy waters just to spot a mudskipper and are more used to the accessible (i.e., corralled) animals at the zoo, this could prove to be a boring walk. When we were there, we’d encounter a few groups of people but most of the time, it seemed like we had the whole place to ourselves. All you’d hear are the rustling of leaves, chirping of birds and insects, the crunch of your footsteps on the path and yes, mosquitos and bugs buzzing around — nature up close and personal.
As I mentioned, there are three routes to follow once you’re in the reserve. We opted to do the one-to-two hours walk. If you’re a big enough group, and want to maximize your time there, the reserve provides a guided tour for a fee. There are also free guided tours on Saturday mornings. But I much prefer to just explore things on my own so we set out to do just that. Now, the thing with going about on your own is that there’s a danger of getting lost — despite the clear signages and paths — and I think we doubled back a few times on certain areas, and had a longer walk than we should have done. But I’ve always believed that getting lost and straying from the planned paths make for a more interesting journey as it proved to be in this case. We went into blinds to observe monitor lizards sunning themselves in the sun, checked out mudskippers and mangroves, and saw herons in the distance. The only animals we didn’t get to see were the otters!
There are shelters and observation posts scattered throughout the reserve where visitors can sit and take a breather or just admire the view. This one is right in the middle of the mangrove trail, where the trees were thick enough to make the area seem gloomy.
View from Bliss cafe at the end of the walk, where you can have a snack or a meal while watching birds and monitor lizards. However, I just checked the Sungei Buloh website, which says that this cafe is already closed. It seems that an upgrading of the area is underway and the Kranji Nature Trail is closed. However, you can still go into the reserve and visit the mangrove boardwalk and reserve areas.
How to get there: Take the MRT to Kranji station (red line). From there, you can take a taxi, which will take you to the entrance or take Bus 925
1. Wear comfortable and breathable clothing. You’re going to get hot and sweaty walking around. There are going to be mosquitoes and bugs, so slather yourself with anti-mozzie lotion to keep them away.
2. Wear comfortable shoes you can walk around in. This is not the time to be rocking those cute thin-strapped sandals. Sneakers, running/hiking shoes, flipflops that are designed for a serious walk are best.
3. Wear a hat.
4. Bring a small towel/lots of tissues.
5. Bring a camera, some water, paper and pen (for when you get the urge to write about/draw your observations).
6. Because it’s a nature reserve, you might be tempted to bring your dog for a walk. Bad idea. Pets are not allowed.
7. Smoking is not allowed — nor are radios. Loud noises scare off the wildlife.
8. No littering (of course!)
9. Keep to the prescribed paths. You do not want to encounter a crocodile in the wild.
10. Have patience and be observant. This isn’t like the zoo where the animals are in enclosures and you can seen them almost on demand. Here, it could take awhile before a mudskipper, er, skips across the water, as what happened with us. Took us awhile to spot them. Similarly, we weren’t looking for monitor lizards, figuring since they were big, we’d spot them right away, but no. Unless they’re out in the open, like the one in the picture above, lying on the boardwalk, it’s hard to spot them. We almost missed some on the trail, so intent were we on our walk. A few were lying a few feet away from me at one point and it still took me awhile to spot them — good thing I was sitting behind a hide. I do not want to be sitting down out in the open only to discover a few of them a few feet away from me!