One of the two reservoirs bordering Bukit Timah. // © 2014 David Wertheimer II
Feature image (above): Visitors are asked not to feed any of the wildlife in Bukit Timah Nature Reserve, including the monkeys. // © 2014 Mystical-Mii / Flickr.com
Bukit Timah Nature Reserve offers visitors a unique day-trip opportunity to enjoy the natural world of a rainforest and incredible views, just minutes away from Singapore.
Officially declared an Association for Southeast Asian Nation (ASEAN) Heritage Park in 2011, the nature reserve sits on 400 acres of rainforest and is home to more than 800 flowering plant species and 500 types of fauna — approximately 40 percent of the nation’s biodiversity. Visitors can choose to participate in a variety of recreational activities, from hiking the trails to bicycling, rock climbing and wildlife viewing.
After arriving at the nature reserve, I made my way over to the visitor center. Open daily, the center offers an informative self-guiding exhibit. Guided tours are available on the second Saturday of every month, but require advance registration online.
As an entry-level hiker, I opted for the reserve’s blue trail. Lasting approximately 35 minutes round trip, it is rated the easiest out of four trail options. A lookout point with generous views of Hindhede Quarry, a serene spot ideal for yoga, bird watching or simply taking a break, greeted me at the trail’s end.
Various huts along the trails serve as covered rest stops, enabling hikers and runners to stop for shade and hydration before continuing on their way. This was one of my favorite things about Bukit Timah Nature Reserve. Also along the trails are numerous interpretative signs that provide interesting facts about the nature reserve, such as plant and wildlife identification.
There is also a separate trail specifically allocated for mountain bikers. Serious rock climbers can opt for the quarry located nearby in Dairy Farm Nature Park — the only legal place to climb in Singapore. There are more than 20 different bolted routes, but climbers are advised to bring their own gear.
For those hoping to catch a glimpse of the beautiful variety of plants and animals, Bukit Timah Nature Reserve is a treasure trove filled with common and rare creations of nature, from exotic butterflies to praying mantises.
Additional sightings along the trails may include native Meninjau trees; 18 different dipterocarp species that resemble tall hardwood trees; orange-and-black striped plantain squirrels; and assorted birds, such as Emerald Doves that walk around looking for fallen fruit and Asian Fairy-bluebirds that make a distinct two-note call. You might also bump into a huge bronze plaque that tells the story of the Battle for Bukit Timah during World War II.
While visitors are invited to roam the park freely, there are some ground rules. Bukit Timah Nature Reserve prohibits hiking in groups of more than 30 people without first obtaining a permit; bringing animals into the reserve and releasing them; feeding the animals; removing native flora and fauna from the reserve; and wandering off the designated trails.
It is also important to mention the presence of another native inhabitant common in Singapore: monkeys. If you find yourself face to face with one, keep your gaze to the ground, walk away calmly and do not feed it.
As I stopped and pondered tossing the remains of my banana to the monkey that was standing just a few feet away, the afternoon heat suddenly hit, and I realized that I was actually the hungry one. As I took the last bite, I carefully tossed the peel into the trash, and before I could even blink the monkey was gone, no doubt searching for another opportunity.