Singapore's 7 Greenest Nature Escapes

2 March 2016

Singapore's bustling, skyscraper-packed core isn't always the best place for a casual wander (the traffic congestion and muggy tropical climate don't exactly help matters).

So when it starts to feel too hot and crowded, swap the urban jungle for these verdant enclaves. Here are seven green escapes that won't disappoint.

Botanic Gardens

Now sporting UNESCO World Heritage status, this delightfully tranquil haven sprawls over 74 hectares, beginning near the western end of the Orchard Road shopping strip.

Ideal for picnics and gentle strolls, the gardens, which were established in 1859, boast several must-sees: the orchid garden (home of the world's largest collection of tropical orchids), the rainforest boardwalk (which snakes through a patch of lush, primeval jungle) and Symphony Lake (around which regular free open-air concerts are held).

Bukit Timah Nature Reserve

A favourite of hikers, joggers and nature lovers, this jungle escape lies just west of the reservoirs that dot the centre of Singapore's main island.

About 40 percent of the country's flora and fauna can be found in a reserve that's been the subject of recent restoration projects, yet has retained its earthy, natural vibe.

As you tackle Timah's rainforest-sheltered trails, keep your eyes – and ears – peeled for monkeys, monitor lizards and flying squirrels, not to mention an array of birds (including mynas, cuckoos and parakeets).

Bukit Timah Nature Reserve A long-tailed macaque enjoying an apple in Bukit Timah Nature Reserve (Image: Getty)

The Southern Ridges

Another popular exercise spot, the Southern Ridges is a 10-kilometre stretch of jungle-fringed parks and hills linking Mount Faber and West Coast Park in southern Singapore.

You can walk the lot in two or three hours (pausing to breathe in the stirring sea and city views), but, for many, the most arresting chunk of the ridges is the three kilometres between Kent Ridge Park and Mount Faber.

Here you'll find Henderson Waves, a curved 274-metre walkway and Singapore's loftiest pedestrian bridge.


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East Coast Park

There's a vague touch of California about this coastal park, which spans 15 kilometres of eastern Singapore.

Edging sandy beaches and grassy lawns is a winding, palm tree-lined track buzzing with runners, cyclists, rollerbladers and skateboarders.

Not everyone's rushing about here, though. You'll also see friends and families enjoying casual walks and long, languid lunches at seafront restaurants and food courts.

East Coast Park Some places don't make you choose between beach and greenery (Image: Getty)

Pulau Ubin

While Sentosa is the most well-known and developed of Singapore's offshore islands, more tourists are discovering the rustic charms of Pulau Ubin.

Anchored off Singapore's north coast, this bicycle-friendly gem is peppered with traditional Malay kampong (village) houses, down-to-earth Chinese eateries and grocery stores and dense jungle, which hides the likes of wild boar, pythons and crab-munching macaques.

Many locals say Ubin is "how Singapore used to be 30 or 40 years ago".

Fort Canning Park

Don't want to venture too far from the city centre? Fort Canning Park is the perfect nearby escape.

Crowning a hill behind the National Museum of Singapore, this enchanting oasis is rife with birdsong, aromatic spices and historic sights: the sacred shrine of Singapore's last sultan, cannons from British colonial rule and the revamped Battle Box, an atmospheric bunker-style museum that charts Singapore's occupation by the Japanese during World War II.

Also in the park - in the former British army barracks - is an offshoot of Pinacotheque de Paris (the French capital's largest private art museum).

Fort Canning Park History intermingles with nature at Fort Canning Park (Image: Getty)

Gardens By The Bay

Arguably the most photographed of Singapore's green spaces, this leafy, yet glitzy attraction sprouted on 101 hectares of reclaimed land near the marina, and blends dazzling architecture with pockets of natural beauty.

Flush with bio-domes, sculptures and luxuriant vegetation, the gardens are a mesmerising spectacle at ground level, but you can also gallivant amid the high-tech Supertrees.

Rising between 25-50 metres, and illuminated after dark, these tree-shaped, steel-clad vertical gardens are (partially) connected by a suspended walkway, offering an eagle eye's view of proceedings.


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Steve McKenna

A regular contributor to some of Australia's leading newspapers and travel magazines, Steve McKenna has visited, written about and photographed more than 80 countries on six different continents. He fears he has an incurable case of wanderlust and is particularly fond of Europe, Asia and South America.