Written by: Matt Newkirk
Visited: July 2017
Need a break from the hustle and bustle of Singapore’s concrete jungle? Look no further, Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve has you covered. The marine estuaries surrounding Sungei Buloh are home to a myriad of migrating birds, fish, mudskippers, and large reptiles. Hiking along the levees that divide the swampy marshes will take you back in time and provide a close look at some of Singapore’s natural wonders. The mangrove forests that line the coast of the wetlands park offer shelter to crabs, snakes, monitor lizards, and if you are lucky, even crocodiles.
Singapore is world-famous for its ultra-modern architecture, state of the art public transit, food courts, and spotlessly clean sidewalks. Walking around town, it’s easy to forget that the majority of the high-rise buildings that line the streets are really only a couple of decades old.
Not that long ago, the tiny city-state was covered in dense tropical jungles and wetlands. Long-tailed macaque monkeys patrolled the dense forest canopy, while monitor lizards and crocodiles lumbered over the swampy marshes below.
Luckily, there are still a few small pockets of this marvelous jungle that can be explored by the those of us who are up for the adventure.
Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve lies to the far north of Singapore, just across the channel from Malaysia. You can get there by taking the 925 bus from the Kranji MRT station, but from down town public transit takes well over an hour, so a 45-minute taxi ride may be the way to go. The park is open from 7AM until 7PM and is free to enter.
View of Malaysia - Photo by Jaii Fredregill
When you enter the park, you will walk through a small visitor center staffed with friendly park employees. You can pick up a free map of the trails here, or buy a cold drink to survive the inevitable heat of wandering in the park.
Fish swimming below the boardwalk
The trails start out as nicely paved paths that run through the jungle and out onto boardwalks over the estuaries that straddle Singapore and Malaysia. You will stroll through mangroves and along the shore, constantly greeted by mudskippers, dragonflies, and hosts of migratory birds. If you look closely, you can see mud crabs making their way through the roots of the trees. There are many elevated lookouts with covered roofs and benches where visitors can rest along the way.
About halfway through the park, just before you reach the Sungei Buloh Besar River, you will come to the Wetland Center. This provides another shady spot to sit and rest, and free purified water to re-fill your water bottle. Look out for the resident macaque monkeys, as they can sometimes be a little bit too friendly, especially if they suspect you have food in your pockets.
As you cross the river, keep an eye out for the many large crocodiles that bask in the waters here. They are easy to spot when the water is low and they move out into the middle of the river to hunt. Otherwise, a sharp eye can usually spot them along the banks.
Once you cross the river, you will enter the Buloh Tidal Ponds. The ponds can be accessed by walking a looping dirt trail that is slightly elevated to avoid flooding at high tide.
You will most likely be joined by one of the abundant water monitor lizards that call this area home. They tend to lumber along across the trail, not really minding the company. With the largest individuals reaching close to two meters, they can be quite a remarkable sight.
Scores of migratory birds also frequent the ponds, and there is no shortage of covered bird blinds for serious bird watchers. For me, these provided a nice shady place to stop and eat lunch.
One of the many birds found in the reserve
If you are looking for something different to do during your visit to Singapore, or if you are a local, and just want to escape the busy city life, a day in the wetlands may be just what you need.