#4 Jane Says ... Take a Walk on the Wild Side
“I have a particular fondness for the Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve in Singapore’s northeast. I love the idea that migratory birds stop off at our little island on their long flights north and south. It must be because we make them feel so welcome!” says Jane Iyer of Jane’s SG Tours.
When you get away from the concrete jungle of the CBD and Orchard Road, you'll discover our little red dot is actually very green — maybe we should rename Singapore the Little Green Dot. With its ancient primary forests, watery mangroves, jungle-framed arcs of beach, and even a few steep hills, you can literally take a walk on Singapore’s wild side.
Starting with a rich history of rubber tree cultivation and orchid breeding at the Botanic Gardens through to the modern marvels of Marina Barrage and Gardens by the Bay, Singapore has some of the most interesting, useful, and used urban green spaces on the planet.
Looking further afield to Sungei Buloh, the Kranji Marshes, Bukit Timah Nature reserve, Pulau Ubin, and St. Johns and Lazarus Islands, Singapore is home to a diverse ecosystem of plant and animal life spread across its national parks. If you’re into birds, you’ll tweet and flap with delight!
In Sungei Buloh, for instance, Jane’s SG Tours nature guide Wan Ling says you can see migratory shore birds between September and March, from the orange-legged common redshank, to the bobbing common sandpiper and the beautiful Asian dowitcher. Year-round you can spot local lovelies like the copper-throated sunbirds, ashy tailorbirds, grey herons and other animals, from plantain squirrels to Malayan water monitor lizards and maybe, just maybe, an estuarine crocodile.
Meanwhile over at the Chek Jawa wetlands at Pulau Ubin, there are wild boar, fiddler crabs, mudskippers, and if you’re very lucky, according to Wan Ling, you’ll catch a glimpse of the resident Great-billed Heron.
Who knew Singapore was such a wild place?
Tell that to the otters. In fact, there are romps of playful smooth-coated otters frolicking along Singapore’s rivers, coastal areas and in its national parks. Currently there are an estimated 60 cute creatures being incredibly adorable around the island and on Pulau Ubin.
Adding more dimension to Singapore’s natural side are layers of interesting history that will be shared on Jane’s Naturally Singapore tours. From the days when opium addicts were sent to St. John’s island to “recover” and granite was mined from quarries on Pulau Ubin — in fact the name itself, derived from its original Malay name, Pulau Batu Jubin, means “Island of Granite Stones” — there’s always a fascinating backstory to uncover, even in Singapore’s most remote spots.
“Some people who have lived here for many years have not visited some of these natural national treasures. Visitors to Singapore are constantly amazed at the beauty of these places, which are so far removed from their image of our modern metropolis,” says Jane.
For Jane and others who have been to Singapore before or have lived here in the past, Singapore’s green spaces harken back to an earlier time.
“As I child living here for some years, my family and I would go for picnics on the little islands nearby like St. John’s. Today, I still love going to the islands. It feels like I’m going back in time,” Jane says.
When nation building began after independence in the mid 20th century, along with apartment towers, highways, and other public works projects, modern Singapore’s founders made sure the natural side of Singapore wasn’t completely paved over.
“One of our late Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew’s priorities was to keep Singapore as green as possible, and I think we have succeeded. We are now considered a city in a garden. Just look around you, it’s true,” Jane says.
See for yourself. Join the Jane’s SG Tours team for a Naturally Singapore experience on our Little Green Dot. Click here for upcoming tours.