A trip to the Singapore Quarry where nature (& history) abound!

Quarries may not be the first attracions that spring to mind when you think of the many on offer in Singapore, but we have abundant granite - Pulau Ubin (Granite Island) being the most obvious example. Quarrying activities began as far back as the early 1900s, and by the 60s & 70s there were an estimated 20-25 quarries supplying much needed granite for the post-independence building and construction boom.

The hilly areas around the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve were home to several active granite quarry sites & there were 3 quarries at the base of the Bukit Timah Hill: Dairy Farm, Singapore Granite and Hindhede.

The Singapore Quarry, after a period of rehabilitation allowing vegetation and wildlife to return, recovered enough to reopen in 2009 as a freshwater wetland park, complete with a viewing platform.

And thence we ventured in early June with our intrepid Nature guide, Ed Lim. At every turn & twist of our path there was something new to point out, observe and explain!

Starting from the Hillview MRT, Ed first gave an overview of the surrounding area - the Upper Bukit Timah Rd with its industrial landscape comprising the Castrol Oil, Lam Soon Industries and Union Carbide factories, plus the significance of Bukit Timah Hill, the highest point on the island.

Our ramble started from the back of the MRT, and the first lovely natural sight we beheld were black nape orioles flying past. We then heard the beautiful song of the straw-headed bulbul, a globally threatened bird which for some reason does quite well in Singapore & is seen in many of our forests.

Walking on, we came across the MOE Adventure Centre which runs outdoor activity programmes for schools. We continued along a well maintained road with secondary & disturbed forests on both sides. Some of the many interesting shrubs, trees and fauna we encountered included squirrels, spotted doves, monitor lizards, costus spiral gingers, daun kadok (piper samentosum), a shrub which the Malays use for cooking & making salads, torch gingers for adding to our rojak dish, dillenia suffruticosa (which were used to wrap food in the past), and both strangling & non-strangling figs.

SG quarry railway bridge.JPG

We opened a few of the yellow-stem figs & saw the busy little fig wasps inside. Also spotted were curry (leaf) plants, fragrant pandan for cooking, elephant grass - tall grass which used to be fed to cows, and much more; too much to describe in detail in this short article in fact!

After three quarters of an hour’s relaxed walk, with lots of show & tell, we reached the spectacular quarry itself with its super impressive wooded cliffs providing a wonderful backdrop to its lush green lake. Clearly a popular spot for amateur artists, two of whom were skecthing away that day.

Lots more nature to be admired, some of the aquatic variety, at the quarry including tiger orchids - the biggest orchid species in the world - macaranga and water plants like borage, cat-tails, sedges & swamp fern. Plus a variety of different, mainly exotic, fish & red-ear sliders - exotic pet turtles. With Bukit Timah Nature Reserve in the background, we also saw some of the primary rainforest lrees like the Shoreas and Meranti.

Our return journey took the same route except for a diversion at the end to see the old Malayan railway line, now part of the green corridor, where we crossed the Bukit Timah rail bridge in style!

The morning’s adventure ended with well deserved coffees and cold drinks at a cafe at the Railmall.


*Article first published on FOM Magazine "Passage" September 2017 issue.

Jane IyerGreen Singapore