Bukit Timah Nature Reserve – Nature’s Gift to Singapore
This is Bukit Timah Nature Reserve, an enclave like no other. This protected rainforest, which just half an hour away from the Singapore’s skyscrapers, is home to some of the rarest insect, bird and mammal species in the world.
Why should you visit Bukit Timah Nature Reserve? Is it worth your time?
It’s the nearest to the purest air in Singapore!
Off the summit at 163.63 metres, the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve is the closest you can get to the purest fresh air in Singapore. Recent studies revealed that phytoncides, the airborne chemicals that plants in nature give off to protect themselves from insects, is beneficial for our well-being. Bukit Timah Nature Reserve is that amazing resource for freshness and diversity deservingly named as an ASEAN Heritage Park.
It’s one of the oldest rainforest in the region!
If Nature has many gifts to humankind, then Bukit Timah Nature Reserve is definitely one of them. As one of the last stands of primary lowland dipterocarp forest in Singapore, she is a rarity. Probably the oldest rainforest reserve in the region, if not the world, Bukit Timah Nature Reserve is a surviving historical monument that endured a precarious past.
In the past, urban development and boundary changes shrank the size of the Reserve. Gone from her pastures are the tigers, leopards, mouse-deers, banded leaf monkeys, hornbills and trogons. But there are other many surviving species mostly hidden for us to discover.
It’s a heaven for outdoor enthusiasts
Today, Bukit Timah Nature Reserve is a popular spot among hikers, bikers, joggers and climbers. Though many come just to climb, but for an increasing number, the forest and her residents are the main attraction. Do you know that at least 40 per cent of Singapore’s native flora and fauna is here even though it makes up less than 1 per cent of the country’s area? Researchers have reported that a one-hectare plot of land within Bukit Timah Nature Reserve contains more tree species than the whole of North America!
It has more diversity than some countries
Although Bukit Timah Nature Reserve was officially opened in 1992, her rich biodiversity spans way back. It was recorded that in 1822, Dr Nathaniel Wallich, then Superintendent of the Calcutta Royal Gardens, had collected plants at the reserve. Years later, in 1854, eminent naturalist Alfred Wallace collected beetles.
But, just how rich is Bukit Timah Nature Reserve?
Can you believe that within Bukit Timah Nature Reserve, there are 2 million insects and invertebrates, 660 types of spiders and 126 species of birds? Home to species such as the Plantain Squirrel, the Greater Racket-tailed Drongo, the Cryptocoryne x timahensis, Singapore’s very own rare cryptocoryne and also the Singapore Freshwater Crab, the Johora Singaporensis – a very rare species of crab that can only be found in Singapore.
“They belong to this country, this island, and if they die, this island is also responsible,” said crab expert, Professor Peter Ng, who gave Johora Singaporensis its name.
How to get there?
Bukit Timah Nature Reserve’s address is at 177 Hindhede Drive, Singapore 589333.
You are highly recommended to use public transport, as the car park has limited space.
From the city, Beauty World MRT Station is half an hour away on Downtown Line 2.From Beauty World MRT Station Exit A, the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve is about a kilometre walk away. There are also buses you may hop on to get there.
Buses: 67, 75, 170, 171, 184, 852, 961
- 42109 along Jalan Anak Bukit Road, opposite Beauty World Centre, or,
- 42091 along Upper Bukit Timah Road opposite Bukit Timah Shopping Centre.
Both bus stops are 20 minutes away from the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve. So that’s your warm-up there already!
If you are looking to trail on a bike, get to bike-rental.sg at 6 Hindhede Road just before you reach the Reserve. These guys organise trail tours too so ask them about it.
What to do there?
Start your day in the Reserve at the Bukit Timah Hill Visitor Centre. Open from 8:30am to 6pm, you will be able to receive the latest information and safety updates about the Reserve here. From the interactive kiosks in the exhibition gallery, you can learn more about the flora and fauna found in this Reserve.
Is it good for kids, family?
Tempted to have your kids grounded because they are getting out-of-hand? Do this instead. Get them grinding those trails in Bukit Timah Nature Reserve! Studies show that children who spend time in outdoor natural environment have a reduced attention fatigue.
Ground your kids in the wild! Photo by Nature Society of Singapore
Kids love challenges. If you have active adolescents, throw them the Bukit Timah Summit Challenge. The recently repaired Summit Trail now has steps of two different heights, making it more accessible to hikers of all ages with various levels of mobility. Alternatively, bring magnifying glasses for a less intense Spot-The-Species Challenge to encourage observational skills in geeky types who can be naturally inquisitive.Fun at Hindhede Nature Park. Photo by Jefz Lim
For the younger tots looking for fun, skip the trails and hit straight to the Hindhede Nature Park. Located to the left of the Visitor Centre, the playground here is a family-friendly gem. Easily unnoticed by visitors for the more popular Summit Trail, this neighbouring park is kind to kids. Baby swings, balance beams, zip-line and trampoline, this spells play heaven for your little monsters!
To get wilder with your kids in nature, look out for these regular events organised by NParks.
What to wear, what to look out for?
Although the NParks has added new features to attract more visitors here, the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve is generally less “landscaped” than the typical neighbourhood park. A mixture of dirt tracks, plant debris and wet mushy ground means appropriate getup is a must. Amongst other things, look out for these too!
- comfortable, well-fitting, covered walking shoes
- not your sandals or what you wore to the beach last week
- skin-covering light clothing
- plenty of water
- scent-free insect repellent
- wet weather essentials
Please Do Not:
- enter the Reserve during stormy weather; beware of falling trees and branches
- bare your teeth or eyeball a monkey; avoid these signs of aggression and challenge
- stick-on insect repellent patches that becomes litter
- keep food and snacks in haversacks and not in plastic bags
- eat in the absence of monkeys
- dispose food trash using personal trash bags
- look down and walk at least 1.5 metres away when approached by monkeys
Food Choices & More…
Picnic on the Summit
You are welcomed to have a picnic at the summit. If you are going to have a picnic, Beauty World Shopping Centre is the best place to get your supplies from. There is pick-me-up hawker fare on the top floor and a supermarket at the basement. Always remember to bring a haversack to pack well and conceal plastic-based packaging. This helps to avoid unwanted attention from the macaques. Stick to litter-free cutleries when you can, and bring along a trash bag so you don’t have the need to litter.
Food options at the foot of the hill
If you’ve burnt away what you consumed for your summit picnic already, fret not. Coming down the Reserve, you will be spoilt for choice! Bukit Timah is truly food paradise. Get to the rooftop of Beauty World for Korean home-cooked meal at Pink Candy, authentic Peranakan food at DuluKala or the Special Tonkotsu Ramen at Buta Kin.
Alternatively, cross over to Cheong Chin Nam Road for Butter Chicken Naan at Al-Azhar Eating Restaurant, Steamed Fish & Broccoli at Joo Seng Teochew Porridge & Rice or maybe even Claypot Frog Porridge at G7 Sinma. Further down at Lorong Kilat, you can fire up some family steamboat Thai BBQ at Mookalicious or sink your teeth into Monkey King, a special banana waffle at Revelry.
Wait, there’s more. Cross over to the Bukit Timah Market and Food Centre. For a nourishing bowl of Teochew fish soup, get to Leng Kee Fish Soup stall 192. Guilt-free after that strenuous workout? You sure deserve that steaming plate of Penang Char Kway Teow from 133 Penang Authentic.
Nourishing the Spirit
Done with tummy therapy but aching elsewhere? There are a few body recovery spots here in Beauty World Shopping Centre. Relieve your tired muscles with a relaxing massage reflexology at Yong Kang Reflexology Centre or down to the basement for tui na, acupuncture & guā shā at HOLO TCM Clinic or just opposite for a traditional Thai Massage.