Home to 170 species of birds, 54 types of butterflies and 33 different kinds of dragonflies, this nature reserve is the perfect recreation area to observe and enjoy the island's wildlife. At 57 hectares and with a range of natural and green habitats, Kranji Marshes is Singapore's largest freshwater farmland. For a more comprehensive tour of the lands, make sure you sign up for a guided tour of the West Marsh within the Core Conservation Area. The area is usually closed to the public to minimise disturbances to wildlife but the NParks volunteers – the 'Kranji Marshals' – conduct station-guiding walks wo show you around the natural beauty of the marshes.
This 1.64sq km (0.63sq mile) nature reserve is renowned for having one of the richest and most diverse ecosystems in the world. Besides hundreds of animal and insect species, it also contains more tree species than the whole of North America. Weekends are busy with walkers, nature lovers and mountain bikers, so come on a weekday if you prefer a quiet trek. There are four walking trails. A steep paved path takes you directly to the peak, but more interesting are the unpaved trails; route 3 (green) follows a winding forest path, past caves used by Japanese soldiers in World War II. Look out for long-tailed macaques, squirrrels and snakes, and listen for the incessant ‘chonk-chonk’ of the striped tit-babbler. Cyclists should wear protective gear as the biking trail is extremely rugged.
Located next to Bukit Timah Nature Reserve, the Hindhede Quarry is majestic, though you can only admire it from an observation deck. Besides the view, it is also an excellent spot for wildlife watching as it is home to inhabitants like the banded woodpecker, clouded monitor lizard and the plantain squirrel so it pays to keep your eyes open when taking a walk.
Strap on your best walking shoes and trudge through the swamps of Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve to learn more about the flora and fauna that call this mangrove forest home. Weekly, volunteer-led tours – they regularly change – introduce the plants, birds, insects and other indigenous species found in this ASEAN Heritage Park (Singapore has two, the other being Bukit Timah Nature Reserve). This wetland reserve of mangrove swamps, ponds and secondary forest is also home to 140 species of birds. Take a spot at observation hides or rent binoculars to bird-watch. There are also nature trails where you can also spot mudskippers, monkeys and climbing crabs on the mangrove boardwalks.
Far away from the thronging East Coast Park and manicured Sentosa beaches lies a swathe of white sand ringing clear, turquoise waters. No, we’re not talking about Boracay but Lazarus Island. One of Singapore’s best-kept secrets is its serene, undeveloped beach that you can (almost) call your own – just take the first ferry out at 9am on weekends and 10am on weekdays to claim the sands for yourself. Pro tip: for Insta-worthy shots, trek further inland to the reclaimed Pulau Seringat, north of Lazarus. You’ll come across a jetty – continue past it until you spot a pavilion. From that vantage point, you’ll be able to snap a panorama of the Singapore mainland.
Take a walk on the wild side as you step foot on one of Singapore’s last surviving kampongs. At a sprawling 1,020 hectares, Ubin boasts lush greenery and abundant wildlife, drawing nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts to explore the many wonders of the granite island. Whip out your binoculars to spot birds at Pekan Quarry, wander through nature trails, and hike 75 metres up Puaka Hill for a breathtaking panoramic view of the islet. Whisk yourself to the south-eastern end of Ubin for the islet’s main attraction: Chek Jawa. The wetlands and its rich ecosystem are best seen during low tide – stroll down the kilometre-long boardwalk and keep your eyes peeled for colourful sea critters such as the peacock anemone and biscuit sea star. If you’d like to add some adrenaline rush to the trip, sign up for the island’s kayak tours ($95/person for full day) and paddle through the mangroves. You might just be able to have a close encounter with jellyfish, kingfishers and (if you’re lucky) otters.
The serene Bukit Batok Nature Park was developed on an abandoned quarry in 1988. There are lookout points that afford stunning views of the quarry, along with footpaths to cycle and jog on and a moderately easy hiking trail through the foliage. For a bit of history, head to the WWII memorial, which commemorates the location of one of the fiercest battles that took place in Singapore.
The Sisters’ Island Marine Park is the first of its kind here, with 40 hectares of maritime flora and fauna – and over 250 species of hard corals – that prove the biodiversity found in Singapore is, honestly, pretty staggering. The best way to take in the sights is to hop on the twice-monthly guided tours, organised by the National Parks Board. Register early, too, as only 45 nature lovers tops are allowed on each walk. You’ll need to travel quite a bit for this one. But if you go on the guided tour, boats from the mainland will be chartered for you at no cost.