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Jurong Lake Gardens
Photograph: David Kubovsky/Unsplash Jurong Lake Gardens

The best nature trails in Singapore

Discover the Garden City's flora and fauna through these scenic walks

By Cam Khalid
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Sometimes the best way to discover Singapore is by checking out the beauty that surrounds it. No, we're not talking about the usual agenda of tourist attractions, modern skyscrapers, and shopping malls. Whether it's by the waters or deep in a nature reserve, there's no reason not to take a breather (and some fresh air) while you admire the Garden City's stunning greenery.

RECOMMENDED: The best hiking trails in Singapore and cycling routes in Singapore

Tampines Eco Green
Photograph: Delfina Utomo

Coast-to-Coast (C2C) Trail

Things to do Punggol

If you're feeling ambitious, lace up for the 36-kilometre Coast-to-Coast (C2C) Trail that cuts across the island and links Coney Island in the northeast to Jurong Lake Gardens in the west. The trail – a challenging combo of roadside paths and park connectors – takes you through some of the best parks and nature reserves in Singapore like Bukit Batok Nature Park, Macritchie Reservoir Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park, and Singapore Botanic Gardens. Look out for quarry lakes, parts of an old cemetery, rustic forests along the way.

Kranji Marshes
Photo: Urban Redevelopment Authority

Kranji Marshes

Things to do Lim Chu Kang

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. It was cultivated since the ’70s when the Kranji reservoir was dammed, forming a wild diversity of terrains such as marshland, grassland, and secondary forests. Read our guide to Kranji Marshes for more things to do.

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Coney Island
Photograph: Delfina Utomo

Coney Island

Things to do Punggol

Located in the far end of the North East, Coney Island is a rustic escape that preserves the island's natural character. This ecologically sustainable park also uses timber from fallen trees for all the signage in the park, benches, and the boardwalk over the mangrove swamp. Keep an eye out for native macaques, rare birds, and butterflies on the island while you explore the woods and the hidden beaches. Watch out for snakes if you're venturing into the woods too. Read our guide to Coney Island for more things to do.

Jurong Lake Gardens
Photograph: NParks

Jurong Lake Gardens

Things to do Jurong East

Deemed as the largest nature wonderland in the heartlands, Jurong Lake Gardens spans a whopping 90-hectares. The grounds are specially landscaped and designed for families and the community to come together to play, learn, and bond. Located right by Jurong Lake, it's no surprise that it's one of the top spots for waterside trails. Stop by attractions within the park, like Clusia Cove, which is a water play area; stroll down the Rasau Walk boardwalk; get close to the water at Neram Streams and explore the swampland at Alstonia Island as well as the Freshwater Swamp Forest.

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Rower's Bay Park
Photograph: NParks

Rower's Bay Park

Attractions Parks and gardens Yishun

Rower's Bay Park is so named for the reservoir's popularity with kayaking enthusiasts. If you're sticking to the land, the park's boardwalk is an ace spot to explore the surrounding wetlands without getting dirty. It's filled with plant species that provide a habitat for native wildlife in the area. Rower's Bay also forms part of the first phase of the planned 150-kilometre Round Island Route (RIR), which connects parks around Singapore – yes, you will eventually be able to cycle around the entire island. The completion date of the RIR is set for 2035, so you have plenty of time to start building your stamina.

Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve
Photograph: Nparks

Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve

Things to do Lim Chu Kang

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. This wetland reserve of mangrove swamps, ponds, and the 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.

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TreeTop Walk
Photograph: Shutterstock

MacRitchie Reservoir

Things to do Walks and tours Central Water Catchment

Singapore’s oldest and most popular nature park is a haven for joggers, families and weekend strollers. To get into the rainforest proper, the MacRitchie Trails around the reservoir offer easy boardwalk treks and ambitious hikes, ranging from 3 to 11-kilometres in length. The highlight is the TreeTop Walk (temporarily closed for maintenance), a suspension bridge positioned 25-metre above the forest floor, which connects the two highest points in the reserve and offers splendid panoramic views. Wildlife, from flying lemurs to tree frogs and pangolins, is abundant but rarely seen. Long-tailed macaque monkeys are more common, but be wary: some can be quite ferocious, as they’re used to being fed by irresponsible visitors.

Bukit Timah Nature Reserve hiking trails
Photograph: Shutterstock

Bukit Timah Nature Reserve

Things to do Bukit Panjang

This 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. After the hike, head to the adjacent Hindhede Nature Park to look at the quarry lake.

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The Learning Forest
Photograph: Delfina Utomo

Singapore Botanic Gardens

Attractions Parks and gardens Tanglin

Established in 1852, the Gardens are a tranquil respite from the city buzz. Highlights include the National Orchid Garden with the world’s largest collection of orchids – some 1,000 species and 2,000 hybrids, including the national flower, Vanda Miss Joaquim. There is also the Learning Forest that was designed to integrate with the existing six-hectare rainforest to form an enlarged forest habitat. Unlike the rest of the Botanic Gardens, the Learning Forest is a little more rustic and sprawling, segmented into different areas. Plus, did we mention that the forest is over 100 years old? 

underground tunnel, fort canning park
Photograph: Martinho Smart/Shutterstock

Fort Canning Park

Things to do City Hall

Bring your curious minds to the corners of Fort canning Park. There's everything from old graves and colonial-era relics to the tranquil Sang Nila Utama Garden, decked with Javanese split gates and a freshwater feature. While you take a peaceful stroll around the park, learn more about the paramount roles it played in the defense of the island and even before the British arrived, when it served as the residence of Malay royalty. And while you're at it, check out the spiral underground crossing at Fort Canning Park, which makes a great backdrop for your next Instagram shot.

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Punggol Waterway
Photograph: NParks

Punggol Waterway Park

Things to do Punggol

This park offers four unique themes with something in store for visitors of all ages. The Nature Cove features a picturesque view of the Waterway, with a relaxing lawn area for families to spend lazy Sundays. At the Recreation Zone, little ones can let loose with activities like water play and sand play, while the rest of the family gets a workout at the fitness corner. The Heritage Zone offers gorgeous greenery along the stretch of the old Punggol Road, where families can take a walk down memory lane, and the Green Gallery consists of a peaceful trail along the park's natural terrain. If you want to get active with your family, go for the cycling or inline skating activities, or admire the views from the Rope Bridge and Kelong Bridge.

Chek Jawa, Pulau Ubin
Phototograph: Donn Tan

Chek Jawa at Pulau Ubin

Things to do Pulau Ubin

Unleash the explorer in you and island jump to Pulau Ubin. Head to Chek Jawa and take a walk along the 1.1-kilometre boardwalk – best visited during low tide – to study and gaze down at the marine wildlife in the millennia-old coral reef. Keep a lookout for sea critters such as mud lobsters, peacock anemone and the biscuit sea star. If you've still got much energy left in you, climb up the Jejawi Tower for a panoramic view of the island’s lush tree canopy, Chek Jawa wetlands, and even the Johor River. Make sure to have a pair of binoculars in hand as the high viewing area makes it a great spot for bird-watching. 

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Mount Faber Park
Photograph: NParks

Mount Faber

Things to do Bukit Merah

Covered by lush rainforest and with landscaped slopes, Mount Faber is a lovely spot, especially at dawn and dusk. Formerly part of Telok Blangah Hill, it was renamed in 1845 after British engineer Captain Charles Edward Faber, who built the narrow winding road that leads to the summit. A jogger's haven, it is also popular with tourists because you can stand next to the Merlion for that quintessential Singapore souvenir shot. Did we also mention that it's one of the best sunset viewing spots in Singapore?

Tampines Eco Green
Photograph: Delfina Utomo

Tampines Eco Green

Things to do Tampines

Dust off your best trainers and head to this oasis of peace in the east. Linked via park connectors from Tampines Biking Trail and Sun Plaza Park, this eco-friendly stretch allows you to wade through open grasslands, freshwater wetlands, and secondary rainforest to discover the flora and fauna that surround it. There are also bird hides for some bird-watching – byob (bring your own binoculars) and look out for the Baya Weavers. Cycling is not allowed here, so that everyone can soak up nature’s beauty without the fear of being mowed down.

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Labrador Nature Reserve
Photograph: NParks

Labrador Nature Reserve

Things to do Harbourfront

Part of the Southern Ridges, Labrador Nature Reserve contains the only rocky sea-cliff in Singapore and offers a panoramic view of the sea and cliff-side vegetation. Take a waterside stroll or explore the tunnels and fort that are remnants of World War II. Thriving with wildlife, the park is a favourite haunt of nature lovers. It is not uncommon for visitors to hear songs from a variety of bird species, including those of the oriental magpie-robin and black-naped oriole. Take a leisurely stroll along one of the nature trails, and you may spot the resident squirrels scurrying up trees.

Live the park life

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