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Labrador Nature Reserve
Photograph: Flickr

The ultimate guide to Labrador Nature Reserve

A breezy coastal park steeped in World War II history

Cheryl Sekkappan
Written by
Cheryl Sekkappan

Part of the 10-kilometre Southern Ridges walk is Labrador Nature Reserve, a beautiful coastal park that offers forest and sea in equal measure. Defined by swampy mangroves and steep, rocky sea cliffs – the last on Singapore's mainland that is still accessible by the public – this nature reserve was handpicked by the British as the site of a mighty defence battery. The hill is littered with guns, battlements and tunnels intended to repel invading forces, some of which we can still see today. 

Many visit to enjoy the sea breeze along Labrador Park's promenade or to fish at the jetty. Another highlight nowadays is a new nature and coastal walk that brings you through a myriad of habitats including mangroves, intertidal flats and lush secondary forest. Keep your eyes peeled and you'll be rewarded with sightings of migratory birds, exotic plants and intriguing marine life. 

Whether this is your only stop for the day, or simply a gateway to other trails along the Southern Ridges, there is much to see and do. Read on for the highlights you should not miss at Labrador Nature Reserve. 

RECOMMENDED: The ultimate guide to intertidal walks in Singapore and The best hiking trails and spots in Singapore

Nature and coastal walk

Berlayer Creek mangrove trail

The Labrador Nature & Coastal Walk begins at Labrador MRT station. The boardwalk at the station's entrance will take you onto the Berlayer Creek mangrove trail, which is only one of two remaining mangroves on the south side of Singapore. Berlayer Creek, named after a historic rock formation that stood at the mouth of the sea (called Batu Berlayer or "Sail Rock" in Malay), is home to 60 recorded bird species, 19 species of fishes and 14 true mangrove plant species. Look out for giant mudskippers on the mudflats and majestic Brahminy Kites in the skies. 

Bukit Chermin Boardwalk

The Berlayer Creek mangrove trail will lead you to the Bukit Chermin Boardwalk, a platform right over the sea. This is an easy, 330-metre walk complete with expansive views of Keppel Harbour, Bukit Chermin Hill, the Sentosa coastline in the distance and always, a cooling sea breeze. Don't forget to look down too – low tide exposes the mudflats where you might see crustaceans, sea stars, seagrass and more marine life. 


Alexandra Garden Trail

The final lap of the Labrador Nature & Coastal Walk is the Alexandra Garden Trail. Almost 1 kilometre long, this trail connects to the famous Southern Ridges trail and its lush parks and forests. But the trail itself is all about the flora (as its name suggests) – keep your eyes peeled for vibrant red flowering plants such as the Flaming Beauty and Flowering Banana, as well as the butterflies they invariably attract like the lime-hued Lemon Emigrant. 

Landmarks and WWII relics

Dragon's Teeth Gate

When Chinese explorer Wang Dayuan sailed through present-day Keppel Harbour in 1330, he noted two rocky outcrops that looked like dragon's teeth. This is the origin of the name Long Ya Men or Dragon's Teeth Gate, given to the original granite rock formation that stood near Pasir Panjang and its twin on Tanjong Rimau on Sentosa Island. Known by the early Malays as Batu Berlayer, Dragon's Teeth Gate served as a navigational point for arriving ships in ancient times. It was blasted apart by the British in 1848 to widen the channel, and a replica was subsequently placed in Labrador Nature Reserve in 2005 to mark its importance to Singapore's maritime history. 

Fort Pasir Panjang

Head up the hill in Labrador Nature Reserve for a walk in WWII history. This was the site of an old British military base, chosen for its great vantage point over Keppel Harbour and natural defences provided by a steep and rocky sea cliff. In WWII, the southern shores of Singapore were deemed vulnerable to enemy landing – leading to even greater fortifications, enhancements and upgrades of military battlements. Of course, the Japanese ended up attacking Singapore from the North, but Fort Pasir Panjang remained an important shelter and storage site for personnel and equipment. 


Old Fort Entrance

This marks your entry into the old Fort Pasir Panjang, the only way into the fort until another road was built in 1892. What's left of the gate today are remnants of a brick wall, but in its heyday, the gate was protected by a heavy iron gate that was only lifted to allow infantry troops, supplies and ammunition to enter. 

6-inch quick firing gun

Along the trail, you will come across a 6-inch quick-firing gun, considered a modern cannon at the time for its speed and accuracy. Two of these cannons were placed at Labrador Park to make seaward attacks but were also deployed in 1942 to take on Japanese troops advancing from land – through with decreased effectiveness. These guns were destroyed by the British to deny the Japanese of its use, but a barrel was recovered at Beach Road Camp in 2001 and displayed along the trail at Labrador Nature Reserve. 


Underground tunnels

The spookiest landmark you can find at the nature reserve are the underground tunnels. Dating back to 1886, this labyrinth of rooms and passageways served the gun emplacements aboveground and were also used to store ammunition and provide shelter for troops and gunners. The tunnels are unfortunately sealed to the public today, but you can still take a look at the entrances and imagine how it must have been during wartimes. 

Where to eat

  • Restaurants
  • Thai
  • Harbourfront

End off your couple hike with a romantic dinner at Tamarind Hill. Resting atop a hill in Labrador Park, this fine dining restaurant has high ceilings and beautiful 19th century fixtures to impress your date. Like its chef Thiti Thammanatr, the cuisine here embodies Thai culture with a Canadian twist. Try the Wagyu sirloin and foie gras topped with green curry reduction ($45), plus the deepfried river lobster served with tamarind sauce ($17). While you’re at it, get involved with a tom yum martini ($12).

  • Restaurants
  • American
  • Harbourfront
  • price 2 of 4

There's nothing like BBQ and hotpot by the sea, and if you can't be bothered to do it yourself at the nature reserve's BBQ pits, then head to The Three Peacocks instead. Enjoy Australian wagyu beef, marinated meats and fresh prawns, clams, oysters and even a Boston lobster (at a premium price of course). The buffet starts at $56 per person on weekdays, and comes with grill or hotpot options. To end things off on a refreshing note, fruits and ice cream are served at the end of the meal.

Where to stay

  • Hotels
  • Harbourfront

For a nature getaway right on the mainland, book a staycation at Villa Samadhi Singapore by Samadhi. Housed in a restored 1920 black-and-white colonial garrison, Villa Samadhi Singapore by Samadhi oozes luxury and Old Malayan charm. Visit the myriad of habitats at the nearby Labrador Nature Reserve, or stay in to fully enjoy the well-appointed rooms – featuring preserve vintage centrepieces, lofty ceilings, teak furnishings and modern conveniences like a flat-screen cable TV and Bluetooth-enabled speakers. 

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