LAST December 2021, I wrote about the healing power of nature (link at the end of the article) because, in many ways, nature allows one’s weary body to rest and heals a wounded soul.
In Singapore, I found myself looking for nature parks where I can spend the entire morning or afternoon walking around, breathing positivity in and breathing negativity out. Thankfully, the country has plenty of it – all of which are easily reachable and accessible via public transport, and some are smack dab in the middle of this fine city.
Here are some that I was fortunate to visit along with my nature-lover friend Joana in this country that is sometimes known as The Garden City.
Mount Faber Park
Said to be one of the oldest parks in Singapore, this 56-hectare park and reserve located at the junction of Kampung Bahru Road and Telok Blangah Road, is a popular destination for locals and tourists as it is easily accessible via buses or Mass Rapid Transit (MRT). Mount Faber is part of the Southern Ridges, comprising 10-kilometer trails connecting Telok Blangah Hill Park, HortPark, Kent Ridge Park, and Labrador Nature Reserve.
There are plenty of activities to be had in this nature park. One can take a cable car from Mount Faber to Sentosa Island and enjoy the breathtaking view of the city from above. For those like us who love to walk, and I mean monumental walk, the place offers stunning panoramic views of the southern part of Singapore via overlooking points strategically situated within the park. There are plenty of stairs and walking paths can be slippery during the rainy season, so one has to mind the path and wear proper shoes.
At the highest point in the park is this mural wall depicting local historical scenes, if you want a bit of education while taking a break. Mount Faber is covered by secondary rainforest or second-growth forest, and here and there this time, you will notice some covered or enclosed areas in which repairs and improvements are being done.
Although it can be a long stretch to cover, you can do the hike or run by yourself and it will be unlikely for you to get lost if you only follow the trails and pathways. Establishments offering food and refreshments can be found in the park, and so do toilets. Normally, there are many visitors in this park on any given day, runners, hikers, and tourists included.
Perhaps one of my favorite places so far for nature therapy when in Singapore is Pulao Ubin originally known as Pulao Batu Jubin in Malay or Granite Stone Island, a 1,020-hectare island northeast of mainland Singapore. Nature meets history is the kind of experience this place has to offer. You can opt to follow the well-trodden paths on foot or rent a bike and explore the island. Best perhaps to go there with a buddy or in a group, especially if an encounter with wild boars and monkeys isn’t your favorite part when communing with nature. This is, after all, home to diverse habitats and a variety of wildlife.
Allot at least a full day if you wish to visit this tranquil island sanctuary. To get there, take a motorized boat from Changi Point Ferry Terminal, roughly about a 10-minute ride, to Pulao Ubin jetty. As of last week, the ride costs S$4 per person. What to expect from this island aside from a very calming union with nature, wild animals included are former granite quarries, historical sites, fish farms, coconut rubber plantation, and the last remaining traditional kampongs or villages. At the Jejawi observation tower, you will be treated to the beautiful views surrounding the island including parts of Malaysia. Walking on looped boardwalks, do not be surprised if you are greeted by bulbul birds and kingfishes that inhabit the tidal flats and mangroves of the Chek Jawa Wetlands.
If you get the chance to visit this place, being insect repellent, sunblock, and water, or alternatively, try the fresh young coconut fruits being sold at the stalls near the ferry terminal. Also, take snaps of your favorite areas on the island for posterity. If you still have a bit of time, make a side trip to Changi Food Village for what might just be the best satay you’ll get in this side of town.
Singapore Botanic Gardens
The Gardens, a 163-year-old tropical garden located at the periphery of the Orchard Road district and has been inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2015, is easily a go-to for many wherever they may be in Singapore. Currently, this 82-hectare beauty within the city is an important botanical institute. One can go right in the morning, as it is open free of charge daily to the public from 5:00 a.m. to 12:00 midnight, and enjoy the rest of the day there since there are a few restaurants where you can have your meals. My first visit to the Gardens didn’t allow me to see all the areas it covers, so I made a pact with myself to revisit the place.
Inside you will find the National Orchid Garden, which houses about 1,200 to 2,000 collections of hybrids. I also enjoyed taking a stroll at the Healing Garden with its varieties of herbal and medicinal plants, many of which were familiar to me. If you ever find yourself just wanting to get lost in the beauty of nature, The Gardens is an excellent choice. Do not worry, literally getting lost inside is unlikely as there are many people, staff included, inside. The Gardens receives about 4.5 million visitors annually.
Fort Canning Park
The first time I went to Fort Canning Park, formerly known as Government Hill, one of Singapore’s most historic landmarks, I was out to meet a former colleague for coffee. We walked from the coffee place to this park to see the Fort Canning Tunnel. We aren’t the best navigators even with Google Maps in hand and so it took a while for us to find it, which turned out to be located at the fringe of the park by the road. But we enjoyed the hike around this park which is located right at the heart of the city. If you are a history junkie, you’ll enjoy the heritage walk in this historic landmark that has witnessed Singapore’s golden era, tracing back to the time when Malay Kings ruled and Singapore transformed from being a sleepy fishing village to a vibrant trading hub in the 19th century and now as the Aisan Tiger. Today, its lush lawns are one of the favorite spots for picnics, concerts, theatre productions, and festivals.
These are just some of the many nature parks the country has to offer. There are still many more islands and nature reserves to visit, but I’ll save those for next time.
Read my previous story about the healing power of nature on this link https://manilastandard.net/lifestyle/314024109/the-healing-power-of-nature.html