Megacity Singapore: a garden of interesting delights

Singapore - gardens by the bay

by Poonam Sagar:

On the final descent into Singapore and the sight of its state-of-the-art architecture and tall skyscrapers, one still cannot help but be impressed by surrounding prolific pockets of greenery. In fact, Singapore, the economic hub of Southeast Asia, is also Asia’s greenest city, as determined by the Asian Green City Index study commissioned by Siemens and conducted by independent Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) in 2011.

In Singapore’s green road map, the country aims to go from being a garden city to a city in a garden.

‘The difference might sound very small,’ said Poon Hong Yuen, the chief executive of the country’s National Parks Board, but it’s a bit like saying my house has a garden and my house is in the middle of a garden. What it means is having pervasive greenery, as well as biodiversity, including wildlife, all around you.

As we’ve moved into the more knowledge-based industries, they bring along talent who like to live in a great city. It’s no longer about being well tended, but also about the livability, the excitement of living in a great city and biodiversity is part of it.

Although Singapore is a bustling metropolis with a total land area of 707 sq km, half of the city-state’s area is covered with planted areas from parks to rooftops. Its natural environment remains rich in biodiversity; such is the variety of flora and fauna here that one botanist estimated more plant species in Bukit Timah Nature Reserve alone than in the whole of North America.

Singapore is also an important node in the East Asia Flyway used by migratory birds, and the Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve has been set aside for these feathered visitors, making it a veritable bird watcher’s paradise.

With its surprising many parks and reserves, one of the distinct features of Singapore is the abundance of greenery, with trees and flowers at almost every corner of the island, truly living up to its intent to become a garden city.

To get up close and personal with nature and greenery, embark on any one of the walking or cycling trails in Singapore’s parks, gardens and park connector networks, such as the MacRitchie Nature trail. The parks, most of which provide free entrance, are located on the waterfront around reservoirs and along the coast, as well as in the heart of the city and heartlands. Filled with different varieties of flora and fauna, they are some of the most popular sightseeing destinations in Singapore.

There is also the famous Singapore Botanic Gardens, established by Sir Stamford Raffles in 1859 and that still attract visitors from all round the globe. Stretching over 52 hectares, the site features the National Orchid Garden, the Ginger Garden and the Evolution Garden, with its hundreds of species including Singapore’s national flower, the Vanda Miss Joaquim Orchid.

More greenery is in store; the Gardens by the Bay, a new park development at Marina South, Marina East and at Marina Centre, will fan out across inter-connected waterways around Marina Bay.

The Jurong Bird Park, situated on Jurong Hill, is home to a large number of Southeast Asian birds. The park has a nocturnal house and the largest walk-in aviary in the world.

Fort Canning Park near the bustling Orchard Road shopping district is a historical venue that is one of the oldest parks of the country. It is today used for performances and concerts.

One can also pay a visit to the Haw Par Villa, also known as the Tiger Balm Gardens, which is home to an extensive collection of statues from Chinese mythology. The Chinese Gardens reflects the Northern Chinese Imperial Style of architecture, with pagodas, tea houses and wooden paths, winding streams and elegant rocky structures, balanced by the Bonsai Garden constructed in the Suzhou style.

The Singapore Zoo, considered one of the best zoos in the world, is home to hundreds of species, including endangered animals. Chek Jawa, on the eastern tip of Pulau Ubin, features marine creatures such as corals and starfishes. There is also the Singapore Crocodilarium with almost 1,000 varieties of reptiles and entertaining crocodile shows.

The Bukit Batok Nature Park and the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve are popular with nature lovers and runners, with meandering paths through the scenic forest filled with birds and fruit trees. They are home to a vast number of plant, animal and insect species.

As published in The Jakarta Post