Sungei Buloh is a 160-hectare mangrove swamp along Singapore’s northern coast. The area was doomed for redevelopment with condos boasting Johor Bahru views, but local birdwatchers objected, pointing out the swamp is visited by hundreds of migratory species, some quite rare. Today, Sungei Buloh Nature Reserve survives as one of Singapore’s last wild places and has been designated an “ASEAN Heritage Park” for its unique ecosystem. If you’re a nature fan, it should be at the top of your to-do list (and don’t forget a visit to Pulau Ubin).
A bird census is performed every couple of months and the official checklist includes 212 species from shorebirds like egrets and sandpipers to birds of prey like sea eagles and falcons. While you can certainly hear them any time of day, the best birdwatching happens early in the morning.
Of course, Sungei Buloh is a refuge for many more creatures than just birds. Take a walk along the mangrove boardwalk to spot tree-climbing crabs, mud lobsters, large snails, and mudskippers, unique fish that breathe just as easily outside the water as in it. Sungei Buloh is also the only place in Singapore where you may spot saltwater crocodiles, though the Malayan water monitors are much more common and can grow to intimidating sizes.
Whether you’ve come to enjoy the great outdoors with the family or are in the mood for a serious nature trek, Sungei Buloh has something for everyone. The visitors’ centre has educational exhibits, an audio-visual show, a cafe, clean bathrooms and links to the 500-metre mangrove boardwalk. It’s an easy walk with no worries about getting muddy and lined with informative signs to help you identify the animals you see. For a longer walk, pick up one of the free trail maps with recommended 5-kilometre and 7-kilometre routes to the park’s outer reaches.
Sungei Buloh Nature Reserve is at its most peaceful on weekdays when admission is free but it’s harder to get to. On weekends, there’s a nominal admission fee of S$1 for adults and S$0.50 for children but you can join a free guided tour (09:30) and kids’ programme for budding naturalists.
Getting there: As a nature reserve should be, Sungei Buloh is quite isolated. Head to Kranji MRT station then board public bus #925 or the Kranji Countryside shuttle. On Sundays bus #925 will take you right to the park’s entrance, but any other day you’ll have to walk the last kilometre.
By Tanya Procyshyn
Last updated on 3rd December, 2015.