Singapore has many public parks, but if you want to picnic by the seaside, walk through dense jungle and learn about World War II history there's only one that fits the bill: the Labrador Nature Reserve.
Located along the south coast of Singapore quite close to Sentosa Island, Labrador Park was officially upgraded to a protected nature reserve in 2002. Its 10 hectares cover a diverse range of landscapes from secondary jungle to rocky sea cliffs to swampy mangroves and are home to endangered birds, crustaceans, snakes, monitor lizards and monkeys.
The coastal area is the most developed part of Labrador Park and a paved pedestrian path runs along the water. This is where the majority of the visitors can be found as they make use of the children's playground, scenic jogging trails and barbecue pits. There's also an elevated boardwalk over the water where you can spot mudskippers, sea grasses and small crabs.
Behind the developed coastal area you'll find the true jungle. This is where Labrador Park feels a world away from urban Singapore and on weekdays you're more likely to encounter a plantain squirrel than another person. The trees covered with vines are so dense they practically block out the sun and the cicadas can be deafening. The limited network of trails are paved and have stairs and hand railings where necessary, making Labrador Park one of Singapore's easiest nature reserves for walking. Keep your eyes and ears open for wildlife (and spider webs!) as the park is home to more than 70 species of birds including wild parrots and bright yellow orioles. Remember that feeding animals or picking flowers is more than just bad for the environment – in Singapore it can land you a hefty fine!
Amid the jungle you can also see some moss-covered remains from World War II including bunkers and gun batteries. The area that is now Labrador Nature Reserve was once Fort Pasir Panjang, one of the military forts built by the British to protect the port of Singapore. Informational signs dispel common myths like that Singapore lost to the Japanese invaders because the guns at these coastal forts were pointed facing the wrong direction (in fact, they could rotate 360-degrees but were not placed for firing inland and had the wrong kind of ammo). Some secret underground tunnels from the war were rediscovered at Labrador Park in 2001, but they are currently closed to the public. If you'd like to see a military fort in better condition, consider a visit to Fort Siloso.
With the opening of the new Labrador Park MRT station the park is getting an influx of visitors and services, and is now home to chic al-fresco eateries like the fancy pants Tamarind Hills Thai/Burmese restaurant. From the station it's a 15-minute walk to the park or, if it's a weekend or public holiday, you can catch Park Bus #408 the rest of the way. Don't forget to download a free Labrador Park walking trails map courtesy of the Singapore National Parks board.
By Tanya Procyshyn
Last updated on 3rd December, 2015.