Situated next to the extensive Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve, Kranji Marshes (above), which opened in February last year, is the wetland’s little sibling that’s less than half its size at 56.8ha. However, its carefully protected marsh, woodland and grass habitats, home to more than 170 species of birds, 54 varieties of butterflies and 33 species of dragonflies, make it Singapore’s most Instagrammable natural landscape.
1 / 7 Best for wildlife photography: Kranji MarshesRead more
2 / 7 Best for wildlife photography: Kranji MarshesRead more
It’s an easy 1km stroll from Kranji Gate to the Raptor Tower lookout. ?The balustrade wrapped around the structure emulates a bird protecting its nest on a tree. I crouch low for a horizon shot of the pond-dappled landscape, with the Kingfisher Burrow bridge to the left. With minimal crowds in this relatively undiscovered park, the atmosphere evokes a Land Before Time. Birdwatching enthusiasts will love the blinds and hides for spying on creatures such as the purple swamphen (above) and baya weaver. The top of the tower is the perfect point for spotting black bazas and Japanese sparrowhawks during migratory season.
3 / 7 Best for wildlife photography: Kranji MarshesRead more
Snag a spot at the monthly Evening Chorus at Kranji Marshes, a guided ?3km walk through the park’s core conservation area that’s not usually open to the public. Each trip is limited to 20 participants, and you’ll have to email the National Parks Board to register. If you’re fortunate enough to catch the right palette of sunset, marshland reflections and bird appearances before one of the two floating boardwalks, your photo will carry the illusion of a never-ending horizon.
4 / 7 Best for mountain biking: Chestnut Nature ParkRead more
Saddle up, mountain bikers. Whether you’re starting out or a pro at wheelie drops, this rambling nature park (above) is the first in Singapore to offer trails dedicated to the sport. The 17ha southern section opened last April, followed by the 64ha northern part earlier this year. You’ll find everything from beginner’s green circles to the most difficult double black diamonds, obstacles in the form of fallen trunks and rocks, plus steep slopes and sharp turns.
Although I’m new to mountain biking, the camaraderie of its community? eases my trepidation as soon as I pull my rental bike out of the kiosk. Seasoned enthusiasts happily share tips on tackling the loops and their favourite sections – Over The Moon, Downhill Rush, Coconut Berms and Lalang Flats are big hits.
5 / 7 Best for mountain biking: Chestnut Nature ParkRead more
I stick to bunny slopes so I can get used to the crunch and grind of mountain biking, which means mostly traversing the same out-and-back route. But the beauty of off-road riding is that a new experience awaits with every undulation in the terrain. Familiarity breeds confidence and, soon, I am bravely picking up speed and even deliberately going over bigger rocks for thrills.
But if the whoops of delight erupting from the more challenging courses are any indication, the intermediate and advanced bikers are living it up – sometimes literally, as they soar off structures including tabletops and rollers (bikespeak for flat and curved ramps respectively).
Chestnut Nature Park’s smooth-flowing tracks level out learning curves for newbies, while plenty of features push experienced daredevils to hone techniques as aggressively as they choose. All 8.2km of the park’s biking trails are ready.
6 / 7 Best for adventure training: Bukit Timah Nature ReserveRead more
Trail runners training for adventure races, as well as trekkers preparing for expeditions in full backpacking regalia, rove the 163ha nature reserve (above), but no workout is complete till you’ve conquered its highest summit. The 163m-high hill features muscle-straining gradients of up to 30 per cent. I can vouch for ?the payoff: Before the reserve underwent restoration for two years in 2014, it readied me for completing the Great Wall Marathon with all my body parts intact.
And now, I’m back at this verdant training ground, which was reopened last October. Like the park’s slopes that needed repair and enhancements, I’ve just recovered from an Achilles tendon injury and am excited to get back on track. The gentle Kampong Trail serves as a nice warm-up for tackling Route 3, where nature at its eclectic best – sagging vines, slippery lichen and exposed tree roots – makes things interesting en route to the summit.
7 / 7 Best for adventure training: Bukit Timah Nature ReserveRead more
Post-fist pump at the top, I descend via the strenuous Route 4, which features steep climbs, rock faces and narrow paths. This presents the perfect excuse to slow down and stop to smell the ripe scents of one of the world’s most diverse tropical rainforest ecosystems. Along with newly installed railings, the intermediate steps and raised boardwalks, which were added to the more challenging sections, ease my apprehension. These make the trails much friendlier for walkers, hikers? and runners of all abilities.
There’s no better way to cool down than at the upgraded Visitor Centre (above), with its expanded exhibit of life-size animal models and interactive stations that put a name to the critters I encountered along the way.
LIFESTYLE | 18 January 2019
LIFESTYLE | 18 January 2019