Here are some tips, dos and don’ts when visiting. By Esther Au Yong
Exploring Coney Island on bicycles. (Photo: NParks)
Coney Island Park, Singapore’s latest nature attraction, is now open. The island – also known as Pulau Serangoon – can be reached by two bridges that link its western end to Punggol Point Park and the eastern end to Pasir Ris Coast Industrial Park 6.
Managed by the National Parks Board (NParks), it features diverse habitats and is home to 86 tree species and at least 157 animal species.
Here are five reasons to visit (plus dos and don’ts):
Cycad trees at Coney Island. (Photo: NParks)
Get up close and personal with history by getting to know the cycad trees on the island. Cycads first emerged about 200 million years ago and co-existed with the dinosaurs. They grow very slowly and are known to live for as long as 1,000 years. Once abundant worldwide, they are now rare in the wild. The two plants on Coney Island are the only surviving native cycads on the mainland and are 3.5m and 2m tall.
CYCLING, WALKING, EXPLORING
A boardwalk cutting through the forest. (Photo: NParks)
Coney Island is great for active people. Explore its coastal forests, grasslands, mangroves and casuarina woodlands on foot or on a bicycle. There is a mangrove boardwalk that cuts through the forest at Beach Area C while Casuarina Exploratory is something like a playground, with wooden bridges, stepping stones and triangular log fences. The nearest bicycle rental outlet is at The Punggol Settlement 500m away from the park’s western end. That’s where visitors can get food and drink as well. Camping and fishing are not allowed on the island.
If you are lucky, you might spot the single, free-roaming bull on the island. It is a Brahman, a breed that originates from South Asia. No one knows how the animal got on the island. It was found sick and malnourished after the dam crossings were built, but has since been nursed back to health. NParks cares for it and it undergoes a veterinary check every six months. Feeding by the public is strictly prohibited. Visitors are also reminded to avoid approaching or disturbing it.
Bird hide. (Photo: NParks)
The island is excellent for bird-watching as there are about 80 species of birds on the island. Seven bird species there are listed in Singapore’s Red Data Book, a reference guide on locally threatened species. For instance, there is the black-crowned night heron and spotted wood owl, which are nationally critically endangered. Migratory birds are also drawn to the area, including the Asian drongo-cuckoo, large hawk-cuckoo and Chinese goshawk. NParks has built three bird hides, structures that enable bird watchers to observe birds at close quarters.
HAW PAR BEACH VILLA
An old villa, built by the Haw Par brothers – Aw Boon Haw and Aw Boon Par – sits on the island. The Aw pair created the Tiger Balm ointment and set up Chinese daily Sin Chew Jit Poh in Singapore. They owned the island from the 1930s to 1950s and called for an open tender to build the villa in 1937. As the building is structurally unsound, visitors should not enter or visit the villa on their own. It is a stop on guided walks that will be conducted by NParks volunteers next month and in December.