Bukit Timah Nature Reserve – Singapore’s only hill dipterocarp forest

Since its official opening in 1992, the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve (BTNR) has been a popular place for nature lovers to escape to in a highly built-up city like Singapore.  The number of visitors has increased more than 5 times from 80,000 in 1992 to over 400,000 in 2013.  In June 2014, the government announced that BTNR will be closed for six months for repair works from 15 September 2014.  This is the first time that the 163ha reserve will be closed for repair, as trails, slopes and amenities in the park need to be repaired and upgraded. Since then, it has been attracting throngs of visitors to its compounds every day, all eager to witness its natural beauty before it is closed till March 2015, and thereafter with limited access for the next 18 months till end of 2016.

Here are some interesting facts about BTNR I found online, that we may not have known:

The BTNR is the only hill dipterocarp forest in Singapore. This is unique as such a forest type usually occurs in regions that are 300 m to 762 m above sea-level. However, the highest point in BTNR, coincidentally also Singapore’s tallest hill – the Bukit Timah Hill is only standing at 163.63 m.

View at the Bukit Timah Summit

View at the Bukit Timah Summit

It also contains at least 40% of Singapore’s native flora and fauna although it makes up only 0.2% of the country’s area, or 1.64 square km (400 acre) in actual size. Over 840 species of flowering plants and over 500 species of fauna can be found here.  In addition, it is home to animals such as the Plantain Squirrel, the Greater Racket-tailed Drongo and the Singapore Freshwater Crab – a very rare species of crab that can only be found in Singapore.

On 18 October 2011, the reserve was designated as Singapore’s second Asean Heritage Park after meeting criteria such as ecological completeness, representativeness, naturalness, high conservation importance and being a legally gazetted area.

Being a Singaporean who likes to explore the island’s green corridors in recent years, I wondered how I could have missed this gem all these while. Hence I finally visited BTNR with my family on National Day. What an interesting way to celebrate the nation’s birthday with many other fellow Singaporeans who also went for a stroll/ hike that morning! 🙂

The entrance to BTNR

The entrance to BTNR via the main road

Serene forest trail

Serene forest trail

Look at the numerous steps of summit path (big pic)!

Look at the numerous steps of the 0.2km summit path (centre pic)!

A peek into the Jungle Path trail

A peek into the Jungle Path trail

See the long stem growing on the huge trunk? Interesting how nature works...

See the long stem growing on the huge trunk? It’s interesting how nature works… 😉

Depending on which route you take to get to the hill summit or explore the reserve, the amount of time you need to allocate in BTNR varies.  We started our morning stroll from the entrance via Hindhede Drive and it took us 40 minutes to reach the hill summit on the concrete path. It was a relatively easy walk although some parts are really steep. There are other more rustic paths within BTNR for visitors to explore, such as the Quarry Road, Dairy Farm and Jungle Path. We took the Jungle Path (1.5km) when we left the summit and that path lasted about half an hour for amateur walkers like us, where certain parts of the trail had steep and tall steps to climb.

It was a fun experience exploring one of the largest primary rainforests in Singapore. Too bad we didn’t get to see many wildlife in the reserve other than a squirrel, many big ants and a few monkeys. Maybe they were scared of the big groups of visitors that day! 😛

This was written about a week after a morning walk at BTNR on 9 August 2014.

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