It’s not immediately obvious, but Singapore possesses an affinity for nature that can be seen in its zoos, parks and futuristic gardens.
1.1. Gardens by the Bay
The futuristic covered gardens overlooking the Marina Reservoir are part of Singapore’s grand plan to transform itself into a “Garden City”. Gardens by the Bay consists of three different gardens and a variety of attractions – the two cooled conservatories and the SuperTrees are just its most architecturally striking sections.
The conservatories recreate ecosystems from other parts of the world in a climate-controlled environment, and the SuperTrees’ OCBC Walk permit visitors to take in views of the Gardens and the rest of Marina Bay from a dizzyingly high vantage point. A Children’s Garden provides ample rooms for the little ones to play, explore, and have a splashing good time at the fountains.
1.2. Singapore’s Zoos
Singapore’s four major zoos altogether attract over three million visitors a year, who come for their compelling combination of education and entertainment. Wildlife Reserves Singapore – the holding company responsible for Singapore Zoo, Night Safari, Jurong Bird Park and River Safari – designed its properties to provide an “experiential learning experience” beyond close encounters with animals from around the world. WRS’ parks also drive conservation and research efforts on endangered animals like the orangutan, pied hornbill, and Asian pangolin.
Visitors will find something unique in each of the four zoos. Jurong Bird Park is Asia’s largest bird park at 20.2 hectares, with four free-flight aviaries sheltering over 4,000 birds across 400 species. The Night Safari is the world’s first zoo made for nocturnal animals, of which over 2,500 animals from over 130 species keep nights interesting for visitors. The River Safari is a river-themed wildlife park with 400 plant species and 200 animal species inhabiting the park’s simulated freshwater habitats. Finally, the 26-hectare Singapore Zoo houses 300 species of animals, most of which roam the park in cageless enclosures.
1.3. Singapore Botanic Gardens
Established in 1859, the Singapore Botanic Gardens is one of the region’s oldest purpose-made gardens. A product of the 19th century’s English Landscape Movement, the beautifully landscaped 74-hectare garden complex bridges recreation and education with over 6,500 species of plants and 44 heritage trees, divided between three garden cores: the Tanglin Core, Central Core and Bukit Timah Core. Key attractions in the Garden include the Bandstand, Swan Lake, National Orchid Garden, and a series of conserved buildings, the earliest dating back to 1868. In 2015, the Singapore Botanic Gardens won recognition as the nation’s first and only UNESCO World Heritage Site.
1.4. Sentosa Island
This island off Singapore’s southern coast is billed as “Singapore’s favourite playground”. Over 20 million visitors come to Sentosa every year, drawn by its golf courses, historic Siloso Point, fun-filled Imbiah Lookout, a three-kilometer-long sheltered beach, and its Universal Studios theme park. The Underwater World oceanarium on the island’s western side contains over 2,500 specimens of marine and fresh-water animals, many of them visible via an 83-metre-long glass tunnel. After your recreation of choice, call it a day at one of Sentosa’s 14 hotels.
1.5. Pulau Ubin
Pulau Ubin’s provincial atmosphere contrasts mightily with Singapore’s pell-mell rush into the 21st century. The local “kampung” village looks little changed from the past hundred or so years, its residents eking a living from farming or fishing.
Visitors should expect adventures closer to nature than the main Singapore island could ever hope to achieve: exploring mangrove forests and secluded beaches by foot; mastering dirt tracks on two wheels at the Ketam Mountain Bike Park; and taking in the resplendent marine wildlife at the Chek Jawa Wetlands. Pulau Ubin lies off Singapore’s northeastern corner, and is easily accessible by bumboat from Changi.