Bukit Timah Nature Reserve

Where is it?

The Bukit Timah Nature Reserve is a small 1.64 square kilometre (400 acre) nature reserve located on the slopes of Bukit Timah Hill, Singapore’s highest hill standing at a height of 163.63 metres, and parts of the surrounding area.

How much is it?

Free.

It will cost you some energy though as you trek up the very steep slope and steps to the summit!

What is it?

A nature park and walking trail with also separate mountain bike trails. It houses over 840 species of flowering plants and over 500 species of fauna. It is one of the largest patches of primary rainforest left in Singapore. We entered via the Upper Bukit Timah Road entrance (after we had negotiated the roadworks to locate the entrance!)

A little bit of history

Bukit Timah is the tallest geographical location in Singapore. Bukit means hill in Malay and Timah means tin . The hill was a granite quarry but since the mid-1900s all operations have been abandoned and it has been converted into recreational areas (and even filming locations). Bukit Timah was one of the first forest reserves established in 1883. The forest reserve was formally declared as an ASEAN Heritage Park on 18 October 2011.

What’s it like?

There are several hiking trails rated from easy to difficult, coded in green, yellow and red, with some overlooking the quarry. We did the ‘easy’ red trail. I say ‘easy’ – it certainly isn’t and I wonder whether it was a fitness expert who was asked to code these routes in order of difficulty.

‘Easy’ is not a word I would describe the very steep hill at the start of the trail. The sign even says ‘steep hill’ – how is that easy? Hikers are then lulled into a false sense of security as the trail gently slopes upwards for a while, requiring some exertion but not excessively so.

That ‘easy’ walk upwards is abruptly halted once the summit steps are reached. A daunting steep set of steps that make the very steep hill at the beginning look like a gentle ramp and not a ski slope. A handy tip here folks, the steps on the left are much easier than the steps on the right. Guess which unsuspecting fool started with the right hand side steps?! I had to stop 3 times to catch my breath (yes I am unfit and overweight but not that much!) even more embarrassing was being overtaken by an elderly gentleman who advised me to walk up on the left (it was much easier). I carried on slowly climbing whilst my walking partner, carrying her 2 month old gorgeous baby, strides ahead. Gawd the message that I am an unfit lump was being hammered home without anyone saying anything!

A the top of the steps we are rewarded with the sight of government property signs warning us to keep out for fear of being shot. I could just about manage walking at that point, the thought of scrambling over a 12 foot fence was not even on my radar! Further along the footpath and around the corner was the official summit and resting hut. It was busy – there were a lot of people out for a morning walk – but everyone was safe distancing and being friendly and encouraging. Not very reassuring is the defibrillator located in the rest area. Better to have it and not need it though!

There are telecommunication relay towers at the top but there are also monkeys. The crab eating macaques roam close to visitors at the summit and seem unafraid of humans. A small troop roamed in whilst we were taking a short break. Whilst they look cute and friendly they are wild animals and it doesn’t take much for them to bare their teeth. Leave well alone, keep your distance and above all don’t feed the monkeys. There is enough forest food for them and don’t need any encouragement to come any closer.

We walked down the hill on the red route but via the path rather than the steps at the top. Obviously going down is easier than going up and it was a pleasant walk. Beware of the steep slope though – going down needs as much attention as going up.

It was an enjoyable walk and I definitely felt that I had had a workout by the time we returned to the bottom. If you haven’t yet been I highly recommend you do. I’ll be back at some point to try another trail – now I know what to expect – It’s enjoyable exercise.

iPhone images

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