When I went to Singapore I was looking for a proper big city trip. You know, tall buildings, interesting architecture, and of course lots of good food. I didn't plan on hiking and already knew that flower picking is forbidden by law (okay, actually not true - my tour guide had to yell at me when my hand was already reaching out to pick a frangipani) so I didn't really think of looking for nature in Singapore.
I arrived and that all changed. Singapore is incredibly green and if you are looking for nature you have come to the right place. Even better, because here city people and greenery lovers can co-exist.
The city makes a conscious effort to be as green as possible including hydroponics which means growing plants without soil and vertical farming. That not only saves land as entire farms are built upwards but also looks incredibly pretty.
And of course, there are the famous Gardens on the Bay as well as plenty of parks and walks in Singapore and even some real nature reserves.
Keen to find nature in Singapore?
Any Singapore trip should start with a visit at Gardens on the Bay with its Cloud Forest and the Flower Dome. Nature in Singapore man-made but at its best!
The two buildings are basically giant greenhouses (minus the hot and humid temperatures) and also give you a stunning view over the harbor and the skyline of Singapore.
The Flower Dome is home to a vast flower and plant exhibit from around the world. The collection is quite amazing but not only interesting for aspiring botanists. There is wooden art, an Alice in Wonderland corner, and a theme that will depend on the season.
When I visited Singapore it was almost Halloween so a lot of pumpkins decorated the entire Flower Dome as well as a (somewhat creepy) fruit man resembling paintings from Giuseppe Arcimboldo.
The Cloud Forest right next to it is basically an indoor version of a real cloud forest, mist and all. On small walkways, you make your way to the top and it really feels like Jurassic Park.
Every so often fine mist gets distributed through the entire building making it even more eery and beautiful.
Photographers will rejoice because the whole thing is still air-conned and never gets too humid so you won't be fighting with a foggy lens.
The one thing that was rather weird for me - Singapore has very few rodents, little animals or insects. Apparently, they do fumigate outdoors so you can leave your mosquito spray at home. While I don't mind being without mozzies, it felt a bit odd to be in such a green place and not have anything around me that moved. It was a reminder that the Cloud Forest is an artificial environment after all. It also meant that the one bird which somehow managed to get inside got the royal camera treatment by all the visitors - a real bird, how exciting!
Every night this light and music show happens at 7.45 pm and 8.45 pm and they are free. I will admit that I am not a fan of fireworks or such but the show was really quite beautiful and only a little cheesy.
Sleeping surrounded by nature
Where do you stay in Singapore if you like it green? I was lucky enough to spend two nights at Villa Samadhi right next to Labrador Park. Just a little outside of town but easy to reach with the subway you will find this hidden gem.
I had previously stayed at their properties in Kuala Lumpur and on Tioman Island and I love everything that they do: combining heritage and nature with impeccable service.
Villa Samadhi really is one of the best boutique hotels in Singapore and housed in an old building surrounded by greenery. The first thing you will notice is the silence - this place is the perfect retreat from the big city.
My room, a Sarang, on the ground floor was cool and quiet and just what I needed after stressful ITB meetings. Something I always appreciate in a hotel: filtered water was available in a beautiful copper jug, no ugly plastic bottles in sight.
And while we have established that most bathtubs or jacuzzis are wasted on me, my bathroom came with its own whirlpool that I took full advantage of (if only for an extended photo session).
If the view over the park isn't enough for you, I recommend you head to their Tamarind Hill restaurant. Not only does it serve some amazing food but the setting is once again showcasing the best of nature in Singapore.
My favorite - Villa Samadhi offers a free happy cocktail hour for guests. That includes not one, not two but as many cocktails, you can drink in an hour (and the waitresses are kind enough to remind you in due time to order another!).
Hiking in Singapore - Sungei Buloh
For those who are keen to go hiking in Singapore, I recommend a trip to Sungei Buloh, a nature reserve with a view of Malaysia. Along with Pulau Ubin and Bukit Timah nature reserve, this is one of the places that offers walks and projects in order to raise awareness for Singapore's wetland conservation.
Here you will get to see bats (which I love!), lots of birds doing their pit-stop while migrating, fighting iguanas and if you get lucky some crocodiles. Apparently, you must get really lucky and come at night to see a phyton or a flying snake, something I was not sad to miss.
I was lucky enough to be guided by naturalist deluxe, Subaraj Rajathurai. While Subaraj is an icon when it comes to conservation in Singapore and an all-around awesome human being, tours with him usually don't come cheap. However, if you can get a group together I highly recommend hiring him for a walk through Sungei Buloh because he is just a walking, bandana-sporting dictionary of nature and conservation, knowledge and passion and since he looks a bit like Santa, a great teacher for kids as well.
Alternatively, you can just take a walk on your own - there is plenty to see and learn along the walkways leading through the mangrove forest.
While Singapore is a big city it is also a very green country and the perfect destination for a little holiday to combine the both of best worlds - a breath of fresh air for city and nature lovers.
Thank you so much to Visit Singapore and Villa Samadhi for hosting me on this incredibly trip to find nature in Singapore!