Less than 15km away from downtown Singapore is an area of primary forest, which is rich in wildlife. Bukit Timah Nature Reserve is one of the two rainforest reserves situated near the city remaining in the world, the other being in Rio de Janeiro.
The forest has been established way back in 1883, and is among Singapore’s first forest reserves. With the hill house showflat. industrialization of Singapore, a lot of places were cleared up and trees were compromised for timber, Bukit Timah was one of the last remaining. It was rumored that the place was infested with tigers, which could be the reason why a large part of that area was not disturbed. Whether the rumor is true or otherwise, it is the only significant rainforest left in Singapore.
Although it has not been cleared, Bukit Timah was very much disturbed in the past, until 1951 when it became protected by legislation. The word bukit means hill in Malay, and timah means tin. So Bukit Timah actually means Tin Hill. However, no tin has ever been found there. The area has been quarried for its granite though. At the car park at the entrance of the reserve are remnants of a 40 hectare Gutta Pecha tress plantation. This type of tress produces latex used for coating undersea telegraph cables. The tress that remained standing today bears a lot of scars where the latex was once trapped. There are also sections of secondary forest along the eastern and northern edges of the reserve.
You can walk into the reserve using the walking trails, and you will be flanked by plenty of flora and fauna. You can still get a sense of a virgin forest in areas like the upper part of the Fern Valley. It has approximately one thousand species of flowering plants; host over ten thousand species of beetles, two hundred species of ants and two hundred species of cockroaches! Bukit Timah probably contains more tree species than the whole of North America!
For visitors to the reserve, there are five main trails. You can choose from 35mins up to 2hours walk. You are not allowed to cycle on the walking trails, but for bikers, there is a biking trail around the boundary of the reserve. While it would be hard for you to catch a flying lemur, you will be able to spot colorful butterflies, insect-eating pitcher plants, flowering wild gingers and tree-dwelling epiphytes the spirits of women who died in childbirth.
There are approximately eighty species of fern which can be found in the reserve, many of them in Fern Valley. There is also a stream flowing through it and you will be able to see the stag’s horn fern, tree ferns and elephant ferns, some which reaches several meters in height. Most impressive among the climbers and other flora are the dipterocarps -the giant canopy trees which are prized for their wood. Some fine specimens can be seen on the walk up to the peak, which at 163.63 meters is the highest point in Singapore.
Volunteers conduct complimentary guided tours and introduce special features of the forest to visitors. They will be able to tell visitors about the fairly common Cursed Shade (Pternandra echinata, Melastoaceae), which is said to bring bad luck on anyone who uses its wood to build their house, or the keledang (Artocarpus lanceifolius), popular for making Chinese coffins.
You can enjoy yourself by relaxing with a picnic at the neighbor Hindhede Nature Park, which is an abandoned quarry that has been converted into a park and recreation area. So the next time someone tells you Singapore is all about concrete, tell them you have learnt about Bukti Timah Nature Reserve.