Singapore, a small island-nation is known to the world as global financial hub with multi-cultural population. For past few years, it has been consistently ranked as the preferred destination to visit by almost all the leading travel websites. Singapore was on our mind for its status as the ‘Garden City’. However, after our recent visit, we realized it is not a Garden City but ‘City in a Garden’. Singapore’s urban landscape is so well-blended with its lush tropical greenery that we thought we were strolling, living in a huge, sprawling garden.
For a tourist, Singapore offers variety of urban options to explore – be it the famous Singapore Food trail, its glittering, tall skyline on the waterfront or the zoo safaris, bird parks and theme parks. Of course, we indulged in these activities over the course of next four days. But, for us, what we took away from Singapore was its green heritage. Green is a pervasive color in this urban sprawl and we experienced it through Botanic Gardens, Zoo area, Gardens by the bay and innumerable parks we strolled.
Singapore Botanic Gardens:
Singapore botanic gardens are more than 150 years old and an important part of modern Singapore’s foundation and its heritage. Located right in the centre of the city, it sprawls over 82 hectares and is holds an endearing spot in the hearts of its citizens. For its unique, rich tropical wealth of trees and historical significance, it has been inscribed as UNESCO Heritage Site since 2015.
We visited the Gardens at around 4 pm and spent entire evening exploring probably a fraction of it. The Gardens are divided into three major parts: Tanglin is the oldest part retaining the old favorites and charms of the historic Gardens; Central is the tourist belt of the Gardens; and Bukit Timah the educational and discovery zone.
We entered the gardens through the Tanglin and relaxed in the Bandstand area of the Gardens which has the famous octagonal gazebo erected since 1930 – it is also the most popular spot for Instagrammers!
The amount of information we gathered in this serene, landscaped section is enormous and is not possible to document everything – the section has the oldest and most diverse varieties of trees and plants. We encourage readers to experience it for themselves; especially the Museum and Botany centre of Tanglin.
The most entertaining and interesting part of the Gardens is the Central tourist belt. The most popular attraction here is the National Orchid Gardens which holds about 3000 different varieties of orchids.
After a generous photo-shoot sessions with my wife here, we headed to Ginger Garden in the Central belt. It holds about 250 varieties of Ginger. With a walk behind a waterfall, romantic night lighting and a pool adorned with giant Amazon water lilies, the Ginger Garden is particularly popular with couples for its garden restaurant – Halia. A romantic evening indeed for both of us!
Finally, we spent some time exploring ornamental plant varieties at the Foliage Gardens of Bukit Timah. We left the Gardens with both our bodies and souls rejuvenated.
Gardens by the Bay
The Botanic Gardens exemplify the green heritage of Singapore; Gardens by the Bay exemplify its futuristic vision towards green sustainability. It is a nature park spanning 101 hectares of reclaimed land in central Singapore. The park consists of three waterfront gardens: Bay South Garden, Bay East Garden and Bay Central Garden. The largest of the gardens is Bay South Garden which holds its main attractions – its conservatories, Flower Dome and Cloud Forest and the Supertree Grove.
Again, we visited Gardens by the Bay in late afternoon and stayed until late night. We started with Flower Dome which is a huge glass-house (lower in height than the Cloud Forest) and has about 7 different gardens. The Cloud Forest is a smaller glass-house which replicates moist tropical climate and holds different varieties of orchids, ferns amongst others.
Supertree Grove consists of vertical structures and are home to enclaves of unique and exotic ferns, vines and orchids. The supertree structures mimic the properties of huge supertrees of tropical forests through green technologies. For visitors, the greatest attraction is light and music night show where the entire grove comes alive.
Singapore Zoo and Jurong Bird Park
Although situated in different parts of the city and housing different species of the animal kingdom, the common theme in both these parks is all-pervasive greenery. Singapore Zoo is situated in the Mandai river rain-forest region. While we have visited many zoos from New York to Tokyo, this zoo stands out for its natural habitat enclosures. Jurong Bird Park is free-flying bird sanctuaries, again with attention given to creating natural green habitat for the birds.
“City in a Garden” vision
So, what makes the city of Singapore stand out for its greenery in spite of its increasing urban sprawl? It takes efforts of Government which is working towards building modern city nestled in a green, sustainable environment. But it is also the attitude of its citizens to nurture this vision and act responsibly. Sights of citizens relaxing and embracing nature reserves and citizens running in park connectors are common in Singapore. Moreover, the citizens work collectively to preserve and take forward Singapore’s green heritage. And this spirit of its citizens was the most important takeaway for us from our short visit to Singapore!