Bukit Timah Nature Reserve | Sticking out from the crowd!

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Facts about Bukit Timah Nature Reserve:

  • Established in 1883.
  • Part of it is located on Bukit Timah Hill.
  • It’s name literally means “tin-bearing hill” in Malay.
  • Singapore’s central business district, the Downtown Core, is only 12 km away.

“Sticking out from the crowd!” might seem like a silly title for an article on the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve, but it makes sense when you think of how great forests have been left as little patches because of past timber-cutting overloads.  It is well known that rainforests throughout the world are decreasing dramatically in size every year.  Bukit Timah Nature Reserve will certainly stick out if city skylines and tourist attractions are the “crowd” from which you must distinguish it from.  If you are an active person who likes to jog, hike, mountain-bike, or rock-climb, Bukit Timah Nature Reserve is a popular spot to go to.  To call it a spot, however, is not appropriate, even though the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve has been called small for it’s 410 acres; it is one of the largest patches of primary rainforest left in Singapore!

Why was this reserve created?

Bukit Timah Nature Reserve owes it protection to Nathaniel Cantley.  He was the Superintendent of the Singapore Botanic Gardens in 1882 and was commissioned to prepare a report on the settlement forests by the Government of the Straits Settlements.  Nathaniel Cantly recommended that several forest reserves be established on the Singapore island the following years.  This was done, but under pressure for economic development in 1937, most of the forest reserves were destroyed.  Thankfully, with the management of the Singapore Botanic Gardens, Bukit Timah Nature Reserve was included within three areas that were kept safe.  The Nature Reserves Ordinance of 1951, and consequently the Nature Reserves Board, provided further safeguards in the administration of the roughly 28 sq. km. of territory.

What makes this nature reserve different?

One thing may be that part of it includes the highest point and the longest stretch of gravel in Singapore, a hill and a road with the same name.  Bukit Timah Hill is one of Singapore’s most important historic places, since it marks when the British surrendered to the Japanese on February 15, 1942.  Bukit Timah Road is one of Singapore’s earliest roads and is 25 km (15.5 miles) long!  But most naturalists probably consider Bukit Timah special for its biodiversity; the Central Catchment Nature Reserve works with the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve to protect over 840 species of plants, 500 species of animals, and ensure the water quality of the area. In fact, both nature reserves serve as water catchments to the MacRitchie Reservoir, Lower Peirce Reservoir, Upper Peirce Reservoir and Upper Seletar Reservoir.

Future generations will benefit from this interconnected method of protecting natural resources, while current generations, especially those with athletic dispositions, can visit or train in small groups.

Why should someone visit?

Visitors are well received in a large, open building.  The Visitor Centre is unobtrusive; it houses toilet facilities, a small shop, and an exhibition dedicated to the reserve.  This exhibition has a scale model of the area, for visitor to wander around and get a sense of what is present at the reserve.  Singaporeans are fortunate because while caring for these reserves, at the same time they are caring for themselves.  Some people take care of their children, for example, and the children learn what caring means, and what better thing could someone do but provide something that will grow to later feed oneself?  A visitor from abroad, on the other hand, brings recognition and at times, even funds.  The trees give oxygen to all people, to all animals, and to all birds.   They are just that much more important because they ensure fresh water and shade to all living beings.

Visitors to Bukit Timah Nature Reserve should realize that nature has an intelligent design and as they care for it, it cares even more so for them.

Tips for Travelers

  • There are public lockers at Bukit Timah Nature Reserve.
  • There are three main paths, and many natural or lesser used paths.
  • It is not recommended that visitors wander off the paths at Bukit Timah, as this mostly has led to people getting lost.
  • Pits to deter tigers are banned, but it wouldn’t matter now since the last tiger was spotted in the 1940’s.
  • On a lighter note, be prepared for possible sightings of monkey men.