Standing at 163m, Bukit Timah Hill, located in the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve, is the highest point in Singapore. It’s appropriately named a hill, for it’s no higher than 1.5 times a 40-storey HDB block. The easiest and main path up to the summit of Bukit Timah Hill is properly paved, so you don’t have to contend with muddy dirt paths, even on a rainy day.
If you’ve never been there, you’ll find the initial climb a tad steep. After that, the gradient becomes easier to scale. An easy stroll to the top takes only about 30 minutes, so go at your own pace. We went on a weekday and by 7.30 am, the carpark is full. It was rather busy and it felt like the whole Singapore gravitated to Bukit Timah Hill that morning. Still, there was space for everyone.
From its founding, the forest atop Bukit Timah Hill has served as a botanical collecting site, yielding the first specimens of several local plant species. Bukit Timah Nature Reserve, which is home to a large proportion of our country's native flora and wildlife, has long been a popular destination for Singaporeans and tourists who seek to reconnect with nature.
Bukit Timah Forest Reserve was established in 1883 on the recommendation of Nathaniel Cantley, then Superintendent of the Singapore Botanic Gardens. Later, Bukit Timah Nature Reserve came under the auspices of the Singapore Botanic Gardens for the conservation of its flora and animals.
During the 1990s, the Bukit Timah and Central Catchment regions were designated as Nature Reserves. Today, under the Parks and Trees Act 2005, nature reserves are gazetted for the propagation, conservation, and preservation of Singapore's indigenous flora and wildlife.
This effort certainly paid off as the nature reserve continues to flourish with its varied flora and fauna. For example, we see Seraya trees towering above the forest, and families of monkeys swinging in the branches. The nature reserve is so alive!
After ‘conquering’ the summit and taking photos at the obligatory rock, we went a little further and looked down at the turquoise water of the Hindhede Quarry before heading down toward the visitor centre. The visitor centre has some interesting information on the history of the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve. For example, did you know tigers used to roam the area? It was said that tiger attacks were so common in the mid 19th century, that almost 300 people were killed in just one year. The problem grew so serious that the authorities initially rewarded $20 for every tiger killed, and later with rewards gradually increasing to $150.
There are several hiking trails in the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve that lead to the Rail Corridor, Chestnut Nature Park and Hindhede Nature Park. But given the time we had, we chose to just walk a few steps to the Hindhede Quarry to observe up close the quarry we saw up the Bukit Timah Hill. Bird watchers were up in arms at the quarry, with one gentleman waiting patiently to capture a photo of an even more patient western osprey to take flight. Nature lovers exclaimed in hushed tones the beauty of this location, is testament to the calm exuded by this nature reserve, barely a few steps from the busy Upper Bukit Timah Road.
Alas, our day trip has ended too soon. But we shall be back again!
A final thought: Singapore has done a wonderful job in keeping nature so accessible, especially during these pandemic times. As always, it bears reminding, that even in a forested area, UV rays abound. Do apply some sun screen and put on a pair of sunglasses. If you’re looking for a pair of good and affordable sunglasses, try Sunday Shades. Sunday Shades has exceedingly good sports sunglasses that offer UV400 and polarizer protection. Their sunglasses are very light, just 22g and designed for the Asian profile. They do not bounce, fit nicely and come in many colours. Check them out here!