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Singapore: Ecotourism in the big city

Go beyond the skyscrapers and discover rainforests, wetlands and a unique night safari.

Singapore at dusk overlooking a lake

Singapore is generally known as a city-state, with far more urban development than other South-East Asian destinations. It’s an economic and financial powerhouse, with one of the highest concentrations of millionaires anywhere in the world.

But what many people don’t know is that Singapore is also developing its reputation as a surprising new eco-tourism destination.

Despite being famous for its skyscrapers, Singapore is also home to lots of primary rainforest areas which remain largely untouched by development. In fact, Singapore is consistently ranked as one of the top 10 sustainable cities, and is the home of the world’s first “Zero Energy Building” that produces no net energy usage.

In Singapore, you don’t need to choose between amazing natural experiences and a first world metropolis to bunk down in each night. Here are three of the top attractions to visit.

1. Bukit Timah Nature Reserve

Singapore is one of the only cities in the world that has rainforest inside its city limits, and Bukit Timah is the place to see it. Covering a sprawling 162 hectares, the park is home to a diverse range of flora and fauna, including many species of birds, squirrels and plenty of crab-eating macaques, a species of monkey. It is regarded as one of Asia’s most important conservation-focused national parks.

You can climb to the summit of Singapore’s highest peak, Bukit Timah Hill – while it’s only 162 metres above sea level, the heat and humidity will make you work for it. A network of hiking, walking and cycling trails allow you to criss-cross the reserve. You can also experience a tree-top walk through the rainforest canopy and hang out with the macaques, or take a guided horseback tour.

“Night Safari is the world’s first nocturnal wildlife park, where guests can view animals at night across six distinct geographical zones.”

2. Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve

This wetland reserve, filled with mangrove trees, has been used by birds for millennia as a rest stop for their annual pilgrimage from north to south. The 8-hectare site was declared Singapore’s first ASEAN Heritage site in 2003, and recognised for its significance as part of the Australasian shorebird migration network (which also includes Kakadu National Park in Australia).

The migration season runs from September to March, but there’s always plenty of wildlife to see throughout the wetlands, including birds, lizards, otters, and water snakes. The park has a range of nature walks, as well as guided expeditions and group classes in birdwatching.

3. Night Safari

Night Safari is the world’s first nocturnal wildlife park, where guests can view animals at night across six distinct geographical zones. Unlike traditional zoos which reverse the day-night cycle in nocturnal houses, the night safari is completely open air, and only open at night.

After dark, visitors can travel via tram through the park to observe animals in subtly illuminated enclosures, before continuing on foot down several walking trails.

Night Safari also works to protect endangered animal populations, and has successfully bred animals such as Malayan tigers, Asian elephants, and Malayan tapirs. The park has been awarded Singapore’s best attraction 12 times, so it has to be doing something right!

Getting up close to nature is a great part of travelling, but it isn’t always without incident. Stay one step ahead of naughty monkeys with comprehensive travel insurance from Medibank.

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