Sweet air. I breathed in, and felt happiness within. Bamboo orchids in shades of violet and white greeted us at the start of our nature hike, reminding me of Singapore’s national (hybrid) flower. Native to Singapore, bamboo orchids has leaves that resemble its namesake. On our right, a surprisingly clear stream flowed, home to many fishes and organisms that this silly human was (and is still) ignorant of. A flash and flitter! Dancing dragonflies awarded us a pretty sight of their red wings when they landed for some respite. I was captivated.
It’s been awhile since I set foot into a nature park, and I was looking forward to joining the ‘Windsor Nature Park Tour’ with Cicada Tree Eco-Place after reading articles on Love Our MacRitchie Forest. There’s always so much to learn and enjoy about nature, and I was not disappointed. One of the tour participants mentioned, “every head-turning moment was a highlight!”. I couldn’t have described it better.
Amidst the hustle and bustle of life, I realised how easy it is to forget and overlook the simplest yet essential things. I have forgotten that sense of magic where one’s senses are engaged fully in nature… …. until this tour that brought us off track into Venus Loop, which is part of our precious primary forest.
Did you know that there is only 2.01 km2 (201 ha) of primary forest left in Singapore today? That accounts for ~0.28% of our total land area!
In case you were wondering, a primary forest is one that is untouched by human activities or natural disturbance, and has matured naturally. This means that there are many mature and thick trees, with a distinct broad-crowned emergent layer. With its multi-layered forest structure, primary forests host the greatest species richness. Certain species of fauna or flora are so rare that they can only be found within primary forests!
“In the MacRitchie area of the Central Catchment Nature Reserve alone, some 56 reptiles and 17 species of amphibians have been recorded.” ✦ 18 Feb 2016 ✦ Strait Times: Cross Island Line: Why Singapore forests are worth safeguarding
A rustling amongst the trees revealed monkey business (literally), and I chanced upon an cute baby monkey nibbling while others swinged around. As our knowledgeable guide, Vilma, shared interesting facts of the rainforest and its inhabitants, we kept a lookout for the more elusive. I silently reminded my clumsy self to watch my step.
Lights and shadows played on the trees, and I felt gratitude for being able to see and appreciate the beauty. A shiny Many-lined Sun Skink posed for a moment before slithering away, undoubtedly looking for some sunshine. We were told that sunlight to these lizards are like food to humans; the sun skinks seek light for energy and are reputedly very shy!
On that Saturday morning, there were a number of nature enthusiasts and photographers but it did not feel overcrowded. In fact, everyone was really friendly and there were occasions where we were invited to check out what the photographers were shooting. One of them was taking photos of a St. Andrew’s Cross Spider, so called because it forms a cross when at rest in its web.
Towering trees and undergrowth, native and foreign, commanded our attention. We looked into a home of the ants – the Common Mahang – and learnt never to shake the plant too hard unless we want an assault from the ants that live within the hollow twigs! Well, if someone tries to destroy/disrupt my home, I would attack too. #SSBD (Same same but different)
Unsurprisingly, there are rubber trees – the key to prosperity in Singapore at the turn of 20th century – much like the immigrants that came to Singapore in the early days.
No, rubber trees are not native to Singapore, but they are very much an important part of our history. For some of us, rubber seeds was a source of play during our childhood times. I have almost forgotten how we used to rub a seed on the floor, which we would then disturb friends with the heated seed. Sketchy memories nagged at the back of my mind. It seems the forest was working its magic.
Nearing the end of our trail, we spotted the Malayan Colugo, also known as the Flying Lemur. This adorable-looking gliding mammal was clinging to a tree trunk, sleeping with its eyes wide open (no eyelids!). Nocturnal by nature, colugos can glide from tree to tree due to the skin membrane in between its limbs, which functions like a parachute. How awesome!
Love MacRitchie, Save MacRitchie
The 2-hour ‘Windsor Nature Park Tour’ is a free public guided tour made possible by the good people at Cicada Tree Eco-Place for good reasons. In land scarce Singapore, it’s always a difficult decision when it comes to development and preservation.
In 2013, the Land Transport Authority (LTA) announced the Cross Island MRT Line that will offer East-West commuters an alternative to the existing East West Line. It seems that this line may tunnel through the fragile ecosystem that is MacRitchie Forest. Do we really want that?
While the new line will definitely bring convenience, I would not want that if it means disrupting that precious bit of nature that we are left with. Imagine the adorable colugo that I have seen being homeless? Would the Plantain Squirrels go into hiding like the Cream-coloured Giant Squirrels (last sighted 10 years ago)? Will our trees survive? If there’s an alternative route that skirts around the southern part of the central catchment nature reserve, then why not?
“We hope that by sharing how special MacRitchie Forest is to Singapore, you will find reasons to love it, and lend your voice to save it.” – Love MacRitchie
Indeed, there are plenty of reasons to love MacRitchie Forest, so here I am sharing my experience and hoping that more people will take an interest and lend their voice to preserve this remaining legacy of nature that we can proudly call ours.
Besides Cicada Tree Eco-Place, there are other volunteer groups such as the NUS Toddycats that are providing a series of guided nature walks at MacRitchie Forest. Visit https://lovemacritchie.wordpress.com/ for more information.
So, how about joining a tour or heading down to MacRitchie Forest for a nature walk with loved ones this weekend?
Check out my video for more nature sightings: