The Bukit Timah Nature Reserve sits almost exactly in the geographical centre of Singapore and even though it’s small, it’s one of the most important nature reserves in all of Singapore.
It’s situated on the slopes of Bukit Timah Hill, the Garden City’s highest peak at a modest 163.6 metres and despite its size over 40% of Singapore’s flora and fauna species calls the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve home.
Quite astonishingly, the tiny reserve has more tree species than the entire continent of North America as well as dozens of birds, long-tailed macaques, snakes, spiders, squirrels and pangolins and an indigenous species of freshwater crab.
The National Parks department are undertaking repair and restoration work to the slopes, trails, forests and the visitor’s centre so access is limited to weekends but when you get there you will find arguably Singapore’s most productive tract of nature.
It’s one of the largest pieces of primary rainforest left in the Garden City and was declared an ASEAN Heritage Park in 2011. Legendary British naturalist, explorer, geographer, anthropologist and biologist Alfred Russel Wallace was a fan and combining the neighbouring Central Catchment Nature Reserve, there are around 850 species of flowering plants and 500 species of fauna.
Most people come to Bukit Timah to walk, hike and run but you can also climb and abseil by the Dairy Farm quarry as well as cycle the designated mountain bike trails.
One word of warning though. As with most nature reserves around the world, the animals roam free in their natural habitat and especially in the case of the crab-eating macaque, there are some valid concerns amongst the experts in the know that continued interaction with humans will start to alter the monkey’s long-term behaviour.
Appreciate them in their home but please don’t feed them, stare at them or otherwise threaten, disturb or upset them. They are well looked after and they are for your viewing pleasure, not your personal entertainment.
In a myth reminiscent of the Loch Ness Monster or Bigfoot, the immortal Bukit Timah Monkey Man is said to roam the forests. First reported in 1805 (and last reported in 2007), tales appear to come from Malay folklore, alleged sighting from Japanese soldiers during World War II and the odd local. He is supposed to be hominid-like, grey in colour and between three and six-feet tall and if you see him, don’t ask for a selfie!