My heart thudded while we swayed to the left, then to the right. As four people approached me from behind, the suspended walkway tipped enough to give an all-too-clear view of the valley ground 75 feet below. Fragile nylon netting held in place by paper clips would be the only thing to break my fall, unless I could somehow leap to the dead tree trunk three feet away, which I would have to grab without angering the jumbo-sized black hornets commuting to and from the trunk’s knots.
HSBC TreeTop Walk
The HSBC TreeTop Walk had promised a sedate view of the tropical rainforest canopy. Surprisingly, there were plenty of open spaces along the 800-foot long walkway. Instead of being hemmed in by greenery, visitors can be dazzled by blue, sunny vistas of the forest top and they appreciate the scale and height of the grand old trees. This openness produces the sweaty-palmed feeling of an amusement park ride, as the high suspension and narrow walkway offer only one exit: the far end of the path on the other side of the small valley. Signs at the inbound gate to the TreeTop Walk suggest those with heart problems not enter.
Another Side of Singapore
Two hundred years ago, Singapore was entirely tropical rainforest, the Central Catchment Nature Reserve allows a vivid glimpse of that wild and lush past today. Visitors coming to Singapore often seek modern delights: cheap and spicy hawker center food; colorful cultural festivals; brand-name shopping; and good English bookstores. However, something wilder awaits escapees from the concrete jungle.
Walk Slower – See More
The MacRitchie Trails allow access to abundant and untamed tropical rainforest, a refuge for hikers, runners, families, naturalists and shutterbugs. Every pause on the trails offers some hidden delight, such as translucent pink mushrooms, brown dragonflies that mimic sticks, furry rainbow caterpillars, spider webs bearing mystery packages and the abstract art of spiral roots and vines. The slower you walk, the more you can see. While most of the trails are dirt, in some places a wooden walkway protects the delicate primary forest floor.
Wildlife is well protected by park rules against pets and litter, which rangers enforce. After snapping my camera at a red bird in a thicket, I turn to find a half meter lizard likewise enjoying a stroll along the shady path I am using. In spite of the fact that today is a weekend, it feels as though the entire forest is mine to enjoy. Few hikers pass by, no more than 10 persons over the course of two hours.
My Place in the Natural World
Twice I am electrified by the insistent drone of nearby invisible swarms. Are they bees? Wasps? Something worse? I am the interloper in this part of the world. Something more – I feel my place in the natural order. It’s somehow a foreign thought, after too much time in cities.
Near the end of my walk, a refreshing rain testifies to the great water resources this forest requires, as well as collects for the city in the MacRitchie Reservoir. As soon as the storm passes, the camera comes back out to catch plump waterdrops held by leaves and pockets everywhere. The beauty shimmers all around in deep greens, reds and violets.
Singapore’s sensory delights extend well past Orchard Road. Best of all, you can reach it by public bus.
Who would have thought I'd see a part of Singapore where I felt foreign – in another sense.
Note: Carry water and food. There are no facilities inside the park. From the main park entrance, it is almost five kilometers to reach the TreeTop Walk. For a shorter route to the canopy, take Bus 167 from the YMCA and disembark on Upper Thomson Road, Stop B-11. Walk in from the Venus Drive car park, about 45 minutes from the TreeTop Walk. More information is available at the National Parks Board.