Monday, March 07, 2011

Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve (Singapore) Review

Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve is a 130 ha wetland site, designated as a nature park in 1989. Located near Kranji, it is in the north of Singapore.

Opening Hours: 7.30am to 7.00pm on Monday to Saturday
7.00am to 7.00pm on Sundays & Public Holidays

Admission: Free entry
except on Saturdays, Sundays, Public Holidays and School Holidays.
$1.00 per adult
$0.50 per child / student / senior citizen

Theatrette show screenings: Mondays to Saturdays -
9am, 11am, 1pm, 3pm & 5pm
Sundays and Public Holidays -
Hourly 9am to 5pm


There is much to see at Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve. But much of the beauty and ecological diversity can only be observed by one with an eye for the small details and patterns of nature.

I embarked a trip to Sungei Buloh, at 8am on Sunday, and as recommended, these are a few things that I packed and recommend packing.

1) Water Bottle with plenty of drinking water. (There are no vending machines and water coolers in the middle of the nature reserve.)

2) Good COMFORTABLE walking shoes. (The terrain is rather accessible, paved with gravel most parts, but the distance is HUGE, and you need to be able to walk several kilometers.

3) Camera. (There are a lot of things to see, but you really need a lens which can reach very far. I brought along a DSLR with a 200mm lens, and it is not even close enough to shoot the wildlife.)

4) Mosquito repellent. (lots of mossies out to get you.)

5) Umbrella. (Singapore's weather is unpredictable, and there is not a lot of shade.)

6) Binoculars. Birds are pretty far away.


I took the bus 925 from Khatib MRT Station with several photographers (watch out for the bus stop signs, but will not stop elsewhere.) and upon arrival, we we greeted by the smell of fresh air.

We were initially greeted by some Herons by the water and a few other birds that are hiding in the trees and bushes. The Herons are pretty far away, and pretty much just hanging out.

Then a huge Komodo Dragon walked by and slowly strolled along the path ignoring everyone taking photos of it. It is at least 2m long and is sized of a small crocodile.

Nature is everywhere, there are fist sized spiders in the trees, squirrels on the branches, It does take a good eye to spot them, and your reactions have to be quick to catch the perfect picture.

You can hear crickets and birds in the bushes, but more than often, not see them. If you are a little into nature, and want a safe controlled environment, this is the place.

Like always, there is claims of biodiversity, but after walking for some time on the well kept and concrete gravel path with people pushing strollers along the way, it just did not feel that much like your traditional nature reserve.

Walking around Macritchie reservior, you get to see butterflies, dragonflies and many other insects, and an occasional snake, however, at Sungei Buloh, the only few butterflies I found were small and rather common.

However, finally at one spot, we found flowers and one bee.

The walkways are later nice and made of wood, perfect for photographers with heavy equipment, and perhaps -- even a Trolley! The feeling of sort of in nature, but with a nice walkway is a little strange, but I do like the setup, but I felt that it did probably affect the wildlife, which was very elusive and hard to spot.

As we continued on the nice path, we spotted more spiders, and somehow, it became a lot less interesting.

With the lack of wildlife, spotting a bird became much more interesting. When a bird landed nearby, the photographers all shot hundreds of frames for a bird to land on a branch and then fly off again. Watching photographers may just be as amusing as the birds.

Later, there are bees. Lots of bees. They are not in your face, but rather, high up in the trees!

Walking to the mangrove area, you get to see many things which we took for granted when living in Singapore in the past but have disappeared in our lives. The giant mudskipper for example was common when I used to go fishing at the drains and canals, but they are impossible to find with Singapore getting so built up!

The next thing at the mangrove area was tree crabs. Its amazing to see small crabs climb trees.

Walking out of the mangrove area, we came across a bridge and saw fishes jumping on the surface of the water. It was very challenging to capture the fishes in the photos and again they were pretty far away, and you need far reaching lens.

As noon approaches, the weather was a lot hotter, and a little unbearable. Resting in a shaded area overlooking the water, a jellyfish was spotted, and it was indeed fascinating.

We decided to go home as lunch approaches and the weather was getting darker, and we spotted a large spider hanging out with flies. I'm not sure why the flies did not get stuck to the web, but they seemed to be getting along well.

Getting on the bus, we finally made our way out of the nature reserve. It was rather big, and we took 4 hours to cover only a small part of the park.

Overall, I would say that the Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve just feels like any old park in Singapore. Calling it a Wetland Reserve is rather misleading, and the biodiversity and wildlife is rather limited. Being a reserve, it just means the land will probably not be developed into a golf course, and none of that adventure / danger you may expect in wildlife reserves.

But I would still applaud Singapore to keep such a place and not building more factories, roads, malls and offices which they do all so well.

If you intend to visit, as with any nature parks, do not keep your hope too high, as you may not see any rare birds at all. It is interesting to visit, and rather accessible terrain. Even one in a wheelchair can move about here.

Rating: 7/10

-- Robin Low


Iron Bowl said...

Kodomo Dragon or Monitor Lizard? That is the question.

budak said...

Hi, I am not sure what you were expecting from Sg Buloh, but it, being a mangrove and coastal swamp, is a totally different habitat from MacRitchie and so harbours a totally different mix of species. One of the reasons it's valued as a nature area is because it serves as a roost and resting area for thousands of migratory waterbirds during the winter. Just because you didn't see as much wildlife as you expected doesn't mean that it isn't there. The park isn't a zoo where the animals trot out for visitors' benefit; some days, visitors get to see everything from otters and crocodiles to large flocks of birds and snakes. Other days, the animals are hiding or doing their business in less visible areas. It really depends partly on luck and one's ability to spot the wildlife, so I find it's both unfair and inaccurate to judge it as having limited biodiversity.

Have a look at what others have found there:

Nicole said...

Perhaps this article would help:

The ones you saw at Sungei Buloh are the Monitor Lizard. :)

Tan said...

No one can judge biodiversity based on 4 hours of walk, albeit a small area. Months or even years of intensive surveys are required to accurately reveal the true diversity of wildlife in even a small area. Environmental conditions changes throughout the year, so do animals which suit to the different conditions in different phases of the year. Time matters as well. It will certainly be a different story after dark, when no man remains.

It is rather contradictory to mention “see many things which we took for granted when living in Singapore in the past but have disappeared in our lives” and “calling it a Wetland Reserve is rather misleading”. Reserve is there to protect and preserve what we still have.

Brandon Chia said...

Komodo dragon (Varanus komodoensis) and Monitor Lizard (Varanus salvator). There are NO Wild komodo dragons out there in SG.

You said that ''Calling it a Wetland Reserve is rather misleading, and the biodiversity and wildlife is rather limited.''

Since its a mangrove and a protected place why is this misleading? Sg. Buloh is rich in wildlife, dont expect too much from a trip. At least go there a few times then write a review.

''If you intend to visit, do not keep your hope too high, as you may not see any birds at all.''

Did you go at the right time, tide and month? I've seen at least 200 birds in a bird count.

Monkey said...

i guess you were lucky to have missed the dangerous wildlife likw crocodiles, vipers and such. but fortunately monitor lizards can't kill you with their saliva like komodo dragons can! phew! :)

Kevin said...

I do understand why u might feel that the biodiversity and wildlife is rather limited for a first glance. In fact, I think u are lucky have quite a few nice pictures just in your very first trip!
when one refers to biodiversity, it can be microorganisms to bigger animals like birds.
To the untrained eye, (aka me) a fly is a fly but there's a few new species reported in Singapore alone. But to the general populace, it can only be terribly exciting for the 1st few seconds of discovery.

2ndly, there's always a balance to be had for keeping a nature reserve to protect the habitat and wildlife and allowing the public (which may come in throngs) to view them from a safe distance.

Overall, I would say that the Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve did a fair and commendable job. I would urge you to look at overseas wetlands reserve to 'reserve' ur judgement. if anything, I believe our plant diversity might equal or even beat some reserves depending on locality.. :)

Kevin said...

Oh forgot to add that you may drop by my blog to view the other wildlife you might have missed at SBWR

Iron Bowl said...

I just came back from tracking in Malaysia a month back, and I was in South Africa a few days ago. So I do get to see nature.

Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve felt like a park to me, and I rather enjoyed it. It is built up in such a nice and orderly way to make it accessible for handicapped people to go.

I expected to see many different species of birds, but just saw herons, and other small birds which I get to see in my garden in Bukit Timah anyways. So if you are going, don't expect to see too much.

I used to see more wildlife in the past in Sembawang area, when I was fishing, and it is all gone now. I agree that this conservation is a good step, but it does not mean that with a "nature reserve" the government can tear down more bird habitats to build roads (in Clementi Area)

tHE tiDE cHAsER said...

Hi, Sungei Buloh is a wetland reserve, and hence the flora and fauna are different from what they have in the rainforest like MacRitchie. I am a nature guide, and in fact most of my participants felt that they saw more animals at Sungei Buloh compared to MacRitchie or Bukit Timah! Since we are talking about a natural habitat, a lot depends on your luck. And of course, we must remember being a wetland reserve does not mean it's just a reserve for animals - it's a reserve for plants too, and Sungei Buloh is home to various species of rare mangrove plants. See my blog at for things one can expect to see there.

tHE tiDE cHAsER said...

Just to also add that not all areas of the reserve can be accessed by the public, and also, I have visited mangrove reserves in Malaysia, Indonesia and Australia, and I have to say Sungei Buloh is comparable to most of the ones I have visited. No point comparing with trekking in the rainforest, or looking out for animals in the African savannas, they are totally different habitats altogether.