SINGAPORE: I have a new, favourite nature spot in Singapore: Berlayer Creek.
Until last weekend, I’d never heard of it, let alone visited it. But on Sunday during a trip to Labrador Park, I was intrigued by a signpost pointing towards the creek and decided to investigate.
If you’ve never been there, you’re missing out on an opportunity to enjoy a peaceful oasis smack in the middle of the urban sprawl around that stretch of West Coast Highway. A few steps from Labrador Park MRT station is the start of a boardwalk that runs alongside the creek for a kilometre, with a couple of viewing platforms along the way.
Thick foliage provides some shade, but there are still plenty of gaps through which to gaze at the slow-moving, clear water, which is home to fish and other aquatic creatures. The final treat is reaching the end of the boardwalk, where the wooded area suddenly opens out to a vast expanse of sea and sky, with a clear view to Sentosa and beyond.
Buffeted by a cooling sea breeze, standing there enjoying the sights, sounds and smells of this location was a reminder that, despite its size, Singapore is blessed with pockets of natural loveliness that are all too readily dismissed by some and ignored by many.
Indeed, the delights of this little walk should make it very popular, but I was almost alone for the 45 minutes I spent there before heading into Labrador. All I had for company was a couple of joggers, a family with a toddler in a stroller and a spritely old uncle, who greeted me with an enthusiastic wave and a cheery “hello” as he enjoyed his afternoon constitutional.
The lack of big crowds at some nature spots has been a constant theme in recent weeks when I have visited parts of Singapore that I am less familiar with.
Bored of always running at MacRitchie or Bedok reservoirs and tired of walking at Bukit Timah Hill (all of which seem busy during the weekend), over the past couple of months I have set out to explore some other natural charms with a fresh pair of eyes, adopting the mindset of a new visitor rather than someone who’s been here almost 20 years.
And what a revelation it has been.
From Coney Island to Sungei Buloh and all points between, Singapore is teeming with beautiful parks, vistas and green spots that never fail to delight.
Among the highlights for me was walking at Kranji Reservoir at dusk and seeing a big bird of prey (I’m not sure which type) swoop down on the still waters to scoop out a large fish for its dinner.
Then there was the long walk around Coney Island and Punggol, ending at the Lorong Halus Wetland.
The attractions of Punggol have hit the headlines recently after being mentioned by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at the National Day Rally. If you haven’t been there, I recommend that you go. Only by visiting can one appreciate how pleasant it is, with its extensive network of waterways, bridges and paths.
Visits to both locations were significant for their lack of visitors. On a Sunday afternoon – peak time to explore – crowds were thin on the ground. At Lorong Halus Wetland – another location whose existence had passed me by – I was almost alone.
On the upside, this meant I could enjoy a peaceful stroll among the ponds and plants. On the downside, it seemed a shame that more people weren’t there to share its green gorgeousness.
So, if it’s been a while since you set out to explore Singapore’s natural attractions, especially some of the more recent additions, then maybe head out this weekend. Pick somewhere you’ve never been to before or haven’t visited for a long time and go and take a look.
While the place you visit might not have the “wow” factor of some of the world’s greatest natural wonders, I guarantee it will please the eye and soothe the soul, offering some much-needed respite from the daily pressures of city life.
As Ferris Bueller says:
Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.
And sometimes getting stuck in a routine means we don’t venture forth to explore what is on our doorstep. If that applies to you, get out and about.
Sniff the fresh air. Have a nose around a nature reserve. Take a peek at some unfamiliar parks.
You won’t regret it.