DAY 1: ISLAND LIFE

1 MacRitchie Nature Trail & Reservoir Park

In the morning, head over to MacRitchie Reservoir Park, a water catchment area in the heart of Singapore that’s home to lush rainforests. “Rainforests are synonymous to the equator, and the oldest rainforest in this region is here,” Subaraj says with pride.

“The diversity is amazing. A lot of visitors to Singapore from the West do not have access to rainforests so they may be seeing it for the first time,” says Subaraj. If you’re lucky, you’ll cross paths with long tailed macaque monkeys and flying lemurs.

2 Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve

Spend your afternoon with the birds: Subaraj recommends bird watching at Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve. We recommend that you spend at least half a day at this ASEAN Heritage site, home to diverse inhabitants such as watersnakes, herons and otters. The wetland reserve is also a stopover point for migratory birds travelling from Siberia to Australia. If you’re visiting in September to March, you might spot the rare Blacktailed Godwit migrating.

“Sungei Buloh is the last feeding ground on these birds’ migratory route,” Subaraj shares. “Some of these birds travel over twelve thousand kilometres to move between their winter and summer grounds.”

3 Singapore Botanic Gardens

Spend your evening relaxing at the Singapore Botanic Gardens. Home to a diverse variety of flora and birds, this UNESCO World Heritage site is located in the heart of Singapore is easily accessible to the public, and its colonial buildings now house top-notch restaurants. Make it a point to visit the Learning Forest, a lush habitat that’s home to some of the tallest tree species in Southeast Asia—Subaraj helped develop this area.

DAY 2: A BOAT RIDE AWAY

4 Pulau Ubin

Subaraj and Pulau Ubin go way back: the eco-conservationist is one of the many nature and heritage enthusiasts that helped save this island—located just off the northeast of Singapore—from being turned into industrial and housing estates. “Pulau Ubin is [like a time capsule] of good old Singapore, as it was 40 years ago,” Subaraj shares. “Nature co-exists with humans here. You’ll find wildlife in the fruit orchards, hornbills in the villages, and grey herons in its quarries.”

Start off in the wee hours of the morning, as the sun rises. If you’d like to have a quick breakfast, have a plate of nasi lemak (fragrant rice dish cooked in coconut milk and pandan leaf, accompanied by an array of side dishes like omelette, fried fish and anchovies) on the mainland, at Changi Village Food Centre. Once satisfied, hop on a bumboat to this idyllic island that’s synonymous with shrines, swamps, and a variety of flora and fauna. Cycling is a great way to explore the island at your own pace, and bicycle rental is available at the kiosks around the jetty.

5 Chek Jawa

On Pulau Ubin, make your way to its southeastern hook, which is home to the Chek Jawa Wetlands. A confluence of six natural habitats, ranging from rocky beaches to seagrass lagoons, Chek Jawa is a miniature marvel of contrasting ecosystems that’s definitely worth exploring. Subaraj was one of several individuals who highlighted this unique location, but he ultimately credits the public for its preservation. “Lawmakers went to Chek Jawa and saw 700 people watching nature, so they couldn’t deny [its importance],” he recalls.

To this day, Chek Jawa remains a favourite spot for student groups, nature lovers and photographers looking to escape the city bustle.