For nature lovers travelling to Singapore, there is no better place to visit than MacRitchie Reservoir. As you wander the paths you will soon encounter bird watchers with book and binoculars in hand or photographers with tripods ready and the biggest lenses I’d seen in my life. Locals in sneakers were limbering up ready to run the rocky track but I chose to visit MacRitchie for another reason.
Where the locals go
Speaking with my Singaporean friends I had been told that the TreeTop Walk was a must-do on my trip to Singapore. A 250-metre free-standing bridge that crosses between the two highest points in MacRitchie (and sounding a lot like the Ulu Ulu’s Canopy Walk in Brunei), the TreeTop Walk sounded like the perfect escape from the city bustle for an afternoon.
I was dropped off at ‘the car park’ – which I later discovered was called Venus Drive – where the shorter 2.5km trail began. The driver told me twice and pointed at a map “we’ll meet back at this car park“. I simply nodded and said I’d be back soon. ‘Soon’ being nearly four hours later.
Take a walk on the wild side
The cement path turned to pebbles, then dirt and then heavy rocks littered the path. As the temperature rose, and the humidity with it, I began to wish I’d bought my sneakers with me instead of wearing comfortable shoes that would be suitable for the nice cafe I went to for breakfast. Regardless of my shoe predicament, and easily being lapped by the many locals jogging the trail, I was enjoying the walk.
The paths twisted and turned through the forest. I heard a sound, turned my head and saw three monkeys climbing between trees. One paused as it reached the group, leapt onto the wooden pole that marked where the path ended and the forest began and watched me. The moment was shattered as feet crunched the leaves and two girls came chattering with selfie-sticks, squealing in delight when they spotted the monkey. I watched as it climbed onto a nearby branch and watch its adoring crowd gather beneath the branch, flashing phone lights and cameras in its direction.
MacRitchie Reservoir TreeTop Walk
Being a weekend, the MacRitchie trail is the perfect place to see nature and escape the city, and despite this knowledge, I didn’t consider this until I arrived at the entrance to the TreeTop Walk and the queue waiting patiently. Thankfully, the lines moved fast and the monkeys kept me occupied as they scared people.
If you do take the trail please don’t scream when the monkeys come near you. After spending half an hour watching the cheeky creatures scaring groups of Chinese and South Korean tourists – and having them yell, stamp and try to scare off the monkeys – I worked out that they wanted one of two things: to cross the path the people were blocking without getting too close to humans or making sure you didn’t have any food they could snatch.
Just move to the side and let them cross back and forth and if you have food, keep it away from them and take your trash with you. One monkey was pretty adamant at ripping open a juice box to enjoy the last sweet dregs left by a careless visitor.
The line moved at a decent speed and soon I was taking my first steps onto the thick metal mesh bridge. The free-standing suspension bridge connects the two highest points in MacRitchie – Bukit Peirce and Bukit Kalang. Further, I walked until I was standing 25metres above the forest floor gazing at the thick forest surrounding.
On every side, Singapore’s last remaining forest rises up around you but there are a few spots where you can catch a glimpse of the lake and hints of city life in the distance.
The trails around MacRitchie are beautiful. Bound by the Singapore Island Country Club golf course on one side, the areas manicured walkways – when not on the trail – would make a great place to stop for a picnic lunch.
Locals run or jog the trails and, for the really determined, there’s an outdoor exercise park near the Jelutong Tower, a tower that offers views across the golf course and reservoir.
There’s only one small problem… the size of the park means that if you take a wrong turn it’s not easy to correct.
I thought I knew which exit I was meant to head to but, after listening to the German tourists I had been on the treetop walk with, I made a wrong turn. Even armed with my Rentafi pocket MiFi device didn’t save me!
Let me admit this – I am not the best navigator. Even after living in Melbourne for the best part of five years, I still use Google Maps to guide me through the city. With this knowledge, what hope did I have navigating the MacRitchie Reservoir walk by myself?
Even lost, I appreciated the green space amongst the chaotic city and took time to sit, relax and watch some golfers play. If I had more time and, more importantly, more water I think I would have really enjoyed taking the long hike.
Upon reflection, I should have turned back instead of continuing to walk but, seeing a road, I assumed that’s where the car park was. It wasn’t. By the time I eventually made it to Vava Bistro near Reservoir Road – after walking three-quarters of the way around the lake – I was just glad to a cold lime juice and ice-cold water… and receiving an email from my driver asking where they should meet me.
After four hours in the forest, it was nice to sit back with an icy lime juice and watch the people go by.
MacRitchie Reservoir TreeTop Walk
Hours of operation: 9 – 5 daily, closed Monday except on public holidays
Getting there: To get to the TreeTop Walk you will need to take a 2.5km (45 minutes to 1-hour walk) trail from the car park at Venus Drive or a 4.5km (1.5-2 hour) trail from the MacRitchie Reservoir Park. These numbers are for one-way, so remember to double it for returning (9km return will take 3-4 hours).
- You MUST bring water. The trail and waiting time at the TreeTop Bridge can be quite a while and coupled with Singapore’s humidity the weather will leave you dehydrated pretty quickly.
- Leave your food in your backpack around the TreeTop Walk as monkeys call the forest home and will pester you (if you do have food DON’T feed them!)
- Wear sturdy shoes/hiking boots/sneakers as the paths are rocky and littered with stones of varying shapes and sizes in places!
Planning a trip to Singapore? Read these next!