View from Mount Faber Park
By Brian Spencer
You have an important job to do when you come to Singapore: EAT.
Here you can enjoy weeks of gut-bombing bliss doing little more than gorging yourself silly at the city’s hundreds of hawker centres and like-minded, ramshackle hole-in-the-walls — and you can do so having never eaten the same dish twice, or at least the same dish prepared exactly the same way. If you know anything about Singapore, of course, you probably already know this.
This is an easy enough task for those of you just passing through; it’s a tough job for those of us who live here. There’s a fine line to be walked between tasting and everyday gluttony, unless you don’t mind watching your waist expand exponentially with each passing plate of black carrot cake and decadent bowl of laksa. Fortunately, along with a wealth of tempting gastronomic pleasures, we also have an abundance of verdant parks, preserves, and other green spaces ideally suited to sweaty, treadmill-free sessions of food penance.
The stunning Southern Ridges is one of the best of the bunch.
This network of well-posted trails, paved walkways, and raised wooden and metal platforms winds along roughly six miles of Singapore’s southwestern coast, connecting Mount Faber Park on the eastern side with Kent Ridge Park on the western. In between you’ll experience the island’s impossibly green flora from treetop forest walks zig-zagging through secondary rainforest; spot colorful tropical birds, butterflies, flowers, and terrifying spiders camped out in massive webs; perhaps encounter wild monkeys; walk through a modern gardening center and past a World War II battlefield; and be treated to some of the best panoramic views of the area.
The two above photos were taken from Mount Faber Park, the lead photo looking out on Sentosa and Singapore’s other southern islands, and this one, obviously, back towards central’s housing flats and skyscrapers. This is also where you’ll board the cable cars that connect with Sentosa, though S$29 per trip is a bit rich. Start your hike along the Southern Ridges here at Faber Park to kick things off with panoramic scenery, though there’s also something to be said for starting at Kent Ridge and rewarding yourself with the views at the end.
Regardless of which way you go, you’ll find the 900-foot-long Henderson Waves bridge just down the hill from Mount Faber Park. At 118 feet above the road it’s the highest pedestrian bridge in Singapore; its yellow bakau-wood flooring and the wavy curvature of its design also make it one of the island’s more unique pieces of architecture.
I can’t imagine what it was like hacking through Singapore’s untamed jungles in the 1800s, when the British arrived and set about expanding the island into a full-blown colony. Dense, equatorial jungles teeming with bugs and snakes and monkeys and, until the 1930s, even tigers; dealing with dengue and malaria and other fatal diseases was surely a hoot.
Even today it takes scores of full-time gardeners and landscapers to keep the jungle at bay. It grows and grows and grows; it’s difficult to appreciate just how green Singapore is until you experience it for yourself. The Southern Ridges provide for a wonderful microcosm of the island’s lush natural riches, from plants with leaves big enough to be blankets to vegetation overgrown with vegetation that’s overgrown with vegetation, like this tree, above, that’s located near a quiet, hilltop terrace garden.
The Southern Ridges are best explored in the morning, before the mid-day heat and humidity set in, though there’s plenty of shade on most stretches and vending machines with tea, juices, water, and sports drinks every few kilometers. Signage is excellent, with detailed maps and labeled directional arrows at every major fork in the road, as well as advice on what to do — and what not to do — if and when you encounter monkeys or…
… birds. Whatever you do, if you see a bird on the Southern Ridges, don’t squeeze the bird.
Singapore’s National Parks Board has more information on planning an outing to the Southern Ridges, including public transportation options, maps, guided tours, and more.
All photos copyright of the author.