It’s hard to imagine that a built up city like Singapore has a tropical rain forest, let alone a tree top canopy walkway like what you find in Australia or USA. Our local Tree Top Walk has been around since 2004 and unless you have been hiding under a rock, most local people have at least heard of it or taken a visit there. It is located in the Central Catchment Nature Reserve which serves as a natural rain water catchment area and contains 4 reservoirs which help to fulfil the country’s water needs. Secondary and virgin rain forests surround the reservoirs and forms the largest nature reserve in Singapore.
Previously, I went on the Southern Ridges hike which is basically a mixed nature/urban crawl. Getting to the Tree Top Walk is a real nature hike and involves hiking on sometimes muddy trails through tropical rain forests. As the Tree Top Walk is located in the middle of the jungle, there are no direct park and hop-off facilities. The nearest start point for most people is the public carpark at Venus Drive, otherwise if you have a country club membership at the Singapore Island Country Club, you can park there and take a much shorter hike. From Venus Drive, it’s a 2.5km hike to the Tree Top Walk. Some people choose to start from MacRitchie Reservoir Park which is further (4.5km) for a more challenging hike.
I’ve been to the Tree Top Walk before many years ago and decided that it was time to visit again in June this year. The best time to start is in the early morning when it is cooler. So I found myself at Venus Drive’s carpark by 8.30am.
As you will be passing through mature secondary forests, expect to see the local wildlife and plants. Unlike the sanitized Southern Ridges hike, you would be rather isolated and some preparations are needed before you start your hike. This hike can be considered a moderate activity with some strenuous climbing of hills and stairs, so you do need to be physically fit for that. There aren’t any shops or refreshment kiosks inside the nature reserve, so you would have to bring your own food and water. Mosquitoes are also aplenty and insect repellant is a must. If you don’t want to get wet when it rains, a small poncho is advisable. The only first aid available is at the Ranger Station near the tree top walk, so you may want to bring some Bandaids in case you fall or get small cuts. And of course, wear proper hiking or walking shoes.
I arrived at the huge concrete water reservoir and suddenly in the middle of the trail was a whole troop of monkeys. These are long-tailed macaques and native to Singapore. Due to urbanization, these monkeys have been living in close proximity to humans and are generally not afraid of us. They can become aggressive if you taunt them with food or stare at them, so keep your distance. If you are carrying food, it’s best to keep them hidden inside your bag or pack. They associate plastic bags in hand as food and may try to snatch any plastic bags or food from your hand.
From the Ranger Station follow the signs to the Tree Top Walk. There is a sort of cross junction of trails here and it’s easy to take the wrong path. You know you are on the right track if you are going uphill. By this time, I was sweating profusely from the heat and humidity. Singapore’s tropical weather can be brutal, so it pays to keep yourself adequately hydrated. The Ranger Station is a good place to take a rest and replenish your water supply.
You can stand on the bridge all day if it’s not crowded (like on a weekday) and enjoy the view. Being a suspension bridge, it does bounce a little as I walked on it, and I could see through the iron grating floor to the forest below. It’s quite scary if you are afraid of heights. So after around 10 minutes of admiring the view, I decided it was time to get off.
The exit door is spring loaded and locked behind me with a loud clang. Looks like there was really no turning back and I followed the path. The Tree Top Walk crosses between 2 hills and because of the dense forest cover, we don’t see it until we are on the bridge. So all the uphill hiking from the Ranger Station was to get to the top of the hill where the suspension bridge starts.
After conquering the stairs, there is a wooden boardwalk which gives quite a relief for sore legs, as I didn’t have to walk on an uneven dirt track. The boardwalk brings visitors back to the dirt track, and here you have a choice. Turn left and follow the sign back to the Ranger Station, or turn right and continue deeper into the nature reserve. If you decide to call it a day, then take the path to the Ranger Station, and from there it’s just back tracking to the Venus Drive carpark.
For myself, I decided to take a short hike to Jelutong Tower despite my tired and wobbly legs. This is a lookout tower for nature and bird watching and was newly built a few years ago. While I was there, a group of army personnel were also there having set up their rendezvous point for some officer cadets on a topo exercise.
From Jelutong Tower, I hiked back towards the Ranger Station. And from there it was a rather quick hike back to Venus Drive Carpark where I had parked my car. It took me roughly 3 hours to complete my hike including taking photos and detouring to Jelutong Tower. If you want to have a longer hike, then you could follow the signs that lead to MacRitchie Reservoir Park instead. A round trip from Venus Drive to the Tree Top Walk and back is around 6km,
The National Parks of Singapore has a handy PDF info sheet about the Tree Top Walk including public transport options to get there. Click here to download it.