Tree Top Walk

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.

The start point of the trail at Venus Drive carpark. There were some construction activities going on resulting in the hoarding and security tapes.
The start point of the trail at Venus Drive carpark. There were some construction activities going on resulting in the hoarding and safety tapes. It had rained the day before and muddy puddles were present along the trail.
I passed by several small streams. These are natural unlike the many drains and canals which criss-cross Singapore.
I passed by several small streams. These are natural unlike the many man-made drains and canals which criss-cross Singapore.
Concrete stairs and crumbling house foundations show traces of what was once a small village (kampong) that has since been abandoned and slowly being reclaimed by the forest.
Not far in, concrete stairs and crumbling house foundations reveal traces of what was once a small village (kampong) that has since been abandoned and slowly being reclaimed by the forest.

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.

Mushrooms growing on fallen tree trunks.
A forest of mushrooms growing on fallen tree trunks.
Another type of fungus growing on a tree stump.
Another type of fungus growing on a tree stump.
Most of the trail is dirt path, and it gets muddy if it rains heavily.
Most of the trail is dirt path, and it gets muddy if it rains heavily.
After hiking around 1km, the trail passes by a road and Singapore Island Country Club, one of the few signs of civilization.
After hiking around 1km, the trail passes by a road and Singapore Island Country Club, one of the few signs of civilization. If you are a club member here, you probably can park here and start your hike for a shorter distance.
A spider web in the morning Sun.
A spider web in the morning Sun.
Some wild jungle flowers.
Some wild jungle flowers with wasps gathering nectar.
There are many wild fig trees growing around.
There are many wild fig trees growing around. These are young figs growing from the tree trunk.
After passing Singapore Island Country Club, the trail passes a huge concrete water reservoir. This is a landmark if you should get lost.
After passing Singapore Island Country Club, the trail passes a huge concrete water reservoir. This is a landmark and 3/4 point if you should get lost.
This is a forest so don't go off the path and bump into something unexpected.
This is a forest so don’t go off the path and bump into something unexpected. Native snakes include cobras and pythons, both of which you don’t want to mess around  with.
An information signboard with details about the opening hours and do's and don'ts.
An information signboard with details about the opening hours and a long list of Don’ts
I'm getting nearer to the Tree top Walk.
I’m getting nearer to the Tree top Walk. As you can see on the smaller sign on the bottom left, please don’t feed the monkeys no matter how cute they look.

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.

Mommy macaque and her baby. They were rather timid and walk away when I approached.
Mommy macaque and her baby. They were rather timid and walked away when I approached.
Daddy macaque was hiding inside the bushes nearby keeping watch. As you can see he isn't scared of me taking his photo. He was only 3m away.
Daddy macaque was hiding inside the bushes nearby keeping watch. As you can see he isn’t scared of me taking his photo. He was only 3m away and eyeing me to see if I carried any food.
I finally arrived at the Ranger Station. This is the only place where you can refill your water bottles with ice cold water from the water coolers.
I finally arrived at the Ranger Station. This is the only place where you can refill your water bottles with ice cold water from the water coolers. It also serves as a convenient place to take a breather and dispose any trash. There is also a first aid station here for medical emergencies. There is no souvenir shop here by the way.

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.

After walking uphill I found myself at the top of a hill and stairs going down.
After walking uphill I found myself at the top of a hill and flights of stairs going down. This is the start of the Tree Top Walk.
I arrived at the entrance door to the suspension bridge. There is a ranger on duty to guide visitors.
I arrived at the entrance door to the suspension bridge. There is a ranger on duty to guide visitors. Direction is one way to facilitate the flow of people.
The suspension bridge is 250m long and is 25m above the forest floor. It's quite narrow, just enough for 2 people to squeeze sideways.
The suspension bridge is 250m long and is 25m above the forest floor at the highest point. It’s quite narrow, just enough for 2 adults to squeeze sideways. It is suspended at the level of the tree tops and is a good place for bird watching, although on that day I didn’t see any birds.
From the middle of the bridge I could see one of the reservoirs and golf course.
From the middle of the bridge and looking northwards, I could see Lower Peirce Reservior and the golf course of Singapore Island Country Club.

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 at the end of the bridge and the Monkey Mafia was waiting to collect food from visitor before we could pass. But seriously, just ignore them and don't stare or poke them.
The exit door is at the end of the bridge and the Monkey Mafia was waiting to collect food from visitors before we could pass. But seriously, just ignore them and don’t stare or disturb them. A man was trying to take a photo of the monkeys close up with his smartphone and they tried to snatch it away.
Doesn't look so cute now does it? Those teeth can do real damage if he decides to bite you.
Doesn’t look so cute now does it? Those teeth can do real damage if he decides to bite you.

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.

Now comes the hard part. There are hundreds of stairs to climb.
Now comes the hard part. There are plenty of stairs to climb up to the top of the other hill where the suspension bridge ends.
After climbing stairs to the top of the hill, I look over the other side and there are even more stairs going down. It's going to be a long day.
After climbing stairs to the top of the hill, I looked over the other side and there are even more stairs going down. It’s was going to be a long day.
Looking up to where I had come down from. Signs tell visitors not to turn back, and that's good advice. There's no way I'm going back up there.
Looking up to where I had come down from. Signs tell visitors not to turn back, and that’s good advice. There’s no way I’m going back up there. It was also a good time to take rest in the small hut as it started to rain at this point.

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.

The wooden boardwalk after all the stairs climbing. My legs were really wobbly by this time.
The wooden boardwalk after all the stairs climbing. My legs were really wobbly from all that stairs climbing by this time.

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.

A glimpse of Jelutong Tower from the trail.
A glimpse of Jelutong Tower from the trail. It’s a metal structure with a spiral staircase that goes up 6 floors. The topmost floor is not sheltered and I wouldn’t advise anyone to climb it when there’s a thunderstorm.
From the top of Jelutong Tower, you can see all around.
From the top of Jelutong Tower, you can enjoy a bird’s eye view of the nature reserve. There are several info boards giving nuggets of information about the tower and the surrounding wildlife. This place would be a good alternative to visit if the Tree Top Walk is closed.
Another reservoir and civilization in the distance.
Another reservoir and civilization in the distance.
And while I was resting in Jelutong Tower and having an energy bar, I spotted this Green Tree Snake taking his nap in a corner.
And while I was resting in Jelutong Tower and eating an energy bar, I spotted this green snake taking his nap in a corner. Let sleeping snakes lie, and so I did.
I only managed to get a good shot of this Sunbird on my way back to Venus Drive Carpark.
I only managed to get a good shot of this Sunbird on my way back to Venus Drive Carpark.

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.

 

 

3 thoughts on “Tree Top Walk

  1. What an amazing write up! I am glad to hear of this place in Singapore, I will surely visit if in the area. Although I really hate those monkeys ever since encountering them at the Batu Caves in KL as a kid. And a snake too, yikes!!

  2. I’ve not been to Singapore in a few years+, enough so I’ve never heard of the Tree Top Walk, but your photos and introduction make it an intriguing visit ~ safe travels Edwin, and continue to enjoy your summer.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s