The June holidays are here! What better way to relieve the exam stress than to release it through exploration of nature. Not only does it keep the whole family fit and promotes family bonding, it is a much better distraction than the myopia-causing handheld gadgets.
Tested and tried with my young son (featured in the photos below), these places in our little sunny island are a sure way to get the little ones to appreciate the outdoors through free range exploration and fun without bursting your wallet.
1. North-Eastern Riverine Loop
Amidst the sprouting of new HDB flats, the former swamp is filled with many surprises for enthusiastic cyclists and nature lovers. Start off at the Sungei Serangoon Park Connector, and cycle the entire 2km water-edged stretch that runs through the 4 estates of Hougang, Buangkok, Punggol and Seng Kang. It will take you approximately 2 hours. Not only does the loop connect to the eco-green Punggol Waterway that is neatly landscaped, it is also home to a cluster of seafood restaurants, fishing spots, parks, playgrounds, the Punggol Beach Heritage Site, Lorong Halus Wetlands and the soon-to-be-open Coney Island. The loop is home to a variety of species of birds, fishes, wildlife, flora and fauna.
2. Live Tortoise & Turtle Museum (Singapore Chinese Garden)
Tucked inside the Singapore Chinese Garden, this tortoise museum boasts the world’s largest collection of live tortoises and turtles. Varying sizes of rare and common species of tortoises (many are endangered species saved from the hands of illegal traders and pet owners) roam freely and swim at leisure in the pond within the confines of the Zen-centric garden, oblivious to the curious giant human bystanders extending fresh crunchy veggies at hand (purchasable at the entrance). Children and adults alike will be thrilled to interact directly with the tortoises without a single barrier (except for the more rare or more dangerous species). If you are lucky enough, you may even get to see a tortoise laying eggs right before your eyes! Entry is $5 per person.
3. Labrador Nature Reserve
If history is something you want to get your kids interested in, the Labrador Nature Reserve is a great starting point. Located between the sea and the vegetation-carpeted cliff, the park not only offers a tranquil setting with sand covered playgrounds, barbeque pits and nature walks, the former British military battlement also has remnants from World War II which include a machine gun post, sealed tunnels that connect all the way to Sentosa (we kid you not!) and artillery. Bring that camera and be ready to pose!
4. Henderson Waves Bridge
Step unto the country’s highest pedestrian bridge if you dare. Shaped like an undulating wave, the Henderson Waves Bridge stands 36 metres above ground and is pretty wide at 9km long, linking up the hills of Mount Faber Park, Telok Blangah Hill Park and Kent Ridge Park, and located not too far from Labrador Nature Reserve. You can bike or jog across its sturdy, curvy wooden structure. Relish the sight of the city and the surrounding greenery that greets you. At night, around 7pm, the bridge is illuminated with LED lighting that shines onto the bridge’s intricate waves, accentuating its majestic structure.
5. Changi Beach
Famous for its coconut trees, sandy shores, barbeque pits and winding tracks for cyclists and skating enthusiasts, kids can enjoy the adrenaline rush from the sight of approaching planes roaring right above their heads at Changi Beach. Don your swimwear and bask in the sun with fun-filled activities like sand castle building and swimming. Collect sea shells and keep them as memorable souvenirs, or use them for art decoration fun with the little ones.
6. Marina Barrage
Elegantly designed with a futuristic outlook, the Marina Barrage offers a panoramic scene of the city’s famous skyline, viewable from the top of its upward winding stretch of open grass that is completely exposed to strong winds and suitable for flying kites. Winds are the strongest during the afternoons, with the afternoon sun being less hot after 3pm. Sunscreens and sunglasses are highly recommended though, especially for viewing your kites high in the sky. Learn more about the reservoir and water conservation efforts at the interactive gallery on the second floor. If the heat gets unbearable, cool yourselves at the water play area right beneath the winding bridge, abundant with carefree water sprouts from the ground and wall features that will delight the little ones while you refresh your tired feet in the shallow pool.
7. Gardens by the Bay – Marina Bay Waterfront Promenade
Hop over to the Gardens by the Bay once you are done with kite-flying at Marina Barrage. Immerse yourself in wonder as the rich plethora of plants from all over the world greet you. The biggest key attraction for the children will be the Far East Organization Children’s Garden, which includes water play features, rainforest tree houses with challenging spider web structures and climbing features with tall winding slides resting on sandy ground. Kids will absolutely LOVE this part of the Gardens. Once you are done, travel along the paved route that lines the edge of the waters. This will lead you towards the heart of the city at the Marina Bay Waterfront Promenade surrounded by iconic buildings such as the ArtScience Museum, Marina Bay Sands, Marina Bay City Gallery and other key monuments. Take a break under the fan-blasting shelter spots along the trail near Marina Boulevard while you take in the sight of traditional river taxis ferrying happy visitors. Continue to make your way to the Merlion or the Esplanade and be captivated by the stunning cityscape by the waters.
8. Botanic Gardens
The sprouting of new commercial spots should not deter you from visiting this old time favourite hangout. Unlike Gardens by the Bay, the Botanic Gardens’ roots can be traced back to colonial times when it was originally set up to grow spices and other useful plants for botanical development, research and trade. It is home to locally grown plants and naturally occurring ones around the garden. The trails are excellent for scooting and light cycling while exploring attractions like the National Orchid Garden, Swan Lake, Jacob Ballas Children’s Garden, Bonsai Garden, Evolution Garden and endless other hot spots. Kids can learn about the on-site historical and botanical knowledge of mature heritage trees (try collecting saga seeds below the saga tree beside the Frangipani Garden) and artistic sculptures that grace the landscape. Expand your activities in its open spaces with picnics, ball catching, Frisbee, sports and occasional events that spring up in the garden. Entry is free with the exception of certain hot spots like the National Orchid Garden.
9. MacRitchie Reservoir Park
This popular spot for school cross-country events and exercise enthusiasts is flourished with thick greenery surrounding an expansive body of water and is home to a variety of fishes, tortoises, insects and yes…monkeys. Watch out! Although these monkeys may give you that cheeky peek-a-boo and inject laughter in the kids, they are still wild animals capable of harm and injuries by passer-bys who provoke them have been reported. Such reports should not scare you however, as long as you keep a safe distance, refrain from feeding or provoking them. Besides being a bird sanctuary, MacRitichie provides an exhaustive list of things-to-do that includes canoeing, kayaking, heritage tree touring, hiking and trekking. Don’t forget to invest in a good pair of sturdy shoes for the walks that await you.
10. Pulau Ubin
Where time stands still and attap houses from the 1960s continue to exist in one of Singapore’s last remaining Kampongs, Pulau Ubin is a perfect escapade from the urban chaos on the mainland. Quieter, simpler and more relaxing, the island is home to mangrove swamps and secluded beaches. The rustic roads act as perfect bicycle trails for adventurous exploration, where your journey will lead you to the corals of Chek Jawa, the colonial architecture of Chek Jawa Visitor Centre which dates back to the 1930s, and the Secret Garden that houses dozens of locally produced plants and fruits like pandan, guava, lemon grass and ciku. The air is fresher and food on the island is affordable and irresistibly delicious.
Photos courtesy of Maria Fung