Shutdown Day @ Singapore's Largest Primary Rainforest

As a botanist by training specialising in tropical ecology, I have always harboured a deep interest in nature. One of my favourite haunts was the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve - a small 410 acre area of lush primary rainforest, and probably the only place in Singapore where you can see tall towering dipterocarps in all their glory. Housing over 840 species of flowering plants and 500 species of fauna together with the Central Catchment area, Bukit Timah Nature Reserve was established way back in 1883 by the British Straits Settlement government. Dr David Bellamy, a renowned conservationist, once pointed out that the number of plant species growing in the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve is more than that in the whole of North America! It is indeed a green jewel in our concrete jungle - a natural oasis in the hectic city.

To celebrate Shutdown Day (yes I switched off all computers and did not SMS or call for 24 hours) last week, I brought my wife and kid to Singapore's highest hill (at a grand 164m tall) for a couple of hours in the morning.

Greeting us at the entrance was a visitor centre, which has fascinating specimens of animals, birds and plants on display.

An age-old plaque detailing how Bukit Timah was the site of a ferocious battle during the Second World War.

On your marks, get set, GO.....

Captioned boards like this were very helpful in rejigging my rusty cranium on the different plant species. Here's one on Screw Pines which belong to the Pandan family.

A shot of the Merombong tree, which is easily recognised by its gnarled, hole-filled bark.

These mycological members look like bracket fungus, but I dare not hazard a guess. Does anybody know? As saprophytes or saprotrophs, they play an important role in restoring balance to the eco-system by returning organic matter and nutrients to the soil.

The mighty Pulai, which is one of the tallest species of trees in Singapore. Speaking of height...

...we finally reached the summit of the hill. Here's a victory shot of father and son.

Ethan savouring a biscuit after much action. What's amazing was that he was smiling throughout most of the walk/climb.

On our way down, we decided to take one of the long winding trails.

This one wove through patches of secondary forest, which comprise early successional species of plants such as ferns, macarangas, dillenias and so on. Notice how much denser the undergrowth is here, as well as the higher levels of illumination.

Well, one needs to take a break after all that heaving and ho-ing through the hills.

My eagle-eyed wife Tina actually managed to spot various animals like a butterfly, two monitor lizards, a grey squirrel, and even a sun bird. Unfortunately, my photos had too much fuzzy logic and couldn't be shown here... ;)

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