Dec 6, 2014

9 reasons to visit the NEW Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve Extension

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If you want to expose your kids to the wonders of Mother Nature, Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve will be the best place to. But to be honest, I found the plots of mudflats, ponds and secondary forest to be quite inaccessible especially for families with young children. But as the monkies and I found out, all of that is set to change with the opening of the new Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve extension.

The 130-hectare Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve is the largest mangrove forest in Singapore and became Singapore's first ASEAN Heritage Park in 2003, and is recognised as a site of international importance for migratory birds. And situated beside it will be the 31-hectare extension, boasting rich mangrove and coastal forests which are home to diverse species of fauna such as tree-climbing crabs and mudskippers.

Visitors can access the new extension via a new entrance to the reserve at Kranji Way and if you are planning a visit, here are 9 activities to do with your kids at the Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve extension.

1. Visitor Centre 

The new Visitor Centre houses a mangrove gallery, which features interactive educational tools such as multimedia games, a live camera feed that transmits and screens live scenes from various areas of the Reserve, and static displays featuring information on the mangrove habitat.

This will also be a good place for everyone in the family to empty their bladders or to hydrate themselves courtesy of the water coolers or vending machines before embarking on the nature trails. Because ultimately, the THREE trails are the highlights of the new extension.

2. Mid-canopy Walk 

The Mid-canopy Walk immerses visitors in the understory of a secondary forest through an elevated, 120m-long boardwalk, where they can spot birds and insects like cicadas that reside in the mid-canopy region and forest floor.

3. Coastal boardwalk 

The coastal boardwalk offers a scenic and breathtaking view of the Kranji waterfront with a lookout point where raptors such as the Ospreys and White-Bellied Sea Eagles can be spotted hunting for prey. At low tide, visitors can even observe crabs and fish foraging for food in the waters.

We were there during high tide, so the mangrove area was partially submerged. So do visit the reserve during low tide timings for a much enriching experience. But that was not to say there was nothing for the monkies to spot. We managed to zoom in on a few tree-climbing crabs!

4. Forest Trail

The Forest Trail offers visitors the chance to experience the sights and sounds of the reserve up close, and learn more about the plants and wildlife which are unique to the reserve.

We trekked along the boardwalk which brought us among mangroves, but the real challenge for the kids was trying to pinpoint the elusive mudskipper - which we manage to do so after some time, and it was a rather huge one!

Oh and in case you are wondering, the trails were designed in a sensitive manner as all of them are on the fringe of the reserve. This way, there are areas for the animals to retreat to if they are not comfortable with the human traffic.

5. Pods 

Five pods have been constructed at various locations around the wetland reserve extension. These raised viewing platforms allow visitors unobstructed views of the reserve and the sea. 

An exception is the Dragonfly Pod, which is located inland and overlooks a freshwater pond, where one can catch glimpses of dragonflies and damselflies.

6. Junior Adventure Trail

If trails and pods are not your kids' idea of fun, then this and the next 2 highlights will be enough to entice them to head down to the reserve extension right away.

At the Junior Adventure Trail, kids will be able to experience the life of a crab or mudskipper in the mangroves by ducking under prop roots and leaping amongst pencil roots. Yes, trust me when I say the monkies needed no invitation to test them out... even though it was still drizzling when we were there.

The icing on the cake had got be when the cheekiemonkies and SengkangBabies teams competed on the Pulley Boat, by crossing the mangrove river on a pulley boat.

For the record, the babies from Sengkang won.

Do note that children under the age of 13 must be accompanied and supervised by adults while exploring the trail.

7. Little Heron Deck 

Located beside the Visitor Centre, the Little Heron Deck features adorable sculptures of Mudskippers and serves as a lookout point over the sea.

Not too much of a thrill here, but I suppose younger kids and toddlers will have a field day attempting to conquer a Mudskipper (or two) by climbling all over it.

8. Mud Experience 
In the monkies' opnion, this is the MOST fun aspect of the reserve extension. And I have to agree with them.

Where else can one step onto the mudflats during low tide and get up close with creatures living in the mud? To access the mudflats, one will have to walk along a balancing bridge which connects to a lower platform near the bottom of the mudflats. 

An important point to note though, that the mudflats are only accessible during low tides. If you happen to visit during high tides - like we did - then this is what you will see of the lower platform.

Naturally, the monkies were disappointed but you can be sure that we will be back again!

If you prefer not to get your feet muddy, there are also interpretive panels that showcase information on the mudflat habitat in a fun manner.

9. Guided Walks

Six NEW guided walks with different themes will be introduced to the public on a rotational basis on Saturdays, two of which are developed specially for children under 12 years old. Each of these FREE guided walks will take visitors on a 1.5 hour journey through various parts of the reserve.

What's in my mud?
The mud at Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve is a key habitat for the plants and animals. This unique habitat is full of surprises so get close and personal to the mud and observe the rich biodiversity; critical to the ecosystem at Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve.

What's in my mangroves?
Mangroves are located at the border of freshwater (river) and salt water (sea). Singapore used to have large areas of mangroves, but lost most of them to coastal development. Few mangroves are left in Singapore, one of which is at Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve. 

What's in my water?
Find out about the amazing mangroves, focusing on what is in the water, at Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve. This tour will explore the various types of water bodies, what they contain, the importance of water, and how participants can play a part in keeping our water bodies clean and healthy.

What's in my sky?
Find out more about birdwatching and the importance of the reserve as a site for migratory birds. Guides will demonstrate how to identify shorebirds and passerines, and also introduce other types of birds that can be spotted at the vicinity of the reserve. This guided walk takes place at the original Wetland Centre (not the extension).

Muddy and friends (SPECIALLY FOR KIDS)
Muddy the Mudskipper lives in a very delicate ecosystem alongside its neighbours, and they depend on one another to survive in the mangroves. This walk touches on species like the mudskippers, forest birds, spiders and otters which can be found at the reserve.

Muddy and his home (SPECIALLY FOR KIDS)
This walk introduces children to the estuarine mudflats, where mudskippers hunt for food or laze in the sun during low tide. Participants can step on a floating platform during low tide at the Mud Experience - a dedicated area to get up close with creatures living in the mud.

Guided walks are available on a first-come, first-served basis. To register, visit HERE.

Useful Information

Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve
301 Neo Tiew Crescent, 71892
*To access the new extension, enter via the new entrance at Kranji Way.
Opening hours: Mondays to Fridays: 7.30am to 7pm | Weekends and Public Holidays: 7am to 7pm 
FREE entry

Photo courtesy of The Straits Times

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