Singapore - October/November 2022
Before and after our birding trip in Australia, my friend Jan and I stayed in Singapore for a few days, where we naturally went looking for the best birding locations. In total I had five full birding days in Singapore (Jan had three) and they all proved to be very productive!
Singapore’s territory consists of one main island along with 62 other islets. The country is 50 km long and 27 km wide. Singapore is home to over 436 different bird species. The weather is tropical, which means it is usually warm (24-32 degrees Celsius) and sunny throughout the year except for the occasional thunderstorm. Singapore offers good birding throughout the year but is best between August and April when the migrants, mostly from the Palearctic, are in, together with the resident birds.
Don’t wear cotton shirts because they will get wet either by the rain or by your sweat which will result in smelly clothing. Wear dry quick clothing. Also, always carry a small umbrella and bring a small towel from the hotel to wipe off your sweat! You may also bring an extra shirt so you can change if needed.
Go to one of the many Hawker Centres, an open food court with excellent food from all kind of different Asian cuisines. Try Chicken Rice Dish! Usually SGD 5,-. Very delicious! Eating out doesn’t get better!
For my transportation I only used taxis which are very cheap in Singapore. If you are on a tighter budget, the MRT (metro) basically gets you everywhere in Singapore. Buy a EZ Link Card at 7-Eleven (SGD 10,- deposit) or at any station with the Passenger Service Desk (Ticket Office at airport), which you can upload with credits for use in metro, buses, mono rail, river boats and even taxis. Buses and metro usually cost SGD 1,- or SGD 2,- per ride.
Taxi: go to the taxi line-up and take the next available taxi.
Grab: Download the grab-app which is basically the same as Uber. Cost are 2/3 of a regular taxi.
MRT: Upon arrival at the airport follow the signs ‘Arrival’ and ‘Way Out’. Then follow the signs ‘Train to City’. The MRT trains leave from Terminal 2. You can take the Sky Train which connects all 4 terminals. Keep following the signs ‘Train to City’. The MRT station is at the lowest level. Then follow the signs ‘Ticket Office’ to buy a EZ Link Card and upload the card. Take the Green Line and exit at the left hand side at Tanah Merah (2nd stop; everyone has to get out here). Then take the Green Line towards ‘Job Koon’ and exit at City Hall. Take the Red Line towards Jurong East and exit at Toa Payoh. Then a 5 min walk to the Hotel Ramada.
Day 1 – Sat 22 Oct: Flight Amsterdam (11:15) – Singapore
Day 2 – Sun 23 Oct: Arrival Singapore (05:55). To hotel to drop luggage. Birding Bukit Batok NP, Hindhede Nature Park, Bukit Timah and Dairy Farm. Night at Ramada by Wyndham Singapore at Zhongshan Park, Singapore.
Day 3 – Mon 24 Oct: birding Pasir Ris & Pulau Ubin. Night at Ramada by Wyndham Singapore at Zhongshan Park, Singapore
Day 4 – Tue 25 Oct: birding Sungei Buloh. Night at Ramada by Wyndham Singapore at Zhongshan Park, Singapore
Day 5 – Wed 26 Oct: flight Singapore (08:45) to Cairns (17:25)
Day 6 – Day 15: Birding Cairns, Queensland, Australia
Day 16 – Sun 6 Nov: Flight Cairns (18:10) to Singapore (23:05). Night at Ramada by Wyndham Singapore at Zhongshan Park, Singapore
Day 17 – Mon 7 Nov: Birding Botanic Gardens + Gardens by the Bay. Night at Ramada by Wyndham Singapore at Zhongshan Park
Day 18 – Tue 8 Nov: Birding Sungei Buloh + Pasir Ris. Flight Singapore (23:55) to Amsterdam
Day 19 – Wed 9 Nov: Arrival Amsterdam (06:45)
Best Birding Spots In Singapore
Best locations if you have limited time are probably Bukit Timah (nr 2), Central Catchment (nr 6) and Sungei Buloh (nr 9).
During my stay, Sungei Buloh, Pasir Ris and Pulau Ubin were absolutely the best birding hotspots!
1. Dairy Farm Nature Park (just north of Bukit Timah)
The Dairy Farm Nature Park is a beautiful wetland nature reserve park. Historically, this area used to be a cow shed, which explains the name of the nature park. The old cow shed is now the Wallace Education Center. However, now there are no cows being held here now. This nature park houses a very special location known as the Singapore Quarry (west side of the park). The quarry is an amazing place. It now has been changed into a wetland habitat with a nice platform to soak in the beautiful views of the waters reflecting the cliff of the quarry. This habitat now attracts lots of flora and fauna. The east side of the park has the Wallace Nature Trail and is much more forested. There is a car park A (west) and a car park B (east) which latter houses a visitor center (GPS: 1.364465, 103.776149). At the end of the car park B, look out for the red flowers that attract Crimson Sunbirds, Brown-throated Sunbirds and Ashy Tailorbirds.
2. Bukit Timah Nature Reserve
Bukit Timah Nature Reserve is famous for its lush green environment and surroundings. The nature reserve is extremely pleasant and peaceful to visit. It is 12 km away from the main city and provides you with a calm and peaceful environment. It covers a larger area of the rainforest and hence, the climate is a little humid. There is a visitor center: GPS: 1.348435, 103.776802.
Walk all the way up to the summit (GPS: 1.354787, 103.776527) at some 163 meters above sea level: Singapore's highest point. Please note, however, the way up is steep with a lot of stairs. Here is a fig tree and when in (orange) fruit, it attracts a lot of birds, such as; Red-crowned Barbet, Asian Fairly Bluebird, Red-eyed Bulbul, Cream-vented Bulbul, Black-crested Bulbul, Cinereous Bulbul, Orange-bellied Flowerpecker, Blue-winged Leafbird, Banded Woodpecker, Jumbo Fruit Dove, Crimson Sunbird, Arctic Warbler, Asian Brown Flycatcher. You may see here overhead also White-bellied Fish-Eagle, Swiftlets, Brown-backed Needletails, and Crested Honey Buzzard.
3. Hindhede Nature Park (just south of Bukit Timah) (GPS: 1.348902, 103.775972)
Hindhede Nature Park, which is located within Bukit Timah Nature Reserve, is a great place to go bird watching, hiking, or simply enjoy the scenery and experience of nature. It lies next to the Bukit Timah Visitor Centre and is not bigger than 2-3 football fields.
It includes a number of simple pathways. The Hindhede Quarry (now a small lake) is the centerpiece of the Hindhede Nature Park. It was developed in the early 1900s as a result of granite mining, but it has since been abandoned. Many types of fauna and birds now call the quarry home, like Oriental Darter, Malayan Night-heron and even 6 species of kingfisher: Stork-billed Kingfisher, Common Kingfisher, White-throated kingfisher, Collared Kingfisher and the two migratory kingfisher species: Black-backed Kingfisher and the Blue-eared Kingfisher. This large open area provides the ideal chance and space for photographing birds in flight as well as seeing them from afar. During migration, you may find the elusive Blue-winged Pitta and Hooded Pitta. Other resident birds include; Asian Fairy Bluebird, Straw-headed Bulbul, Common Hill Myna, Dark-necked Tailorbird, Brown Hawk-Owl, Black-naped Oriole, Red-crowned Barbet. Check out for the Mulberry tree near the Wallace Trail Observation Deck with fruits that attracts the birds.
4. Bukit Batok Nature Park (West of Bukit Timah)
The Bukit Batok Nature Park is developed from an abandoned quarry in 1988 which has been transformed to contain a stunning view with super clear waters. This place is extremely serene and perfect for an early morning hike or to go birding. There are multiple look-out points throughout the nature park that can be as high as 10 stories. There is a car park (GPS: 1.347172, 103.761458) and from here there are paths leading to the Main Pond. Look for van Hasselt’s Sunbird, Asian Fairy Bluebird, Jambu Fruit-Dove and Rufous-tailed Tailorbird on the path leading to the Main Pond. Look for Saraca Trees which big orange flowers attract the Van Hasselt’s Sunbirds and Purple-throated Sunbirds. At the left and right side of the cliff near the Main Pond look out for Blue-eared Kingfisher that is usually there. At the cliffs, there is a resident Grey Fish Eagle.
Take the path from the Central Plaza up to the summit where the TV-towers are and a World War II memorial. Along the way, you may see Ashy- Tailorbird, Oriental White-eye, Common Flameback Woodpecker, Oriental Scops Owl & Sunda Scops Owl (at the summit).
5. Bukit Batok Hillside Park (Entrance: GPS: 1.360161, 103.745902)
A hidden gem! This used to be a park with a fairy tale theme but it is now an overgrown forest. You still can find fake rocks (made of concrete!) and a fake water well. The entrance is just next to a big (green) traffic sign board. Go through an opening in the bushes. It can be slippery after rain and it is a bit hilly. Bring insect repellant! Birds to be found; Sunda Pygmee Woodpecker, White-throated Woodpecker, Yellow-vented Bulbul, Straw-headed Bulbul, Greater Racket-tailed Drongo, Oriental Dollarbird, Pied Imperial Pigeon, White-crested Laughing Thrush, Slaty-breasted Rail, Red-wattled Lapwing, Oriental Honey Buzzard, Changeable Hawk-Eagle, Lineated Barbet, Scaly-breasted Munia, Javan Myna, Blue-winged Pitta, Collared Kingfisher.
6. Central Catchment Nature Reserve (east of Bukit Timah)
The Central Catchment Nature Reserve is the largest of all Singapore’s nature reserves, covering approximately 2000 hectares of forest and containing the most biodiversity. There are over twenty kilometers of walking trails within the park and it is open from 7am until 7pm daily. The entrance is close to Bukit Brown (nr 7): GPS: 1.33601, 103.81833.
The main freshwater swamp forest found in this reserve is a rare forest type with the Nee Soon Swamp Forest as an example. This one-of-a-kind forest type carries with it a diverse environment.
The MacRitchie Trails are a fantastic area to watch birds as it stretches for 20 kilometers surrounding the Central Catchment Nature Reserve. The TreeTop Walk (250m) (GPS: 1.358708, 103.812022), a suspension bridge that connects MacRitchie’s two highest peaks, is ideal for birdwatching. This position has the potential to be a fantastic spot for bird viewing in the canopy. Also, you will often encounter Long-tailed Macaques!
7. Bukit Brown (just south of Central Catchment)
GPS: 1.334643, 103.820181. A hidden gem! This is usually a quiet place to go birding. This forested area is part of an old Chinese cemetery which has been closed since 1972. Since then, the forest has been reclaiming the ground. The Lornie Highway runs through this lovely small forest but has no adverse effect on the fauna. The area comprises 5 hills. The park has various paths to follow.
8. Singapore Botanic Gardens (south of Central Catchment)
Entering is free of charge! You can spot many different bird species here and enjoy watching the birds with a beautiful scenic view. Good place for birds is the Swan Lake area and the Symphony Lake area. Here you can also find Malayan Water Monitors and even otters: there is only one species of otter in Singapore: the Smooth-coated Otter. Also try to find the wild form of our domesticated chickens: Red Junglefowls: they have pure grey legs instead of yellow.
9. Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve (North-West of Singapore)
Sungei Buloh Nature Park is a beautifully well-preserved wetland area with walkways and bridges connecting trails and paths with lots of lookout platforms and bird hides. This wetland reserve of mangrove swamps, ponds and secondary forest is home to 140 species of birds. Also, here you can find Smooth-coated Otters. There is a Mangrove Boardwalk north of the entrance/carpark; look here for the Copper-throated Sunbird, a mangrove specialist, especially before Hut nr. 1 on the boardwalk and towards Hut nr. 2. Look for a quick flittering small black bird (the male).
10. Lim Chu Kang Lane 3 (South of Sungei Buloh)
This area is Singapore’s only rural countryside left. From the junction of Neo Tiew Road, walk along 400m on Lim Ku Chang Lane 3 and at the water drain follow the path on the right (GPS: 1.430007, 103.718725). Walk along the water drain to the end where you will see the Sungei Buloh Canal. It is here where a brackish mudflat was formed where the canal meets the river. The spot is quite small.
10. Kranji Marshes (South of Sungei Buloh) (GPS: 1.419631, 103.720546)
Home to 170 species of birds, 54 types of butterflies and 33 different kinds of dragonflies, this nature reserve is the perfect recreation area to observe and enjoy the island's wildlife. The six bird hides and two blinds at the Marsh Station give you a chance to observe birds native to the habitat, such as the Common Moorhen and the Marshes’ signature bird, the Purple Swamphen. Park at the car park near Kranji Gate and walk along the road going east (Neo Tiew Woods) for 1 km until you reach Marsh Station. Here, you find an observation tower, the Raptor Tower, for an amazing view over the Kranji Marshes.
11. Sarimbun (south-west of Sungei Buloh) (GPS: 1.435169, 103.702220)
A little hidden gem. This is usually a quiet place to go birding. Walk along the Bahtera Track towards the coast; Don’t enter the military area!
Look out for Red-breasted Parakeets and Long-tailed Parakeets.
12. Coney Island (west of Pulau Ubin)
This island includes many different types of habitats for wildlife: coastal forests, grasslands, mangroves, and casuarina woodlands. You can start exploring and looking for birds near the mangrove habitats on the boardwalks, then head over to the beach area. There are over 80 species of birds alone on Coney Island. These include Baya Weavers in the flowering Acacia trees, Oriental Magpie-robins, and the flocks of parakeets flying through the forest canopies
13. Pulau Ubin (North-East of Singapore)
Important: bring enough water and food because you can’t buy it at the island (except for an occasional drinks stall)! For instance, buy a few snacks like Curry Puffs!
Pulau Ubin (Ubin Island) is a small island located in the northeast of Singapore. At a sprawling 1,020-hectares, Pulau Ubin boasts lush greenery and abundant wildlife, drawing nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts to explore the many wonders of the granite island.
Pulau Ubin is just a short 15-minute boat ride away from the main island of Singapore. Head to Changi Point Ferry Terminal and board a bumboat headed for the island (SGD 3,- one way). The boats run from 7am to 7pm daily and each boat takes a maximum of 12 passengers. The boats don’t have a regular timetable and only set off when there's a full load. At the island, you can hire bikes but walking is better for viewing wildlife.
One of Pulau Ubin’s key attractions is Chek Jawa Wetlands (GPS: 1.408837, 103.989400), located on the far eastern coast of the island. There is a visitor center, a mangrove board walk and a coastal board walk. It has one of Singapore’s richest ecosystems, where 6 major habitats meet and mix. Each habitat is home to an abundance of flora and fauna, such as rare plants as well as local and migratory birds. The marine biodiversity here is amazing, with about 500 species, according to National Parks’ records.
Also visit Jalan Wat Siam (GPS: 1.412126, 103.953899), a mangrove area where you can either walk a trail around Ketam Quarry, actually the only real forest hiking trail on the island or stay at the mangroves. In an area of around 100m here: GPS: 1.409828, 103.953331, you may find the only resident pitta (the others are migratory: Blue-winged Pitta and Hooded Pitta) in Singapore: the Mangrove Pitta. It is a 3km walk from the jetty. You may see here also: White-rumped Shama and Mangrove Whistler. Also, you will sooner or later bump into Wild Boar and Otters!
14. Pasir Ris Park (just south of Pulau Ubin)
This is a mangrove area with a board walk running through it. Since the end of 2020, the rare Mangrove Pitta, the only resident pitta in Singapore, has been sighted here. It has its territory near the observation deck at the board walk (GPS: 1.377657, 103.952697). Over the last decade the Mangrove Pitta was only found at Pulau Ubin.
Next to the MRT station there is a Hawker Center (GPS: 1.373489, 103.951198) with delicious food! You can have diner here and afterwards take a night walk at the board walk.
15. Former Normanton Oil Depot (GPS: 1.288875, 103.798848)
A hidden gem! Over the last decades this land slowly returned to its former state: a swamp. There is a rainwater pond that attracts a lot of birds. At the Masjid Hang Jebat Mosque, walk along the canal beside the Rail Corridor until you see a blue wooden marker on your right. Take the path near the marker to your right into the bushes and enjoy the area!
16. Labrador Nature Reserve (south of Singapore)
Labrador Park offers views of the sea and cliffs in the distance as you wander through its natural beauty. Along with the more than 70 species of birds located in Labrador Park, you will find 11 different species of butterflies as well. One of the most popular birds to look out for in Labrador Park is the white-bellied sea eagle.
17. Gardens by the Bay (south of Singapore)
This area can be divided in 5 different transects. Best birding would be at Lotus Pond besides Satay by the Bay (GPS: 1.282408, 103.868159). Birds here include Common Kingfisher, Black Bittern, Yellow Bittern, Striated Heron, Ruddy-breasted Crake and White-breasted Waterhen. Ducks can be found at the Waterlily Pond (GPS: 1.282728, 103.866454). Here you can also find otters.
18. St. John’s Island (south of Sentosa)
Saint John’s Island was once a quarantine station to house cholera cases in the late 19th century. In order to get to the island, you would have to catch the St John’s island ferry from Marina South Pier which would typically cost around $15!