Day One in Paradise

Editor’s note: Students in the Urban Tropical Ecology course traveled to Singapore in February for three weeks to study human ecology, tropical diversity, disturbed habitats, Asian extinctions and resource management.

Today was our first day in Singapore, and although we are a little tired from the drastic time difference change, we were excited to begin the course! Breakfast was included by the hotel, and consisted of fried rice, eggs, sausage, and toast with coffee or tea. Since it was our first day, we met later than usual around 11:30 a.m. and began our tour of the city.

Our first stop was at the Gardens of the Bay. After showing us how to use the bus system by tapping our Ez-link cards (not our Duke cards, Andy), we hopped on the 143 and continued to the gardens. After getting a little lost and winding through the MRT station, we arrived at our destination. Although we were a little tired, hot, and confused, the sight that greeted us was well worth the wait. Lush, green vegetation sprouted all around, with flowers of all colors bordering the tile walkways. A huge pond sprawled in front of us, surrounded by all kinds of trees and shrubs. In the distance, the Marina Sands towers as well as a variety of skyscrapers seemed to emerge from the middle of this lush paradise, a symbol of civilization in what felt like an exotic place. There were tall “trees”, made of some artificial structure that loomed over the Gardens, looking like some alien vegetation.

As we walked around the pond, a variety of fauna appeared, including koi, catfish, cichlids, and even an arowanna! We had 45 minutes to do an individual exploration of the gardens and appreciate the beauty of the place.

Following the Gardens, we began walking toward the Marine Barrage. We stopped for lunch at a food court along the way, where I had the best coconut ice cream $0.75 can buy. There was a small children’s water park area, so of course stopping there for a refreshing run through the various sprinklers was important. Next, we went up to the Marina Barrage, where one could see the whole city as well as some of the port. Turquoise waters were interrupted only by the hundreds of shipping vessels surrounding the 26 miles of port, giving an interesting contrast to the place. There was a dam which controlled the water level of the city and had a bridge one could walk across, making it a pristine picture spot.

After witnessing the beauty of the ocean and getting away from the wind ripping from the water, we headed to one of Singapore’s universities, the National Institute of Education. The campus was beautiful, very spacious and open, with green everywhere. The library was huge, and quite modern, quite a difference from the Gothic architecture of Duke and Perkins Library. Dr. Dan taught a lecture on marine plastics and their biological and chemical effects on the environment and organisms. To my surprise, seven Singaporean students showed up to see the lecture, and asked important questions regarding natural science. The friendly Singaporean professor, Dr. Lick, was even nice enough to buy us all pizza!

Following the visit to NIE, we began the journey home. After this long and exciting day, all anyone wanted was a nice cold bed and a good night’s sleep, so we all passed out by 9:30 p.m.