Monkeys and Crocs and Croaks, Oh My!

Today we went on an excursion to the landscapes of Northern Singapore, and boy there was much to see! After a relatively short bus ride the scenery had changed completely from that of a modern city to open countryside. Diverse greenery was perforated by rolling cemeteries, fish farms, and looming barbed wire fences from behind which fighter jets roared to flight. Singapore’s intimidating military presence, quite literally snarling over our heads, was cut by a collection of soothing nature reserves. The Kranji Marshes, our first stop in the north, proved to be a popular birding destination. With a large lookout tower and swaths of cordoned off marshland to survey, Kranji provided much to be admired. It was our next stop, however, which proved to be a true gem.

Kranji Outlook Tower

Only a couple of minutes away by bus, the Sungei Bulow Wetlands teemed with wildlife. Allowing much more extensive public access, Sungei Bulow had everything to set a nature-lover’s heart ablaze – rope bridges and exploratory mud flats for the more adventurous, mangrove forests chalk full of massive spiders for the observant, boardwalks overlooking Malaysia for the laid back, and fascinating creatures for us all. In the couple of hours that we were there, I personally observed a dozen or more truly captivating species.

From the horseshoe crabs that reminded me of my childhood summers on Georgian beaches to the water monitors that scurried along every couple of meters, Sungei Bulow had me captivated. A wide array of brightly colored birds accompanied us the entire way, including several species of neon blue-winged kingfishers. My favorite bird by far was much larger! A Great Hornbill flew down upon us out of thin air on the far side of the reserve, its double-tipped beak and massive wingspan surreal and vaguely reminiscent of a Dr. Seuss character.Defined as nearly threatened globally and very rare in Singapore, the hornbill’s presence was luck for sure. Other remarkable creatures included a massive crocodile and Long-tailed Macaques, which for one reason or another were fearless in the face of a group of curious college students.

Long-tailed Macaques
Sungei Bulow erosion control
Wetland overlook

After an improvised lunch, we briefly stopped at a local cemetery and then frog farm. I was disappointed to not have the chance to explore the cemetery at great length, as there was much to see! Singapore’s cemeteries have become a point of great contention due to spatial strains. Most of the deceased are now cremated for this very reason. However, the older plots in the countryside are incredibly interesting, with clear deviations between diverse religious customs and belief systems. I want to go back!

The frog farm was our last stop of the day, and proved to be quite a unique experience. Patio upon patio of covered enclosure was stocked full of everything from eggs and algae, to tadpoles, to full grown frogs ready for market. One of a kind in Singapore, the owners of the operation have cornered a niche market in the food supply.