Bukit Timah Nature Reserve

Bukit Timah means Tin Hill in Malay, but it has nothing to do with tin. The name might be derived from the pokok temak trees that are commonly found on the 163.6m-tall hill, which is Singapore’s tallest hill and natural point.

Bounded by the four reservoirs (Upper and Lower Peirce Reservoirs, MacRitchie Reservoir and Upper Seletar Reservoir), Bukit Timah Nature Reserve covers 1.64 square kilometers of area, which is only 0.2% of Singapore. Despite the small size, it contains a huge variety of plants, animals and insects. Almost 40% of Singapore’s flora and fauna can be found here.

The name of Bukit Timah appeared on the maps of the British colonial government as early as 1828. In 1883, Bukit Timah Nature Reserve was established, and has been protected and undisturbed since then. Its surrounding tropical vegetation, the only remaining primary forest in Singapore, stays largely the same for the past hundreds of years.

The 400-year-old Shorea Curtisii trees, reportedly Singapore’s oldest trees, can be found in the nature reserve.

Opens from 8.30am to 6pm daily, the Visitor Centre gives a brief introduction on the history of Bukit Timah and holds an exhibition displaying the animals, plants and artifacts related to the nature reserve. It is usually the starting point for the first-time trekkers.

Bukit Timah was once infested by tigers in the 19th century, which would swim across the narrow straits between Johor and Kranji. It was reported that as many as 200 locals were killed by tigers annually in the 1860s. However, the hunting of the big cats and clearing of forests led to the extinction of tigers in Singapore by 1930. The leopards were also wiped out due to the shrinking of their natural habitats in Singapore.

In the past, part of Bukit Timah was a quarry for granite until the mid of the 20th century. When the resources were exhausted, the quarry was abandoned for decades and only recently it is being redeveloped into a park known as the Hindhede Nature Park. Officially opened in 2001, it is a scenic place for nature-lovers with its bluish water and serene and peaceful surroundings.

Its more famous cousin, the Bukit Batok Town Park or more popularly known as Little Guilin, is also created from a disused granite quarry in 1984.

During the Second World War, the British surrendered to the Japanese in 1942 after they lost the defense of Bukit Timah, which was their main location for food and supplies. The treaty was signed at the nearby Ford Factory which marked the British’s surrender of Malaya and the beginning of the Japanese Occupation, which lasted three years and eight months of horror and pain for the locals.

An interesting trivia about Bukit Timah Nature Reserve is the Bukit Timah Monkey Man, which has been reportedly spotted by locals for more than 200 years since 1805. Said to possess a monkey face but able to walk like a man, no photographs or videos of the cryptozoologically creature are ever recorded, but it has captured the imagination of many people. It, however, may be a mistaken identity as Bukit Timah Nature Reserve is home to many species of monkey.

Bukit Timah was largely an industrial area in the sixties. When Jurong gradually took over the industrial and manufacturing role towards the end of the sixties, Bukit Timah was redeveloped into a prime residential district known as District 11. Today, it is Singapore’s most expensive district covered with luxury condominiums, bungalows and mansions. It is also home to many prominent local politicians.

The former Turf Club also falls within the Bukit Timah district, operating from 1933 to 2000 before being replaced by Kranji Turf Club. Bukit Timah Road, and the parallel Dunearn Road, was built in 1845 and is Singapore’s longest road at the length of 25km.

Rifle Range Road and the Bukit Timah Expressway (BKE) are the only roads that cut through Bukit Timah Nature Reserve. Rifle Range Road leads to the Rifle Range Camp and the Ammunition Command Camp whereas BKE, completed in 1986, run northwards to connect Pan-Island Expressway (PIE) to Kranji Expressway (KJE) and Seletar Expressway (SLE).

Part of the former railway system also ran through Rifle Range Road and passed by the boundary of Bukit Timah Nature Reserve near Upper Bukit Timah Road.

Published: 03 January 2012

15 Responses to Bukit Timah Nature Reserve

  1. Jeffery Leong says:

    You should do Wallace Trail to Dairy Farm building. The trail is really out of Singapore, as if in some mystical forest.

  2. Babah Sam says:

    the visitor center is where me late grandfather house are….. miss this place so much… it where me grow up……………..

  3. Babah Sam says:

    the summit is where we can see eagle flying early in the morning…. nice view 2…..

  4. shaun says:

    Monkey man does exist.

  5. shaun says:

    Totally agree with you dude. ”Monkey Man” totally exists. But this isn’t the only ”cryptid” in Singapore. In Macritchie Reservoir, there’s this ”water dragon” of some sort which is actually a maneater. You know, the ”Monkey Man” may as well be Sumatra’s ”Orang Pendek”. I mean, Sumatra’s the nearest Indonesian island, ”Orang Pendek” could’ve swam all the way to Singapore!

  6. stanyysnta says:

    Did you manage to get photos of the 400 year old trees?

  7. Gosh… are they really going to cut through Bukit Timah Nature Reserve?

    (Source: Land Transport Authority)

  8. Sheree Tomassen-Lambert says:

    Too much progress already. I was born in Singapore and have many fond memories of the place. It is sad to see the charm gone. Its just another city..-:( This is where my family the Lamberts were well known.

  9. shuzhen says:

    All those fond memories of the place became buildings..flats..very sad. Is like everything about last time just vanished..

  10. Nick says:

    I always wondered about the history of the house on the hill, next to the watertanks structure. Anyone knows?

  11. Bukit Timah Nature Reserve to close for restoration works
    02 June 2014

    SINGAPORE: The Bukit Timah Nature Reserve will be closed to the public for at least six months from September 15 while it undergoes restoration works, the National Parks Board (NParks) said on Monday (June 2). This is the first time the reserve will be closed to the public.

    After the six-month period, there will be limited access to the nature reserve for another 18 months, while the Main Road trail leading to the summit will be reopened only on weekends.

    NParks said it has found damage to the forests and an erosion of the slopes and trails over the years. The Bukit Timah Nature Reserve was visited by 400,000 people last year – five times more than 20 years ago.

    Said Dr Leong Chee Chiew, NParks’ Commissioner of Parks and Recreation: “In recent years, we have also found that the constant trampling of trails has caused quite drastic erosion along our trees. And when this happens then trails become wider; the roots of trees become exposed. It weakens the trees and so we have seen some tree falls which is not good in a natural forest like this. But on top of that, we are also concerned that if we do not repair these trails, then when visitors walk they may trip and fall”.

    Nature Reserves Scientific Advisory Committee Chairman Joseph Koh said the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve is particularly vulnerable because it is small and almost isolated, and may not have the resilience of a large forest to recover itself from the stress of excessive physical degradation.

    During the two-year period, it will be repairing over half, or more than 4.55 kilometres, of the reserve’s trails, as well as stabilising slopes and restoring its flora and fauna. A 1.3km-long raised boardwalk will also be built, as well as railings installed along critical areas of trails to ensure visitors do not stray off the trails.

    “A raised boardwalk simply allows you to walk on an elevated platform without actually impacting on the forest floor. The insects and the animals can actually coexist quite happily underneath those raised trails,” said Dr Leong.

    While NParks assures that there is no immediate danger currently, restorations have to be done to prevent further degradation or major landslides. NParks will also be upgrading the reserve’s visitor centre, which is more than 20 years old, and adding a new toilet block to house additional washroom facilities.

  12. Mike Gaskell says:

    We used to live in Mayfair Park off Rifle Range Rd when I was in the R.A.F. In 1965-67. We used Bukit Time Nature Preserve as a recreational escape and have fond memories of our time there.

  13. Ali Martin says:

    My grandfather (Phil Fielding) was the Dairy Farm manager in the 1950s and 1960s. Looking forward to return in Feb 15 to look at the area once again.

    • Thaddeus Loo says:

      Hi Ali, I am Thaddeus Loo, Jerome’s buddy. We met you, your mum and daughter, Charlotte at the Wallace Centre when all three of you came to Dairy Farm on Feb 25 2015. We tried to contact you and I had wanted to see you off at the airport. Jerome tried to reach you, but in vain.Please drop me a line at : tlslsn@aol.com or via Facebook Thaddeus Loo

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