Visitors of Singapore Botanic Gardens can now access a network of boardwalks and elevated walkways to explore wetland and rainforest habitats, which are parts of the Learning Forest, a new conservation core in the gardens.
Officially opened by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on 31 March, the 10ha secondary forest next to Tyersall Avenue houses more than 700 plant species and more than 200 species of fauna.
Mr Lee said the gardens' was successful in its Unesco bid because for more than 150 years, Singapore took special care of the gardens.
“Now, the Learning Forest builds on this legacy of conservation and improvement,” he said.
“While takes decades to plant a garden or forest, in the fullness of time the new forest will be able to enrich Singapore's natural heritage,” Mr Lee added.
Highlights of the Learning Forest include the Keppel Discovery Wetlands – the first project in Southeast Asia to recreate a freshwater swamp forest, and the SPH Walk of Giants – a collection of some of the region’s tallest tree species. The Learning Forest also provides a showcase of wild fruit trees.
The Learning Forest is an extensive restoration project of the lowland forest and wetland habitats that used to surround the Singapore Botanic Gardens. Detailed site surveys were conducted and reference was taken from early 19th century maps to restore these former habitats.
It was designed to integrate with the gardens’ existing 6-hectare rain forest to form an enlarged forest habitat that will help strengthen the conservation of native flora and fauna.
It will form a buffer against the urban development surrounding Singapore’s first UNESCO World Heritage Site, and serve as an important reference for the ongoing research work of restoration ecology around the region.
Keppel Discovery Wetlands
The 1.8-hectare Keppel Discovery Wetlands was recreated by EJH Corner – a former assistant director of the Gardens, who extensively documented the wetland forests of Johor and Singapore.
The Wetlands features a carefully curated plant collection of over 200 species, including plants named after some the Gardens’ botanists such as Nathaniel Cantley, Henry Ridley and EJH Corner.
Connected by trails and boardwalks, the Wetlands provides an opportunity for the public to access and experience a freshwater swamp habitat in the heart of the city.
The Orchid Islands showcase a large number of native orchids, many of which have been conserved through NParks’ native orchid conservation programme. The public will be able to admire the forms and colours displayed by these native orchids in their natural habitat.
SPH Walk of Giants
The SPH Walk of Giants is an elevated boardwalk in the forest which showcases a collection of giant trees – most of which, in time, can grow up to at least 60 metres in height (or about 20 storeys high). It is one of several thematic walks in the Learning Forest.
Singapore Press Holdings (SPH) donated S$1.2 million, through the GCF, to co-fund the construction of the elevated boardwalk. The SPH Walk of Giants will take visitors from ground level up to a height of 8 metres and offer them an unobstructed view of the forest floor, mid-forest level and canopy.
The Learning Forest opens from 5am to midnight daily, admission is free. The SPH Walk of Giants and Keppel Discovery Wetlands will be closed from 7pm to 7am to maintain a conducive habitat for wildlife.
The Learning Forest is next to the 8-hectare Gallop extension, which will be opened to the public by 2018. In November 2015, NParks announced an 8-hectare Gallop extension which will include three features – the Gallop Arboretum, Forest Conservation Interpretive Centre and Natural History Art Gallery.
No. 7 Gallop Road, also known as ‘Inverturret’, will showcase how art has played a vital role in the scientific documentation of fauna and flora. The gallery will be the home of the Singapore Botanic Gardens’ botanical art collection, showcasing pieces which have been carefully collected over the past 125 years.
Situated along Gallop Road, the extension brings the total area of the Singapore Botanic Gardens Tyersall-Gallop Core to approximately 18 hectares and provides more opportunities for visitors to understand forest ecology and showcase the Gardens’ botanical art collection.