Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve is quite possibly one of the most dangerous places in Singapore, as the Saltwater Crocodile is known to live in these mangroves.
The Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve is the first wetlands reserve in the region and covers an area of 130 Hectares. Its global importance as a stopover point for migratory birds was recognised as an ASEAN Heritage Park in 2003. This was one of the last nature areas of Singapore that I visited, mainly because I was scared of the crocodiles that are said to live here, but seeing as the admission is free, and the reserve is open from around 7am-7pm, it gave me a good opportunity to get back in touch with nature and to get away from Singapore’s humid downtown core.
Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve was officially opened in December 1993 and the Singaporean Government formally announced on 10 November 2001 that it would be accorded “Nature Reserve” status, a step that protects the area from any unauthorised destruction or alteration. It is one of four nature reserves to be gazetted, with the others being Labrador Nature Reserve, Bukit Timah Nature Reserve, and the Central Catchment Nature Reserve.
The mangrove swamps around here are not the kind of waters you would want to wade. Crocodiles, snakes, and even giant lizards can all give you a bit of a scare (or worse), so the safe boardwalks are perfect to observe the area from up high.
One may find the Malayan Water Monitor in the area. These are harmless lizards, although they may give a nasty bite if you get too close. Usually, you can see them swimming in the shallow waters, or sunbathing on the grass beside the boardwalks. I have seen plenty of water monitors in Singapore, even a wild one at the Zoo which was crawling out of the Seletar Reservoir, and also many at the Botanical Gardens. However, if you were determined to see one of these huge lizards, then a visit to Sungei Buloh Wetlands Reserve is the place to come – they are everywhere!
Among the many birds that can be spotted feeding on the diverse fauna here are the Oriental Hornbill, but many smaller species are around here too. Lucky visitors to the reserve may be able to spot the resident family of smooth otters, as well as the rare lesser whistling-duck, and the rare milky stork. Crabs and mudskippers dominate the littoral zone, the area between the low and high tide zones. Mud lobsters and their volcano-like mounds can be observed above the high-tide level. For more details about the kind of wildlife on show here, check out this informative guide from Have Fun With Kids.
Observation hides are available where visitors can observe the flora and fauna in the surroundings in tranquility and at a distance from the animals and birds. Chinese egrets, greater spotted eagles, and greater crested terns can be observed from the hide. Atlas moths, the largest species of moth in Southeast Asia, can be found in the back mangroves area of the reserve.
Saltwater crocodiles are occasionally seen in the reserve, although it is not known whether or not these are individuals that had wandered over from Indonesia or part of a localised population (this species was once common in Singapore but was said to be extinct). On my visit to the reserve, I was (un)lucky enough not to see any of these salties, but I know they are there, and who knows, maybe they knew I was there, too! You need to keep your wits about you at Sungei Buloh!