Lush, hot and tropical. That is what strikes you when you walk off Holland Road into the oasis that is the Singapore Botanical Gardens. Straight from the beating heart of busy Singapore into a quiet, green haven of tranquility. You are greeted by a large lake and small streams shielded from the road by the mass of overhanging rattan trees. It seems most unlikely, but as you learn in Singapore, nothing is to be unexpected. Opening from 5a.m. to midnight, 365 days a year, the Botanical Garden doesn’t charge an entrance fee and yet for what is has to offer you would gladly pay.
A short walk along the grass fringed pathways brings you to a genuine rainforest, deep in the city of Singapore. Covering six hectares it is one of only a few remnants of rainforest left on the island, a window into a primeval era preserved by the Botanical Gardens. Towering above you is the canopy, sometimes forty metres in height, with trees that have been here since long before Mr. Raffles stood on these shores. A walk through this forest provides you with an inkling of what it must have been like in the distant past before man’s encroachment took its toll. For those with a thirst for knowledge there are guided tours undertaken by volunteers every second Saturday of the month.
For those with a thirst of a different type, fear not, for on exiting the rainforest you will come across a kiosk serving ice cold drinks and ice creams (perfect timing). Opposite the kiosk is the famous National Orchid Garden. Whilst the Botanical Gardens are free to enter, there is a fee for experiencing the Orchids (S$5 adults, free for children under 12). But once you are in you won’t begrudge a cent. With over 1000 species housed here and 600 of them on display even the least green fingered of us can appreciate the splendor of their beauty, not to mention the incredible fragrance which greets you.
Exiting the Orchid Garden brings you to the top of a hill looking down onto Symphony Lake headed by the Shaw Foundation Symphony Stage. The stage, surrounded by the lake, is known for its hosting of music from around the world. Often held on the weekends, concerts are free for everyone to come and listen to, so unroll your picnic blanket and enjoy. The last one I went to was on a Sunday evening, it was good fun, well organised and a very chilled and relaxed way to end my weekend. They are fairly few and far between so make sure you keep in touch with the Garden's website for details
A little way on from the stage and up a hill you come to the visitor centre, flanked by water attractions and often locals silently perfecting their Thai-Chi of a morning. The visitor services offer another chance for refreshments as well as being the educational and recreational hub of the gardens. You will also find parking, restrooms, and an information desk amongst the newly landscaped area that is linked by walkways, a landscaped plaza and water cascades.
A short walk from here is the Evolution Garden. This 1.5 hectare site is dedicated to telling us how plants have evolved through the millennia and how plants have helped and shaped the human race along the way. You take a fascinating passage through time with the real stars of the show existing and living in front of you.
Moving on to the far north of the Gardens you encounter the Jacob Ballas Children’s Garden. Although part of the Garden’s the Children’s Gardens exist almost as a separate entity. Indeed, you could easily spend half a day exploring. The catch? All adults must be accompanied by a child. This is a great way to encourage the whole family into the Gardens. They are specifically designed for a child’s inquisitive mind and as such need to children to get the best out of them. Opening from 7am to 8pm the gardens encourage children to touch, smell and climb on the exhibits. After free entry there is a simple (yet popular) wet play area. Once you have managed to drag the kids past this they will encounter exhibits some of which, on the face of it, have quite grown up themes. These include the exhibit on photosynthesis. A grown up theme, and yet the design allows kids to get involved by turning handles to bring out the sun, another one produces rain (generally their favourite) and so on, thus gradually introducing them to idea that science can be fun. Other exhibits include a tree house, rope bridge and pond life which are accessible even to the smallest of offspring. The trees allow plenty of shade and refreshments can be bought in the reception area outside. There is car parking available and a drop off point for taxis right outside the entrance.