Sunday, 19 February 2017

Tips for Hiking at MacRitchie Nature Trail

Due to certain reasons, we did not travel a lot for the Year 2016. But we discovered a new found interest-hiking at the different natural reserves in Singapore! For the past few weeks, we hiked at Sungei Buloh Nature Reserve, Bukit Timah Hill Nature Reserve and most recently the MacRitchie Nature Trial. Apart from keeping ourselves fit, the hikes also opened our eyes to the natural wonders of the protected areas. We saw wild animals and plants in their natural habitats and learnt to appreciate the sound of the forest. For this article, I like to bring you all through our experience at MacRitchie Nature Trial.
MacRitchie Natural Hiking Trail
MacRitchie is made famous by it's reservoir, natural hiking trails and the Tree Top Walk. The later is a 250 m suspended bridge overlooking the rainforest below and the afar Upper Peirce Reservoir.If you are lucky enough, you can even also catch sight of the animals roaming among the trees. I will not be making a comprehensive coverage for our visit but will focus on the tips and "not to be missed" to look out for if you intend to pay a visit.

Where to start/end
We made two trips to MacRitchie recently and commenced both our hikes from the Venus Drive Carpark. But the end points differed. The first hike ended back at where we began and the second trip ended at the MacRitchie Reservoir (you can start your hike from here, pass the Tree Top Walk and end at where you start or at Venus Drive Carpark). The total distance for the first hike was about 6-7 KM and about 10-11 KM for the second.

Time to hike
The good time is early morning from 8 am or afternoon at about 4 pm where the sun is not at it's harshest. But you may wish to start off a bit early at noon if you wish to pay the Tree Top Walk a visit. The bridge actually closes off at 5 pm sharp. (We missed this place by minutes for our first visit and only got to visit only on our second visit!)

Things to prepare
Wear light-Although protect by the trees'shades, the humidity of Singapore will get into your skin. Wear light clothing for good cooling.

Good hiking shoes-Invest in good hiking or track shoes. Many natural path are rocky and slippery (especially after rain!). I saw two cases of people spraining their ankles and not able to continue their journey.

Insect repellent-This is a must. There are savage mosquitoes (and other insects) preparing to feast on your blood if you do not put on the proper repellent. Apply to your exposed skin before making your trip into the forest. The plastered type of insect repellent also suffice.

Water and food- Bring enough water. You can top up your bottle only at the Ranger's station. Ration your drink! For food, bring some snacks along to fill your stomach if hungry strikes. There are no cafe or restaurant in the natural reserves :-)

Zoom Camera-This is only for the photo enthusiast. If you wish to get a great shot at the wild life without disturbing them, cameras with zoom lens will surely minimize your frustration of not getting a great shot with a normal one.  

Umbrella-This is of course save for rainy days :-). There are limited shelters and you do not want to be caught in a storm in the rainforest.
Wild Life at MacRitchie
Natural Stream
About 10 mins from the Venus Carpark entrance, you will come forth a natural stream that is rare to find in Singapore. Take a stop here and observe carefully the habitats here. You can easily spot fishes and tadpoles in the stream. If your eyes are sharp enough, there are many furry squirrels hopping and scurrying among the trees here. Obviously, living near stream makes live convenient for these little mammals when they wish to quench their thirst.If you have little ones, you can play a game with them on spotting the number of squirrels in the surrounding here.

The Ranger Station
You know you are near the Tree Top Bridge when arriving here. Many people take this place as a resting place before and after walking the Tree Top Bridge. You can top up your empty bottles from the water coolers on site and relieve yourselves at the public toilets. This is also a good place to sight the monkeys. They will be among the nearby trees and the building roof. The reason is obvious-whenever there are humans, there will be food. Do not expose your snacks to the monkeys. They can become very aggressive when they see your food and will try all means to steal them from your possession.

The Tree Top Walk
This destination serves as a highlight for many people hiking here. You have to reach here before 5 pm or the Ranger in charge will actually shut the gate to the bridge. Do not think you can sneak in as there is simply no way past the gate after it is locked. In fact, a signage at the Ranger station will advise you to change your mind if you are already past the 445 pm mark. You do not want to waste your effort to overcome the slope before the Tree Top Walk.

You know you reach the entrance of the Tree Top Walk when  you see a set of stairs leading downwards with signboards showing you the animals you get to see at the bridge (if you are lucky and sharp eyes enough!). It will lead you to a sheltered gate which serves as the starting point of the 250 m bridge. A ranger is stationed there to ensure no more than 30 people load the bridge at one time.

When we were there, I saw other "guardians" perching on the railing of the bridge. The monkeys were waiting patiently for people to walk past them before snatching anything they could lay hands on. We had a difficult time getting past them as they tried to grab any of my loose items from me at any possible opportunity. Ensure you secure your items and put your backpack/bag to the front.

The bridge is meant for one way traffic and single file movement. If you want to get pass the person in front, he/she has to step side way. On the bridge, we get to see the bird's eye view of the rainforest below us. This is the only place in Singapore where you can get this kind of panoramic sight of the natural reserve. A long flight of steps await you when you accomplish the 250 m bridge walk but you will not regret your decision to visit the Tree Top Walk.
The Tree Top Walk
MacRitchie Reservoir Park 
Depend on your hiking plan, you can start or end at the MacRitchie Reservoir Park. The park offers you a scenic view of the MacRitchie Reservoir and if you are energetic enough, can opt for a Kayak adventure on the placid water. Watch out for Monitor Lizards which like to hang around the water!

We will continue to visit MacRitchie Nature Trail and add on more tips which we find helpful. Enjoy your hike :-) !

(Discover this interesting site that covers the top 50 long distance hiking trails in the USA. A must see for those adventurous hikers!) 

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