General interest (Wide-ranging): Journey into the heart of Singapore’s sprawling ecological wetland

Journey into the heart of Singapore’s sprawling ecological wetland

It was a hot day.  Forty-two people, all residents of the Siglap neighbourhood, braved the heat for an outing to the Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve on Sunday, 15 May 2016, to join the many nature-lovers who were already there, snapping pictures of their pride and passion – the flora and fauna of Singapore’s first ASEAN Heritage Park.

Members of the group…happy to explore and learn about the flora and fauna of the Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve.

Members of the group…happy to explore and learn about the flora and fauna of the Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve.

The trip, organised as part of the activities of the Siglap Community Centre’s Malay Activity Executive Committee (MAEC), comprised neighbourhood briskwalkers of MAEC, fondly known as the “Briskwalk Gang”.

Just like the weekly Sunday briskwalking occasion at the Siglap CC, the group did some 5-minutes of warming up exercises led by our regular exercise leader, Mr Najib Ahmad. Then, the 4-km walk into the wetland began. The trails took us to various points and locations. The first-time visitors in the group were fascinated not only by the extensive mangrove forest but also mangrove wildlife such as monitor lizards, otters, giant mudskippers, tree-climbing crabs, egrets and herons.

Walking and stopping to observe, learn and enjoy the sights and sounds of the wetland.

Walking and stopping to observe, learn and enjoy the sights and sounds of the wetland.

Sungei Buloh was first opened as a Nature Park in 1993.  Then, in 2002, the park was gazetted as a Nature Reserve and renamed Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve, and in the following year, the wetland became Singapore’s first ASEAN Heritage Park.

This place is a haven for nature lovers and other visitors to indulge in the wonders and tranquility of nature.  With tele-lens cameras, they flock to capture images of anything that moves – from animals and reptiles to insects and birds.

The Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve is a haven for nature-lovers and photographers: Trails lead the visitors to explore and enjoy nature.

The Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve is a haven for nature-lovers and photographers: Trails lead the visitors to explore and enjoy nature.

Our group members weaved through the mangroves along boardwalks (wooden platforms on stilts) over the wet areas, and along pebbled sandy walkways, catching the wonderful sights and always stopping to hear some mystic sounds of the wetland.

Visitors can enjoy the many lovely sights as they make their way around the wetland.

Visitors can enjoy the many lovely sights of rivers, ponds and wet areas as they make their way around the wetland, many with their handphone cameras ready to snap at anything strange or attractive.

Happy to be with nature and friends, with the lady in red doing a peacock dance.

Happy to be with nature and friends, with the lady in red doing a Brazilian samba.

Climbing up the Aerie Tower to get a panoramic view of the wetland.

Climbing up the 18 metre high Aerie Tower to get a panoramic view of the tranquil wetland:  The higher the climb, the more splendid is the view.

Viewing the surrounding from the Observation Pod, an onion-like artistic structure on stilts.

A weave into mysterious corners: Enjoying the sights of the surrounding from the Observation Pod, an onion-like artistic structure on stilts.

As the sun climbed higher, packet lunch and bottled mineral water drinks, provided by the organisers, gave the group an opportunity to rest and take some respite.  The results of the entries of the photo-taking contest, sent via WhatsApp and judged by the Chairman of MAEC, Mr Yacob Hussain, and the writer of this article, were announced.  Mr Yacob gave away the top three prizes and five consolation prizes.

She was all smile when suddenly her name was announced as a prize winner of the wetland photo contest. A pleasant shock and jubilant tears were the result before she could get up to collect her prize.

She was all smile when suddenly her name was announced as a prize winner of the wetland photo contest. A pleasant shock and some shedding of jubilant tears followed before she could get up to collect her prize.

“Family Bonding” and “Baby Alligator” are among the prize winning photos.

Thinking to be as free as birds, and keeping a watchful eye on dangerous animals: “Family Way of Bonding” and “Monitor Lizard” are among the prize winning photos.

“My reflection”, by Ms Fathmah Alkhatib, was given the first prize honour. The other photo, “The Gu Gu Dance”, is among the other winning photos.

“My reflection”, by Ms Fathmah Alkhatib, won the first prize. The other photo, “The Gu Gu Dance”, is among the other winning photos.

Ms Fathmah Alkhatib stood up excitedly when she was announced as the first prize winner. Her happy mother-in-law, Mdm Aisha Said Khadaied, joined in to collect the prize from Mr Yacob Hussain, Chairman of MAEC.

Ms Fathmah Alkhatib stood up excitedly on hearing her name being called out as the first prize winner. Her happy mother-in-law, Mdm Aisha Said Khadaied, joined in to collect the prize from Mr Yacob Hussain, Chairman of MAEC.

Ms Sri Zuraida, who is the Assistant Treasurer of MAEC, said that the members enjoyed the trip and learned much from what the wetland offers. “The trip proved to be an exciting experience. It is a good place for family bonding. Here, we come very close to nature, making us admire its beauty, especially plants. I love beautiful plants.”

The beauty and the beautiful plant…

The beauty and the beautiful plant:  An apple a day keeps wrinkles away is her beauty secret.

Talking about the members in the group as well as the benefits of walking in the wetland, she said: “About 75 percent of the people in the group were the regular members of the Briskwalk Gang.  The others were new members.  Hopefully, they would join our briskwalk activity on Sunday mornings at the Siglap CC.  For today, here in the wetland, let us sweat it out to stay healthy.”

Sri added: “Apart from the health benefits, the weekly briskwalk gatherings and the quarterly outings give us opportunities to get to know each other better and make new friends. We want to be a happy family of Siglap.”

Some of the members of the group...feeling hot but happy.

Some of the members of the group…feeling hot and tired but happy.

Ha! Ha! Ha! Sri, where got wedding up to 5 o’clock in the morning!!!!

Ha! Ha! Ha! Sri, where got wedding up to 5 o’clock in the morning!!!!  (Reminding the group about the wedding invitation  of one of the members of the Briskwalk Gang, Sri said that the invitation on the following Saturday, 21 May, would be “up to 5 o’clock in the morning”.   Laughing herself, she corrected:  “Sorry, sorry! Slip of the tongue lah.  Sorry!  Up to 5 o’clock in the afternoon.”)

Guess, they are discussing what mud-game to play when they go down to the mud area via the rope-netting bridge…well, some say, mud is good for facials.

Guess, they are discussing what mud-game to play when they go down to the mud area via the rope-netting bridge…well, anyway, some say, mud is good for facials.

The MAEC had organised three outing-cum-exercise sessions for its briskwalkers last year (2015): Changi Point in January, Marina Barrage in April and HortPark in November.

At the end of the day’s excursion in the wetland, Mr Najib told the group: “Today’s trip here is the second outing this year, the previous one being an outing to Coney Island in February. Our next outing will be in September, God-willing, and it will be an outing in the city area.”

“It’s time to home, but where has my husband disappeared? Oh, no! Oh, no! There’s violent movement and struggling in the bushes. Hope that’s not my darling husband, Najib, being eaten alive by the hungry wetland crocodiles…”

“I’m worried. Good thing I brought a pair of binoculars to watch birds, and it’s useful now.  It’s time to go home, but where has my husband disappeared? Oh, no! Oh, no! There’s violent movement and struggling in the bushes. Hope that’s not my darling husband, Najib, being eaten alive by the hungry wetland crocodiles.”

By Shaik Kadir

17 May 2016

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