The first time I visited Singapore was last year in February, typically the rainy season in that part of the world. I was only in Singapore for two days and was blessed both days with heavy rains. In spite of that I managed to squeeze in a quick trip to the National Orchid Garden at the Singapore Botanic Garden. I promised myself that on a return trip I would return to the gardens and explore to my heart’s content. I got that chance this year when I returned to Singapore for the FlyerTalk SIN Do in January. I arrived two days early for the Do and headed to the Garden on my second day there. With no particular plan in mind, I spent a delightful four and a half hours exploring this jewel of Singapore.
Location Located in the city in the Tanglin area, the Garden is easily accessed by public transport (bus) or by taxi. I chose to have a taxi drop me off at the Botany Centre gate on Cluny Road and took a bus back to Orchard Road at the end of my visit.
Background Covering over 74 hectares (approximately 185 acres) of land, the Singapore Botanic Gardens was the idea of Sir Stamford Raffles who wanted to use the botanic gardens to explore the cultivation and sustainability of nutmeg and clove as cash crops. Because of the size of the Garden, it became too expensive to maintain and was abandoned asSingapore’s cash crop shifted to rubber. The Gardens were re-established in 1859 by the Agri-Horticultural Society. Today, the Botanic Gardens is managed by the Singaporean government, National Parks. Known as the ‘People’s Garden’ it is a popular place for both Singaporeans and tourists to visit for recreation, sport, education, weddings, and cultural activities.
Awards In 2008 the Singapore National Botanic Garden received Time Magazine’s award as ‘Asia’s Best Urban Jungle’ as well as Three Stars in the Michelin Green Guide. In 2014, Singapore put in a bid for the Botanic Garden’s nomination as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The application detailed the Gardens’ historical, economic and socio-cultural importance in the world as well as Singapore.
There are several learning areas and museums located within the Gardens. The two that I visited were the Heritage Museum and the CDL Green Gallery which, at the time, featured a ‘Living in the Garden’ interactive display covering the greening of Singapore. Both of these museum galleries just recently opened in November of 2013, and there is actually a SBG Heritage Museum iPhone app available to accompany you on your visit.
National Orchid Garden The Orchid Garden is unquestionably one of the biggest attractions and boasts the largest display of tropical orchids in the world. It is easily located by following one of the many signposts throughout the Garden.
You can see the National Flower of Singapore, Vanda Miss Joaquim, named after the woman who discovered it in her garden in 1893.
The Orchidarium is where most of the wild orchids are displayed in the National Orchid Garden. They are a little less showy than the hybridized orchids, but are outstandingly beautiful in their natural habitat.
The Cool House is an enclosed tropical forest with displays of orchids, bromeliads, and carnivorous plants. The cool air and tumbling waterfall give a very realistic impression of high elevation sites in the tropics. It is also a nice way to spend a few minutes out of the heat and humidity while visiting the gardens.
The Ginger Garden Officially launched in 2003, this area of the Botanic Garden has over 500 species of the Zingiberaceae family.
Along the way in the Ginger Garden, there is a manmade cave and waterfall that you can nip behind for another chance to cool off.
Saraca Stream Walk Not far from the Tanglin Gate, you will find this little stream. It’s a nice place to stop for a bit and enjoy the sound of the water as it makes its way downhill.
There are plenty of little paths off the main paved paths with interesting seating areas.
Palm Valley has over 200 species of palms.
One of the best locations along the Garden trail for taking pictures is the Golden Shower Arches.
There is just so much to see and do in the Singapore Botanic Gardens. You don’t necessarily have to be a flower or orchid enthusiast in order to appreciate and enjoy its peace and beauty, There are also several restaurants and a cafe within the grounds – Au Jardin by Les Amis, a French restaurant; Halia; Casa Verde, a casual cafe eatery; and Food for Thought, an indoor/outdoor cafe.
If you are visiting Singapore, the Botanic Gardens should definitely be on your list of places to visit.
Photo Essay – more pictures taken in the Gardens.
ResourcesGuide to the Orchid Garden Guide to the Ginger Garden Map of the Gardens
Singapore Botanic Gardens
Hours: 5 am to 12 midnight daily
Admission Fee: Free
National Orchid Garden
Opening hours: 8.30 am to 7 pm daily (last ticket sale at 6pm).
Senior Citizens (60 years) $1.00
Children (under 12 years) Free