Catch a bus to see Singapore’s lush rainforests

Singapore, Oct 10 (DPA) “The last tiger was killed here in 1930, so there’s nothing to worry about,” says Benjamin Lee, a ranger in Bukit Timah rainforest near Singapore’s centre, to a group of tourists.

This Southeast Asian metropolis is one of the few big cities in the world where you can catch a bus or taxi to a real rainforest. That explains why Bukit Timah, one of Singapore’s green lungs, is always packed with families, young couples and mountain bikers at the weekend.

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The reserve is just one of Singapore’s many attractions but the local tourist authorities are not resting on their laurels and have plans to turn Singapore into Asia’s number one destination.

With that goal in mind, Singapore is investing billions in infrastructure such as hotels and casinos and a “Sky Park” which when completed will be the biggest rooftop garden in the world.

Singapore is already a green city and will remain so in future. The hill of Bukit Timah at 163 metres is the highest point in the city-state where it’s always two or three degrees cooler than in the rest of the city, making it a popular place to get some refreshment from the heat, according to Lee.

It’s also a good place to begin walking to the Central Catchment Nature Reserve, which together with Bukit Timah, stretches over 2,000 hectares of land.

The nature reserve has a 250 metre long hanging bridge suspended in the treetops and with a little luck you will see some monkeys while walking along one of the trails around MacRitchie water reservoir.

There are more species of trees in Bukit Timah than in North America, ranger Lee says proudly. Like most Singaporeans he’s very fond of impressing people with record statistics.

Singapore’s authorities have agreed a plan that will change the face of the city irrevocably.

They’ve called the plan “A City in the Garden”. It foresees improving links between Singapore’s parks by building bridges, for example.

The city’s 250-hectare large botanical garden has already been connected to Singapore’s orchid garden.

A ticket to the orchid garden where visitors can admire Singapore’s national flower costs 2.50 euros ($3.50). Admission to the botanical garden is free and every year about three million people flock there.

A major development is planned for Marina Bay, which at the moment is dominated by hotel complexes on one side of its shore and high-rise bank buildings on the other.

The city planners want to build a new garden city consisting of three parks designed by internationally renowned architects.

At the moment, three new hotel skyscrapers are being constructed. The hotels will be connected to each other by a hectare large roof garden with its own 100-metre-long swimming pool.

The goal of this spectacular project is to increase the number of foreign tourists visiting the city from nine to 17 million a year by 2015.

Among the attractions away from Singapore’s skyscrapers is the island of Sentosa, just a few minutes from the city centre.

It’s popular with visitors at the weekend coming to relax on its beach, stroll around the aquarium or just have fun.

Construction work is also taking place on the island. When Resort Worlds is finished, Sentosa will have six new hotels, a branch of Universal Film Studios and a sea park with whales, dolphins and sharks.