Pulau Ubin

(written by Nate Tschaenn, photographs by Abby Johnson)

On our last full day in Singapore, we took a trip away from the many tall buildings of mainland Singapore to a smaller, largely uninhabited island on the northeast side of Singapore called Pulau Ubin.

Boat ride from mainland Singapore to Pulau Ubin

Boat ride from mainland Singapore to Pulau Ubin

In the morning we met with Dr. Robert Teo, assistant director of the park at Palau Ubin, who described some of the work National Parks has been doing on the island. The name Palua Ubin roughly translates “granite island” and several granite quarries once operated on the island. The quarry industry, along with the farming of various crops like rubber and coconuts, left the island badly damaged. In 1977 National Parks started to manage the island to protect and restore the biodiversity of this area. Since this time 254 new species of plants have been recorded in Singapore and 69 species once thought extinct in Singapore were rediscovered.

Tour of sensory garden trail

Tour of sensory garden trail

After our meeting, we were shown the butterfly garden, which attracts 80 different species of butterflies. We were also given a tour of the sensory trail where we had the opportunity to see, touch, smell, and taste many interesting plants. While on the tour we were very lucky to see a hornbill, a beautiful bird that had once been driven off the island due to the destruction of its natural habitat  by the quarry and agricultural operations.

Oriental Pied Hornbill

Oriental Pied Hornbill


One of the large trees found on the island

After lunch we visited Chek Jawa, a wetland park on the far eastern side of Pulau Ubin. Here we had a fantastic tour through the wetlands and were able to see a variety of ecosystems in this one area, including mangroves, sandy beach, rocky beach, seagrass lagoon, coral rubble, sand bar, and coastal forest. The whole area was teeming with life, and we were able to spot beautiful birds, crabs, and lots of funny looking mudskippers.  In December of 2001, Check Jawa was saved from a planned reclamation project that would have destroyed this natural area. Volunteers conducted a biodiversity survey and convinced the government to suspend the project, at least temporarily. We were certainly lucky to have been able to experience this beautiful park and hope that Singapore will continue to preserve these unique habitats.

Tour through the mangrove wetlands

Tour through the mangrove wetlands of Chek Jawa


This funny looking mudskipper is a species of amphibious fish


Singapore Botanic Gardens and CUGE

January 9, 2012 – Singapore Botanic Gardens, Singapore
(written by Wonsoon Park, photographs by Martin Smit and Wonsoon Park )

Even though Singapore can be very hot and humid the weather was cool enough for us to forget about our jetlag and be immersed in the beauty of the Singapore Botanic Gardens. Imagine vast breathtaking tropical gardens with enormous trees and extraordinary flowers, all without the need of any glasshouses or conservatories.

Tour of the orchid breeding program facilities of SBG

The SBG was established in 1859 as the very first garden in Singapore and was initially used in introducing various tropical crops to Southeast Asia. These days the SBG is conducting all the functions of a modern botanic garden. Amazingly, it is open to public from 5am to midnight daily and attracts more than 4 million visitors per year, making it one of the most publically used gardens of the world.

The national flower of Singapore, Vanda Miss Joaquim

The national flower of Singapore, Vanda Miss Joaquim

The Cool House for displaying orchids needing cooler conditions

After a brief meeting with the director, Dr. Nigel Taylor, and various heads of departments, we had a tour of the facilities and gardens. We ended our visit to the SBG with a Q&A session with the SBG staff.  Our last activity of the day was a quick visit to Centre for Urban Greenery and Ecology (CUGE). Assistant director, Chong Whye Keet, gave a quick presentation on CUGE that provided a greater insight into this unique department.

Oncidium arches in the National Orchid Garden

A strangler fig growing in the remnant rainforest in the SBG


Safely in Singapore

January 8, 2012 – Singapore Zoo, Singapore
(written by Martin Smit, photographs by Nate Tschaenn )

Everything went seamlessly as our group all ascended on Singapore from various corners of the earth. The drive to the hotel immediately blew us away because of the scale of landscaping everywhere and the beautiful epiphyte smothered street trees. After booking in at our hotel some of us explored the immediate surroundings while others briefly caught their breath before we headed out for our visit to the Singapore Zoo. We were warmly received by the enthusiastic staff and were quickly astonished by the amazing gardens and surroundings of this wonderful zoo. We were also informed about some of the conservation and education efforts that were undertaken at this institution. We were taken behind the scenes where we had the opportunity to interact with various staff members and of course, some animals.

A quick photo opportunity with some local zoo residents

Sara with some ring-tailed lemurs

Fellows in a section of the zoo displaying ethnobotanic plants

Our first impressions of Singapore were wonderful, not only because of the beauty of this urban paradise but also because of the extremely helpful and friendly people that we have met thus far. It already promises to be an unforgetful experience.

Travel to Singapore and Indonesia: follow us

This January the first year fellows will be traveling to Singapore and Indonesia for what promises to be an amazing International Experience 2012. Longwood staff members, Shawn Kister and Sharon Loving, will be joining for the Singapore leg of the journey while Tom Brightman and Wendy Gentry will be traveling with the fellows to Indonesia.

Inside one of the new conservatories at Gardens by the Bay, Singapore. (Photo, courtesy of Chris Dalzell)

This travel opportunity will be the culmination of months of preparation in which all fellows were working diligently to make contact with and plan visits to various institutions. We will kick off our International Experience when we arrive in Singapore on the 8th of January. From Singapore we will be traveling on to the island of Bali and then on to Bogor, located on West-Java, before returning on the 21st of January. Some of the diverse sites that we will be visiting include the Singapore Botanic Gardens, Gardens by the Bay, Pulau Ubin, Bali Botanic Garden, Bogor Botanic Garden, Cibodas Botanic Garden, Taman Bunga Nusantara and the Gede-Pangrango National Park to name but a few.

We invite you all to follow us on our Blog and share in this unique experience.