Get up close to wild nature in Singapore
Crocodiles in Singapore! Monkeys in the kitchen, snakes in the garden, monitor lizards in the pool, boars at your back door and otters at the riverfront cafe! Whoever said Singapore was boring? There is so much wild wildlife in Singapore — and while an encounter with nature has happened in all of the above situations as told by friends in Singapore, we take you through the best (most realistic) spots and parks to find wild animals from dolphins to hornbills and otters in Singapore.
Saltwater or estuarine crocodiles are a wonderfully exotic sight on a small island like ours, yet keep your eyes peeled and you might be lucky! Saltwater crocodiles, the largest of all living reptiles, can reach up to 7 metres. In fact they are the world’s largest predator and are now endangered in Singapore. They feast on animals from snakes to fish and monitor lizards as well as carrion.
Where: Head over to Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve or Kranji Reservoir. Low tide is the best chance to encounter one of these toothy beasts. Look out for them at the water’s edge, inside the water or basking in the sun on along the estuary banks.
Easy-to-Spot Rating: Medium
Oriental pied-Hornbills are a beautiful large bird (about 70cm) with black-and-white plumage and a trademark large bill. They are often seen in pairs. Hornbills eat mainly fruit, but also insects and small animals including reptiles, mammals and birds.
Where: Pulau Ubin, Central Catchment, Pasir Ris, Sungei Buloh, St John’s Island and also around the Tanglin area surrounding the Botanic Gardens. Due to their size and distinctive back and white plumage, these are fairly easy to spot, especially if you keep and ear out for their loud cackling noises.
Easy-to-Spot Rating: Medium
Everyone loves the otters in Singapore: their cute aquatic antics have kept passersby amused and kids entertained, David Attenborough has made programs about them, and they even have their own live Facebook fan club group. The smooth-coated otter is the largest otter in Southeast Asia and been known to reach 1.2m. They hunt underwater (for up to 8 minutes at a time) to catch frogs, crabs and turtles.
Where: There are many otter families living in Singapore at Chinese Garden in Jurong to Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park to Gardens by the Bay. Check the Otter Watch FB page for a full rundown of otter sighting locations.
Easy-to-Spot Rating: Difficult (until they have settled in a forever home). Listen up for their distinctive clicking sounds.
Long-tailed Macaques are the most predominant monkey found in Singapore. Monkeys will often be found in troops and in nature eat plants, fruits and small animals like reptiles, spiders and insects, though they will often try steal your picnic or snack! Keep all food hidden (and avoid carrying plastic bags which they associate with food), and do not feed them or eat in front of them under any circumstances. Monkey attacks have been frequently reported, so while wild monkeys are interesting to chance upon, do not approach them (especially if they are with small babies, when they will be extra proactive and aggressive).
Where: Quite easy to spot them at the Bukit Batok Nature Park, Bukit Timah Reserve, MacRitchie Reservoir Park or the Upper Pierce Reservoir, Pulau Ubin and even in more residential areas like Watten Estate. If you’d like a free guided walk by experts from the Jane Goodall Institute Singapore, check out the NParks events calendar.
Easy-to-Spot Rating: Easy Peasy
A vast variety of snakes can be found in Singapore, from Paradise Tree Snakes to the Equatorial Spitting Cobra, Oriental Whip Snakes to Reticulated Pythons, one of the most common snakes in Singapore. Reticulated pythons are the longest and heaviest in the python family, and can grow up to 10m and weigh up to 115kg. They feed on rats and other small animals (keep an eye on your cats!).
Where: Snakes are often found in the many nature reserves like Sungei Buloh Wetlands and forested green spaces, though reticulated pythons, in particular, are found in drains and canals.
Easy-to-Spot Rating: Medium to Difficult. If you spot them somewhere you’d rather not (eg your home) you can call the ACRES Wildlife Rescue Hotline on (+65) 9783 7782 and ask them to send an expert to safely deal with it.
Indo-Pacific hump-backed dolphins, also known as pink dolphins, and Indo-Pacific Bottlenose Dolphins can sometimes be seen in Singapore waters. Sentosa Island dwellers and boat trippers may have the best chance of catching a glimpse of these beauties.
Where: The calm seas between St John’s And Lazarus Islands south of Sentosa, Sisters Island Marine Park and between Singapore and Batam. Make a day trip out of dolphin “hunting” and download the handy St John’s e-guide here.
Easy-to-Spot Rating: Difficult
The wild boar is a native animal of Singapore and can weigh up to an astonishing 100kg. Wild boars are omnivorous, feeding mainly on seeds, tubers and plants.
Where: Wild boar sightings have been made in Tampines and Punggol.
Easy-to-Spot Rating: Difficult. Most of the wild boar have been removed so as to not endanger the public.
There are three types of monitor lizards in Singapore, the most common if which is the Malayan water monitor that can grow up to 3m long. Monitor lizards are carnivorous, eating insects, crabs, snakes and fish as well as carrion.
Where: Monitor lizards are relatively shy but due to the sheer multitude of them you are likely to see one in any of the large green spaces, from the Botanic Gardens to Sungei Buloh Wetlands (we counted 12 when we last went!) to your back garden if you have one!
Easy to Spot Rating: Easy Peasy
If all else fails and you don’t manage to spot any of these wild and wonderful creatures in the wild, you can always head to the fabulous Singapore Zoo. Not a bad backup plan we’d say!
**As exciting as it is to spot these animals in the wild, please do remember to never approach them or feed them. Many are listed as ‘Critically Endangered’ in the Red List of threatened animals of Singapore so let’s all help keep them safe.
Lead image sourced via Thelongtails
Hornbills image by Wong Tuan Wah via NParks
Otters image by Jeffery Teo via Straits Times
Macaques image sourced via NParks
Reticulated python image by Fong Chee Wai via Straits Times
Dolphins image by Con Foley via AsiaOne
Wild boar image sourced via Blog.NUS
Monitor lizard image by Straits Times via AsiaOne