Last month, two teenagers tried searching for the remnants of a World War II Japanese shrine in the forest around MacRitchie Reservoir and ended up getting lost for hours.
The Shinto shrine they were looking for, known as Syonan Jinja, was built in 1942 in memory of the Japanese soldiers who died fighting in the invasion of Singapore.
Today, remnants of the shrine are covered in vegetation - it is located in a core nature conservation area, which is closed to the public.
There are no designated trails to the shrine. But visitors who are interested to find out more about this shrine can visit a site marker located at the junction of Adam Road and Sime Road.
According to the website of the National Parks Board (NParks), visitors should stay on the designated trails to avoid getting lost in the forest and for their own safety.
"This nature reserve is home to numerous species of endangered native flora and fauna. Human activity in this area can affect animal movement or result in trampling on endangered plant saplings," the website reads.
"Entering or leaving any part of a nature reserve which is closed is an offence under the Parks and Trees Regulations, which carries a penalty of a fine of up to $2,000. We seek your cooperation to stay on the designated trails."
Although the shrine is out of bounds, here are three trails which one can take to enjoy the beauty and serenity of the Central Catchment Nature Reserve, where MacRitchie Reservoir is located.
Walking trail through Windsor Nature Park
• The start of the trail is beside the carpark in Venus Drive. Walk along Venus Link through Windsor Nature Park.
• Eventually, the path will become Sime Track. Continue on this trail, which ends when you reach the Petaling Hut, at which point you can make a U-turn and walk back the same way you came from.
• Visitors on this trail could previously visit the TreeTop Walk*, a 250m-long, free-standing suspension bridge.
Note: *The TreeTop Walk and part of the Petaling boardwalk are currently closed for maintenance works, which are expected to be completed in May 2021.
What to see
Long-tailed macaque, greater racket-tailed drongo, crimson sunbird, heliconia, coconut palms
• Remember to wear proper footwear, such as track shoes or sneakers, when tackling this route. The terrain is undulating with steep slopes at some points, so here might be a good place to jog if you want to train with some incline.
• Do not walk while looking at your phone. Forgetting this for a moment, I try using Google Maps while walking and end up stubbing my toe on a large rock. Thankfully, I do not trip.
• Along this trail, there are a number of small sheltered huts where one can stop to rest as well as toilets at a nearby ranger station.
Chemperai Trail and Jering Trail
• Begin from the exercise station at MacRitchie Reservoir Park.
• Walk on the Chemperai boardwalk skirting the edge of the reservoir. You will walk past Jering Hut, after which you can continue on the Jering boardwalk by the water.
• You will eventually reach the edge of the nature reserve. Here, you can turn left and continue on Lornie Trail, which will take you back to the exercise station.
What to see
Dragonfly, monitor lizard, sun skink, sea apple tree, wild ixora
• This relaxing route is suitable for families with young children. The views are gorgeous, with the reservoir’s calm surface reflecting the clouds that go by, all set against a soothing backdrop of dense rainforest.
• If you look closely, you can even see fish and other creatures in the water. I spot a monitor lizard taking a dip in the reservoir’s placid waters.
• The signs along the trail offer delightful bits of trivia. One teaches me how to differentiate between butterflies and moths - butterflies usually rest with their wings closed, while moths usually do so with their wings open - while another explains that the reservoir might appear greenish because of the presence of algae and phytoplankton.
Prunus Trail and Petai Trail
• Start from the shelter at MacRitchie Reservoir Park on the eastern end of the reservoir.
• Walk on the boardwalk on the waterfront, first on the Prunus Trail and then on the Petai Trail. You will reach a junction where the Petai Trail meets the MacRitchie Nature Trail. The Petai trail ends here.
• You can turn right and use the MacRitchie Nature Trail to walk back to MacRitchie Reservoir Park.
What to see
Banded woodpecker, white-throated kingfisher, Tembusu tree, Chestnut tree, rubber tree
• Although a large part of this route hugs the water’s edge, my view of the reservoir is obstructed by plants in many areas of the trail. However, I can still hear the excited chatter of people kayaking on the water.
• The shelter created by the surrounding trees makes this jaunt a very cool, breezy stroll.
• On the way back down MacRitchie Nature Trail, I see a wild boar scampering across the trail from afar.
Dos and don'ts in the Central Catchment Nature Reserve
• Stay on designated trails. Avoid stepping off track while on nature trails. When you step off the trails, you risk disturbing and trampling on flora and fauna.
• Maintain a distance from wildlife. Resist the temptation to follow or approach it. Appreciate it from afar and maintain a safe distance from it. Refrain from feeding the animals as this can affect their health and alter their natural behaviour.
• Keep noise levels low - only then can the peaceful silence of nature be fully enjoyed by everyone.
• Show care and consideration when using the facilities. The amenities, such as open lawns, shelters and passageways, are for everyone.
• Stick to a group of five people or fewer. Observe a safe distance of at least 1m between members of the group as well as with other visitors.
• Wear a mask. You are required to do so, except when engaging in strenuous exercises such as brisk walking or walking on hilly terrain, or consuming food, drink or medication.
• Smoke. The Central Catchment Nature Reserve, where MacRitchie Reservoir is located, is smoke-free. Smoking is also prohibited in covered spaces, shelters, toilets, playgrounds, fitness corners, carparks as well as in areas where no-smoking signs have been put up.
• Fly a drone. Look out for the "no flying" signs.
• Enter the nature reserve and forested areas during stormy weather. Inclement weather may cause trees and branches to fall. Do check the weather forecast when planning to go outdoors.
Source: The Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Limited. Reproduced with permission.
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