Tuesday, 8 July 2014

MacRitchie Reservoir Loop and Tree Top Walk - WALK

Woohoo! I've finally completed the loop around MacRitchie Reservoir, through the primary rainforest and over the Tree Top Walk :) In total it was just over 9 miles (14.6 km). We walked at a leisurely pace, stopping to take in the views and to snap plenty of photos (some included are from hubby)

An eagle on a far away tree, Possibly a white bellied?
MacRitchie reservoir was completed in 1868 after many years of failing to get constructed and is the oldest reservoir in Singapore, originally known as Thomson Reservoir after its designer John Turnbull Thomson. It was later expanded in 1891 and in 1922 renamed after the engineer in charge of the expansion James MacRitchie. The construction of the reservoir halted the destruction of the primary rainforest which had been decimated down to just 10% in 1886 following the British cultivation of Singapore for gambier, pepper and rubber. The land around MacRitchie reservoir and that of Peirce and Upper Seletar Reservoirs was designation as a water catchment area and was therefore protected.

It was a nice cool morning (28 degrees!!) following a significant thunder storm in the dawn hours. We set off anti clockwise around the reservoir from the Mushroom cafe along the MacRitchie Nature Trail passing the kayakers and from there entering into the jungle! This is Singapore and of course there had to be some rules!!

We tracked up through the rainforest and it was clear that this route is very popular with runners, I've since read that its used for cross country running by schools. For hubby it was his first experience of getting away from Singapore's manicured and kept green spaces and parks, a pleasant surprise for him. We continued upwards and onwards along a cinder path passing some giant "giant bamboo"!

Just before we joined with the trail near Venus Drive entrance we spotted a quick moving, very slim greenish snake. To quick to catch on my little camera or to be able to distinguish what sort it was.

A terrible photo of a fast moving small snake!
Onwards now along the Terentang Trail and here we spotted a number of spiders, one as large as my hand!! We met some very excited professional looking photographers here who had been searching for a couple of hours for this spider and were on their way home when they came across us and our spider.

A few metres away was a millipede easily 8 inches, 20+ cms in length  (I've only seen one of these once before and that was on our trip to Cambodia). From here we started up the short but sharp road to the Tree Top Walk and came quickly across a large troupe of long-tailed macaques. It appeared, to me, to be a nursery as they were predominantly young with just a few adults. If you want to see monkeys in the wild MacRitchie is probably the best place to spot them and you're pretty much guaranteed a sighting. I have since read before writing up this piece that there is a group of around 40 critically endangered (in SG) Banded Leaf Monkeys in this area but sadly we didn't spot any of these.

After the climb upwards we then went down!! several wooden steps and arrived at the Tree Top Walk. For someones who's always suffered from vertigo I've realised how Singapore has enabled me to conquer/control this. 16 months ago I wouldn't have even attempted this walkway, I would of been a quivering wreck. Sure I felt slightly apprehensive as we crossed the 25 metre high, 250 metre long suspension bridge, especially as it vibrated due to the people traffic (thankfully only a maximum of 30 people are allowed on at any one time) The suspension bridge joins together the 2 highest points within MacRitchie, Bukit Peirce and Bukit Kalang (Bukit meaning hill) and it was opened on 5 Nov 2004. Although slightly nervous there were some stunning views to be had so high up, across to Lower Peirce Reservoir and over the tree canopy. I was even able to look down below my feet through the metal grates of the bridge at the tops of the trees below. (Please note that you can only enter the bridge in one direction)

From the Tree Top Walk we seemed to go up and down.. and up and down... and up and down....along more wooden steps for what seemed a long time along the Petaling Trail until we finally reached Sime Track.

 However along this stretch we spotted more monkeys, several Greater Racket-tailed Drongos, Bulbuls, squirrels, skinks and the most amazing little lizard, which scurried around so quickly, almost flying from post to post. We have since found out that it was an earless agamid with bright blue eyes. For me this was the find of the day. It almost seemed unreal, a CGI creation. Totally aware we were there, listening and watching us - amazing :)

The charming earless agamid

Common sun skink
Greater Racket-tailed drongo
I pointed out durian trees and jack fruit trees to hubby and our friend who had never seen them before.

Jack fruit
Passing the Jelutong Tower hubby couldn't resist climbing it  - I curbed my urge!

From here we walked across the low lying boardwalk with the reservoir on our left and the Golf Course of the Singapore Island Country Club on the right. Rather bizarre that one minute you're in the jungle, feeling isolated and miles away from humanity, then bang... there's a golf course! We spotted 2 eagles above the reservoir but they were to far aware to see what they were, but the white bellied sea eagle is a common sight here. More skinks were spotted (common sun skinks I think) and more macaques, some of which were ignoring the golf courses "do not enter" signs and were enjoying the manicured lawn of the course greens.

We were just a few miles away from the end now and the walk was predominantly along a boardwalk edging the reservoir. Here we saw damsel and dragonflies, an eel, a white throated kingfisher and what we think may have been a Striped tit Babbler and finally a water monitor lizard, a first for our friend. Not the giant six footer we had hoped to show her but she was pleased nonetheless.

White throated kingfisher

a medium sized monitor lizard
A Striped tit-babbler?

Finally after 9 miles we crossed over the zig zag bridge, built according to feng shui I believe to confuse the spirits. Rather cruel when one is tired to have to meander rather than cut straight across, when the end is so near in sight.

A great walk and I'm so pleased that we finally did the whole route after just walking parts in the past. Don't worry there are several shorter walks that can be done. In fact I've 2 shorter walks lined up for next week. Chemperai/Lornie trail with the ladies meet up group (5 km) and Petail Trail (3 km)

Somewhere in there lies the remains of the Japanese shinto shrine - Syonan Jinja. An exploration for another day!

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