MacRitchie Reservoir Park is a large protected area in the centre of Sinagpore. This being Singapore, the nature reserve is very well managed and organised. At its southern (Lornie Road) end MacRitchie offers facilities including changing rooms, showers, kayak rental, and a very nice restaurant. From here trails of varying length head off into the jungle or along the reservoir edge.
Despite being very popular and close to habitation, this area is still somewhat wild and there are real chances of seeing birds, monkeys, snakes, and other wildlife here. There are a variety of walks to suit different fitness levels and lengths of time.
Boardwalk loop (Prunus Trail) – short (2.5 km)
This is the shortest loop you can walk from the Lornie Road car park. Heading Northeast / anti-clockwise, the route follows the path towards the kayak rental office. The area with the outdoor gym equipment marks the start and end of the loop. It is best to start with the boardwalk (left) trail, following it around the water’s edge for about 600 metres. Look closely in the water and the trail side bushes and you stand a good chance of seeing wildlife.
At the first junction, climb the stairs to the right to enter the forest, then turn right again. The path descends gently back towards the gym equipment area. Be cautious of macaques in the forest – follow the locals’ advice and give them a wide berth while avoiding eye contact. Under no circumstances feed them. This short loop is also popular with joggers in the mornings and evenings, and they can get irritated if you block their way – so give them a wide berth too!
From the gym area the trail follows the same trail back to the car park. Nature Parks Singapore have a nice guide to the Prunus Trail on their website.
Boardwalk loop (Petai trail) – medium (4.3 km)
This medium loop is a good option to spend a decent amount of time in the forest but without committing to the hours required for the full loop. The second part of this walk is also very quiet and despite the path being clear, far fewer people seem to use it. There always seem to be a lot of butterflies on this section.
The trail starts in the same way as the short loop described above. When following the wooden boardwalk at the water’s edge, simply turn left instead of right at the first junction and ascend some steps. The boardwalk does a 180 degree turn and continues to follow the water’s edge from above, directly opposite the section you have just walked. Through the trees are glimpses of Singapore’s skyline. There are some absolutely huge trees in this section, some of which need three people to reach around their trunks.
Eventually the path turns away from the water and meets a junction. Turning left is a commitment – it takes you towards the Tree Tops canopy walk and potentially the full lake loop (described below). Turning right descends back to the start – go straight until you see the gym equipment again.
Canopy tour – full loop (13 km)
This is the longest trail in MacRitchie Nature Reserve, and in the humidity you will feel every kilometre. The trail starts from the car park on Lornie Road (the place Google Maps marks as MacRitchie). Because you can only cross the canopy walk from east to west, this walk must be completed in an anti-clockwise fashion as described here. Otherwise you will need to retrace your steps or have a disappointing walk back to the car park!
Heading East / Northeast, the paved path heads towards and past the kayak rental office. At the ‘playground’ with the gym equipment, there are two possible routes. Right – into the forest – is the most direct, and climbs gently. Choosing the left path takes you to a boardwalk along the waters edge. There is a good chance of seeing kingfishers along here, and Oriental Whipsnakes (Ahaetulla prasina) are a fairly common sight too.
If you took the boardwalk route, after about 600 metres – at the wooden steps – you have a chance to climb the steps to your right and rejoin the forest trail. Otherwise you can continue on the boardwalk section and rejoin the forest trail later. Continuing the boardwalk trail adds about 1.3 kilometres to the hike, but is well worth it.
Whichever option you choose, you will eventually end up back on the stony forest trail, heading in an anticlockwise direction. This section isn’t particularly exciting, being quite crowded, but fun is to come. The Tree Tops canopy walk is easily found after around 4 kilometres. There is a small rangers station with bathrooms and water refill points just before it. The canopy walk is free, with a guard at the end to ensure the bridge is not overloaded.
After the bridge the trail continues across several crossroads, heading south back towards the reservoir and the golf club. Along the way there is a multi-storey lookout point (Jelutong Tower), which offers great views over the forest canopy. The appearance of the golf club on your right and the water on your left signals the final part of the hike. However, this section can be deceptively long because the path follows every bend in the water’s edge. There are some options to shortcut through the forest, but the best experience is along the boardwalk by the water. Luckily the trees provide at least a little shade. The shallow inlets of water are also a great place to spot monitor lizards.
Just before the car park, the restaurant has expensive drinks but very, very nice AC…
If you want to walk in MacRitchie, Nature Parks Singapore have a good selection of information and maps.