Topographically, Singapore is relatively flat, the highest point being Bukit Timah Hill at only 166 metres. Located 137 kilometres north of the equator, the island does not experience seasonal weather. Land reclamation projects have increased the island’s land mass from roughly 220 square miles to 270 square miles to date - with possibly more to come. Mainland Singapore is approximately 42 kilometres long and 23 kilometres deep, and is connected to Peninsular Malaysia via two bridges at Woodlands and Tuas.
Every inch of the city-state of Singapore is used up and can be further divided into different segments. In the centre of the island is the city centre with the standard shopping malls and office buildings. The area around the Singapore River is the main business centre with sprawling skyscrapers. Outside of the city centre, the island is divided into several residential areas. Here, HDB flats are the most common sight. Within these residential estates located in the northern, western and eastern parts of Singapore are the occasional shopping mall or commercial town centres. The remaining land is used for parks, reservoirs, some small farms, military installations and pockets of jungle that are cordoned off for military training or earmarked for future uses. Beaches line the eastern coast of the island and some parts of the north.
Outside of the mainland, Singapore has 62 other small islands, although most of the islands are too small to be utilized. The few main islands are Pulau Tekong, Sentosa, Jurong Island and Pulau Ubin. Pulau Ubin and Sentosa have been converted into tourist attractions but at opposite extremes. Pulau Ubin revels in its rural and natural beauty while Sentosa is cosmopolitan with man-made beaches. Pulau Tekong and other smaller islands are used for military purposes and National Service training while Jurong Island is a hub for the petro-chemical industry.
Singapore is commonly referred to as a garden city, a moniker does nothing more than hint at the 2000 species of plants that can be found on the island. Due to the tropical climate, some of the varieties of flora found in this city-state are mangrove, lowland dipterocarp forest and freshwater swamp forest. Most of these can be found in the nature reserves of Bukit Timah and MacRitchie while the Chek Jawa Wetlands on Pulau Ubin and Pasir Ris Park are ideal locations to find mangroves and freshwater swamp forest.
There are also numerous parks located throughout the island. Managed by the National Parks Board, these parks contain a variety of well-maintained flora. The best park to view the variety of flora that Singapore has to offer is the Singapore Botanic Gardens which is relatively one of the larger parks in Singapore and home to the National Orchid Garden where you can admire the Vanda Miss Joaquim, Singapore’s national flower.
A rich diversity of wildlife can be found in Singapore. There are over 600 species of birds found on the island as Singapore is an important stopover on the East Asia Flyway, which is one of the most important migration routes for birds in the world. Other than Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve, which is home to a wide variety of different species of birds, another ideal place to see the diversity of birds in Singapore is the Jurong Bird Park which is home to over 8000 birds of different species.
Other than birds, there are also many other wildlife that can be spotted in Singapore. Walking through some of the bigger parks like Kent Ridge Park and the Central Catchment Nature Reserve, visitors can catch a glimpse of squirrels, monitor lizards and long-tailed macaques. The forests are home to more exotic animals like pythons, flying lemurs, bats and even anteaters but these are typically harder to spot among the vegetation in the forest. A few saltwater crocodiles have also been sighted on occasion at places like Pasir Ris Park. Unfortunately, Singapore is also home to a large number of mosquitoes. At last count, there were roughly 935 species of mosquitoes on the island and counting.
The marine life in Singapore is not as rich or diverse as the species of birds. Shipping and land reclamation have taken its toll on whatever marine life that used to flourish in the waters surrounding Singapore. Despite this, there are still around 451 species of crab and shrimp found in the waters off Singapore including the ancient blue-blooded horseshoe crab. Most of the marine life can be found along the coastal areas of Singapore and in the waters around the outlying islands like Saint John's Island and Sisters Islands.
Protecting the Environment
Singapore’s efforts to protect the environment are somewhat lacking in comparison to countries like Sweden. However, this does not mean that there is little to nothing done on the ground. Hybrid cars are slowly being introduced into the market but the government has fallen short of encouraging the mass adoption of such vehicles. The number of vehicles on the roads has also steadily risen and congestion now is much worse than 10 years ago. However, the government has begun to adopt measures to reduce the number of vehicles on the road by making public transport more efficient.
Recycling has yet to catch on as retail outlets and particularly supermarkets continue to give out plastic bags by the truckload. The apparent reluctance of Singaporeans to give up the habit of using plastic bags has exacerbated the problem. In spite of this, some retail outlets like NTUC supermarkets have tried to wean customers off plastic bags by introducing a campaign whereby customers would have to pay a nominal fee for plastic bags every first Wednesday of the month. More can definitely be done but steps are being taken in the right direction. The number of recycling bins has also been increasing although most are located in the city centre or at shopping malls.