Singapore wakes up today to a new wonder, the latest in a series of projects which sees a brand new world being built on land that was once the sea, as the Bay South Garden of the Gardens by the Bay opens to the public. The highly anticipated Bay South Garden was officially opened by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong last evening at a ceremony held in one of the two cooled conservatories at the garden, the Flower Dome, which was attended by some 700 guests. Mr Lee in his speech touched on the ‘wow’ factor of the garden, remarking how he had looked up at 30 metre high waterfall in the Cloud Forest (the second cooled conservatory) and exclaimed ‘wow’, and being informed that was what one ‘was expected to say’.
Mr Lee also spoke of the value of creating a green space as a motivating factor in the decision to devote what would essentially be prime real estate, giving Singaporeans not just a green lung, but also as a green oasis in the city where Singaporeans can enjoy and identify with much as New York’s Central Park is to New Yorkers. Mr Lee in touching on the desire to bring flora and fauna made mention of bringing plants, flowers, butterflies and ‘once in a while, a few wild boars’. A tongue-in-cheek reference to the recent debate on the wild boar population and the need to cull it.
Although there were no wild boars in sight, I had a chance to say ‘wow’ by taking my own walk inside the completed Cloud Forest. I had once previously seen it during a media preview I had the privilege to attend in early April. Then, the man-made Cloud Mountain which dominates the interior of the conservatory, wore the green not of plants attached to its side, but the green of the netting that was laid around its sides mixed with the dull grey of the scaffolding that was put up all around it. It was a very different view that I got this time around. The 35 metre Cloud Mountain, on its 35 metres takes a visitor up some 1000 to 3500 metres above sea level to a replicated environment of high altitude tropical zones, was not just a lot greener, it was also shrouded in mist and certainly gave mean impression of an ascent into the clouds.
The waterfall isn’t the only wow about the Cloud Forest. Ascending into the clouds – with the help of the modern convenience of an elevator, gives the visitor a whole new set of experiences that go beyond the display of fauna some of would not otherwise have been seen in Singapore. The ascent takes the visitor to the top of the ‘mountain’ to the Lost World featuring cloud forest vegetation typically found at around 2,000 metres above sea-level where the ‘source’ of the waterfall is and down a 122 metre cantilevered walkway, the Cloud Walk from which the visitor takes in a spectacular view in descending through the mist covered exterior of the Cloud Mountain which also offers the visitor a glimpse of the epiphytic plant species on the side of the ‘mountain’ – another big ‘wow’. It is this ‘wow’, as well as for the other cooled conservatory – the Flower Dome which features some curious looking trees, including one commonly referred to as a Monkey Puzzle Tree, as well as twisted and bent 1000 year old olive trees, that makes the garden well worth a visit. More information is available on my previous posts on the Cloud Forest and the Flower Dome.
Besides the cooled conservatories, the 54 hectare site which is designed by UK-based landscape architecture firm Grant Associates also features vertical gardens taking the form of 18 Supertrees in the Golden Garden, Silver Garden and Supertree Grove; the Heritage Gardens; The World of Plants; the Dragonfly and Kingfisher Lakes. The Supertree Grove features a suspended aerial walkway, the OCBC Skyway and the OCBC Light and Sound Show (making its debut on 2 July 2012). Bay South is also the largest of the three gardens which form the larger Gardens by the Bay. When completed, the Gardens by the Bay will occupy a total of 101 hectares of land by the water around Marina Bay and will include the 32 hectare Bay East Garden which will be linked to the Bay South Garden by Bay Central which will feature a 3 km promenade that offers stunning views of the city.
The opening of the Bay South Garden is expected to draw large crowds to it, especially with the host of exciting events lined up to coincide with its opening. The opening weekend (29 June to 1 July 2012) will see a series of events that is collectively named as Rhythm with Nature. More information on the events can be found at the Gardens by the Bay’s website. While entry into the garden is free, there is an entry fee to visit the two cooled conservatories and the OCBC Skyway – a 128 metre long aerial walkway suspended 22 metres above the ground at the Supertree Grove. Information on admission charges is available at the Gardens by the Bay’s website.
- In the merry month of May (Night twilight views)
- Ascent into the Clouds (A preview of the Cloud Forest)
- New Light in the Old Harbour (Night scenes from November 2011)
- Sneak Peek at the Gardens (A sneak peek in November 2011)
- Calendar of Opening Events
- Rhythm with Nature website
- Gardens by the Bay website
- Getting to the Gardens
- Map of the Bay South Garden