In 2012, the government of Singapore set out to create a “City in a Garden,” a futuristic botanical garden that would showcase the city-state’s embrace of the future and add to its already distinct skyline. The Gardens by the Bay span well over 600 acres, filled with lush greenery, exotic plants, and a famous waterfall that draw tourists from around the globe. Many visitors come for the iconic Supertrees, Cloud Forest, and Flower Dome, but there are a number of lesser-known exhibits to walk through on a day trip to the Gardens by the Bay.
How to get to — and around — Gardens by the Bay
Situated by the waterfront of Marina Bay, Gardens by the Bay consists of three parts. The Bay South Garden is the most popular section and home to the Supertrees, Flower Dome, and Cloud Forest. A map of the Bay South Garden allows you to navigate the park with ease.
The Bay East Garden is the second largest of the three but far less crowded than Bay South. This area is more like an actual park. It offers a respite from the hustle and bustle of the city with ample greenery and stunning views of the Singapore skyline, and is a perfect place to cycle, walk, and run.
The Bay Central Garden links the South and East gardens via a two-mile waterfront promenade. The city views are ideal here, and you can connect this promenade to the Marina Bay Sands resort and the heart of downtown.
The closest train station to the Gardens by the Bay is the Bayfront MRT, accessible by both the Downtown and Circle Lines. The park is less than a five-minute walk from the MRT station, and the specifics are as follows:
- Arrive at Bayfront MRT and look for Station Exit B.
- Exit the station and follow the underground linkway.
- Cross the Dragonfly Bridge and arrive at the Malay Garden.
- Continue walking straight, and you will arrive at the Supertree Grove.
A large part of Gardens by the Bay, including the Supertree Grove, Heritage Gardens, Sun Pavilion, and lakes, can be enjoyed for free. However, to enter both the Flower Dome and Cloud Forest, the admission fee is $21 (28 Singapore dollars) for adults and $11 (SGD15) for children aged three to 12. Tickets can be bought in advance. Before you purchase online, though, inquire with your lodging as to whether they offer discount admission tickets. Many hotels in the city do, and you’ll keep a few dollars in your pocket for a stop at the food hall afterwards.
What to see
The most popular attraction at Gardens by the Bay is the Supertrees. These sci-fi trees look straight out of Avatar as they emit glowing bioluminescent light. Measuring between 25 and 50 meters (82 to 164 feet) in height, they were designed to mirror the form and function of mature trees. There are 18 trees in total, made up of more than 158,000 plants, comprising of more than 700 species. In line with their eco-friendly theme, some of the trees have photovoltaic cells that harvest solar energy to light up the Supertrees at night. The Supertrees also collect rainwater used in the running and cooling of the Flower Dome and Cloud Forest.
For a sans-crowds experience, head to the Silver Garden located behind the Flower Dome. This viewing point is far less busy and allows you to take photos without random people in every shot. Also worth a visit is the Web of Life, located just south of the Supertree Grove, with animal-inspired art in the form of an Orangutan, Hornbill, Pangolin, and others.
Make sure you don’t miss the light show that takes place at the Supertrees. At 7:45 and 8:45 PM, the trees come alive with a spectacular show of beautiful colors and melodies. Prepare to be enthralled for 15 minutes. To get a little closer to the Supertrees, instead of gazing at them for free from afar, take a stroll above on the OCBC Skyway. This is a 420-foot-long walkway constructed to give visitors the sensation that they are floating off the ground. Tickets to the OCBC Skyway cost about $6 (SGD8) for adults and $4 (SGD5) for children. Tickets can be purchased at the entrance of the OCBC Skyway between 9:00 AM and 8:00 PM.
The Cloud Forest
The Cloud Forest is a dense, humid, and tropical dome, much like a tropical botanical garden — but, because this is Singapore, it’s presented as an amusement experience. You will first be confronted by the tallest man-made waterfall in the world, at 115 feet tall, and if you stand close enough you can let the mist from the waterfall gently kiss your face to cool off. From there, follow a walking path called the Cloud Walk up a multi-story green “mountain” within the dome.
At the top of the Cloud Mountain you can enter the Lost World, which displays vegetation generally found at 6,500 feet above sea level. From here, take in the superb views of the rest of the Gardens by the Bay and the Marina Bay Sands beyond the dome. Alternatively, you can explore the Crystal Mountain Cave, which houses a variety of stalagmites and stalactites, or the Cloud Forest theater, which showcases a film on natural conservation and sustainability measures.
The Flower Dome
Once you’ve had your tropical fix, make your way to the Flower Dome across the plaza. This is the world’s largest greenhouse, packed with exquisite flowers and plants divided into seven different gardens — including a Mediterranean garden, a South American garden, and a South African garden. The flower dome also has a progressive French Mediterranean restaurant named Pollen. Located in between an olive grove, this restaurant focuses on dishes with seasonal produce and herbs grown from their in-house garden. The pan fried sea bream and cumin-infused rump of lamb come highly recommended.
The Floral Fantasy, Heritage Gardens, and Sun Pavilion
The Floral Fantasy is the newest addition to Gardens by the Bay. The exhibit comprises four diverse garden landscapes, each with a differing concept — Dance, Waltz, Float, and Drift. It also has a “4D” ride called “Flight of the Dragonfly,” which takes visitors on a journey through Gardens by the Bay from the perspective of a dragonfly. Admission runs $15 (SGD20) for adults and $9 (SGD12) for children.
The Heritage Gardens pay homage to Singapore’s diverse and multicultural history. The Chinese, Indian, Malay, and Colonial gardens have plants and art features intricately linked to the culture in each group. For example, in the Chinese garden, there is a smiling statue of Buddha, which sits under a medicinal tree. Meanwhile, the Indian garden is laid out in the shape of a kolam, a traditional Indian folk art design. The exhibit is open from 5:00 AM to 2:00 PM, and admission is free.
The Sun Pavilion will make you forget you’re even in Singapore. The exhibit has a number of desert-like landscapes with over 1,000 desert plants such as the Brazilian Turk’s Cap and the African Euphorbias. Admission is free between 9:00 AM to 9:00 PM. Situated right next to the Sun Pavilion is a hidden enclave with gigantic fish known as the Big Fish Aquarium. It’s not on the map, allowing you to ogle at huge black pacu, humongous catfish, alligator gars, and giant-sized Amazonian arapaima with only those savvy enough to find the aquarium as your company.
The Serene Garden and Far East Organization Children’s Garden
A short walk away from the Supertrees is another new exhibit, the Serene Garden, a Japanese-inspired outdoor landscape. The setting encompasses five acres of tranquillity and peace, as well as scenic views of the city’s skyline. Stroll through bubbling creeks featuring Blue Niyodo rocks and Bukit Timah granite, and check out plants including Bismarckias (endemic to Madagascar), elegant bamboo, and junipers carefully pruned to look like typical bonsai trees in Japanese Zen gardens.
If you are traveling with children, it’s worth bringing them to this outdoor playground and waterpark. A number of features such as a Fish Fountain, spray jets, and water tunnels guarantee a fun day out. Temperatures in Singapore can reach highs of 90 degrees Fahrenheit, so it’s a perfect way to cool off and keep kids entertained. Make sure your child brings along swimwear, as they will most likely splash around and get wet.
Dragonfly and Kingfisher Lakes
The Dragonfly and Kingfisher Lakes are full of rich aquatic life and lush foliage. Try to spot the glimmering dragonfly sculptures that weave between the plants and lakes. There is also a 1,400-foot boardwalk through the Dragonfly Lake and a number of educational sculptures built to shed light on the ecosystem’s vulnerability to man’s actions.
If you want to spot some cheeky kingfishers, head towards the end of Kingfisher Lake close to the Marina Reservoir. You’ll see a tree on which they perch as they scan the lake for their next meal.
From time to time, sections of Gardens by the Bay are closed for maintenance. So remember to check the closure dates before your trip. Make sure to also pack bug spray and antihistamines, as the lakes have a range of bugs which may trigger allergies.