Bukit Batok Nature Park, conveniently nestled within the residential estate of Bukit Batok and situated close to the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve, is an excellent hiking venue for any time of the day.
We decided one scorching Sunday morning to explore Bukit Batok Nature Park, and began our hike trudging up the steep slope at the park entrance, wondering if it was a terrible idea seeing as the merciless sun was overhead. But the shade afforded by the tall trees ensured that we were well shielded from the worst of the sun’s heat.
As we were about to enter the park, we spied a Changeable Hawk Eagle (Spizaetus cirrhatus), who stood atop a high branch surveying the area, while keeping an eye on us as we passed.
Several well-paved trails crisscross through the huge park along undulating terrain. We had to contend with some pretty steep slopes and stairs, but the thick forest vegetation provide welcomed shade throughout the park.
Being situated on an abandoned quarry site, large granite boulders can be seen strewn all over the park, many of which have become snack for the trees.
As we embarked on our hike through the deep dark forest of the nature park, we were introduced to the many possible ways we could meet our demise.
The large area of dense forest foliage is conducive for close encounters of the bird kind.
A party of friendly White-crested Laughingthrushes (Garrulax leucolophus) seemed to be enjoying the attention and were entertaining park-goers with their gregarious laughter and amusing antics.
Keep a lookout for the Greater Racket-tailed Drongo (Dicrurus paradiseus), whose resonant voice can usually be heard resounding through the park.
The incessant tweeting of the Pin-striped Tit-Babbler (Macronus gularis) is hard to miss, and they are often seen hanging out in a group having a party in the bushes.
Found in every park and garden, the Brown-throated Sunbird (Cinnyris jugularis) will no doubt be spotted wherever nectar can be found.
His bright and attractive cousin, the Crimson Sunbird (Aethopyga siparaja) is a little less easy to spot, but his shrill chirping calls emanating from the dense bushes alerted us to his presence.
A less common resident of the park is the Little Spiderhunter (Arachnothera longirostra).
Resembling the Olive-backed Sunbird, the Little Spiderhunter can be differentiated by his much longer bill that makes him very adept at extracting nectar. Besides nectar, he also feeds on insects and spiders, hence his name.
Interspersed with the chorus of bird tweets are the intermittent crows of the Red Junglefowl (Gallus gallus), transporting us back to the time when wild chickens used to roam around in the kampongs.
These chickens are so prolific these days, we often see their brood running wild around the parks and gardens.
Besides the birds, juveniles of the primate variety can also be seen frolicking in the play areas.
A family of juvenile Long-tailed Macaque (Macaca fascicularis) was caught monkeying around in the park one fine sunny afternoon.
These monkeys were giving us a live demonstration on the best ways to tackle an opponent.
Hidden deep in the park is the quarry site, once actively mined for its granite. Bukit Batok, which means “coughing hill” in Malay, was so named because of the quarry explosions created by the mining activity that sounded like the hills were coughing.
Now, it simply functions as a picturesque backdrop for the terrapins to engage in reflective meditation by the quarry pool…
…and for the White-breasted Waterhen (Amaurornis phoenicurus) to indulge in their favourite sport – creeping around in the water.
The Clouded Monitor Lizard (Varanus nebulosus) will likely be close by, waddling around scrounging for food or simply lazing in the sun.
We were amused to watch this ravenous monitor lizard eagerly picking at the leaf litter and foraging for food on the forest floor, looking like he hadn’t eaten for days!
The dense forest foliage is perfect for squirrels of all kinds to dance around and scuttle from tree to tree.
Not as abundant as the Plantain Squirrel that we see everywhere, the Slender Squirrel (Sundasciurus tenuis) is mostly confined to the Central Nature Reserves and certain forested areas such as Bukit Batok Nature Park.
Looking very much like a squirrel is the Common Treeshrew (Tupaia glis), who is also not easy to spot as he blends in very well with the forest floor and scurries away when approached by humans. He inhabits the forested areas of our nature reserves and parks, and is a resident of Bukit Batok Nature Park as well.
The Common Treeshrew is so shy and skittish, he is almost always hidden amongst the thick forest undergrowth. If we do see him out in the open or walking along the footpath, he is most likely trying to hurry off to his next appointment.
At the park entrance along Lorong Sesuai is the site of two war memorials that used to stand at the top of the hill.
The Syonan Chureito is a Japanese Shinto Shrine and war memorial that once housed the ashes of the Japanese soldiers killed in action. Built behind the Japanese memorial was the second memorial, a wooden cross, to honour the Allied dead.
Both memorials have been destroyed, and what remain now are the two stone pillars at the foot of the hill, a bronze plaque describing the history behind the memorials, and the 121 steps leading to the top where a transmitting tower now stands at the memorial site.