Central Catchment Park Connector

– Hot on the Sambar Trail #1

After having heard so much about the wild Sambar Deer (Rusa unicolor) that roam around our tiny island of Singapore, we decided that we simply have to meet them.

However, these rare and elusive deer are not so easy to locate. We figured the only way we could possibly run into them is to frequent their favourite hangout – the Central Catchment Nature Reserve.

Unfortunately, the Central Catchment Nature Reserve is huge and the Sambar Deer have so many places to hide. They have been reported to be seen in the areas around MacRitchie Reservoir and Upper Seletar Reservoir, and have on several occasions been spotted along Mandai Road – albeit often as roadkill.

So, armed with our handy mobile map apps, we set off one morning to explore the Central Catchment Park Connector, which would connect us from Chestnut Nature Park to Mandai Road and hopefully bring us deep into Sambar Deer wonderland.

Embarking on our hike along Chestnut Northern Trail, we found our way to Gangsa Track, a shared hiking and biking trail that runs somewhat parallel to Bukit Timah Expressway (BKE).

There is something to be said for starting a hike at the crack of dawn. The air is cooler and fresher, the trails are less crowded, and the lighting is atmospheric.

Even at such an early hour, we weren’t the only ones to trudge the trails.

We had to be on the constant lookout for bikers, as they frequently tear through the trails at neck-breaking speed. But the helpful ones will give out a shout “BIKE” to warn hikers of their approach.

I particularly enjoyed weaving under the arches of the Simpoh Ayer trees…

…and imagining that we were travelling through a doorway to another world.

From Gangsa Track we continued on to Gangsa Loop, which then led us to the Central Catchment Park Connector.

Sadly, we didn’t bump into any Sambar Deer during our 2.5-hour hike, but we did meet some of his forest friends.

Along the way, we were constantly greeted by the almost human-like calls of the Greater Racket-tailed Drongo (Dicrurus paradiseus), many of whom were spotted with only two short stubs where their two long rackets ought to have been.

Craning our necks, we managed to catch the Pink-necked Green Pigeons (Treron vernans) lounging around at the top of the world wondering what’s for breakfast.

As we trundled along, a little red dot flitted past and caught our eye. It could only be the Crimson Sunbird (Aethopyga siparaja), Singapore’s national bird!

At some point, we ran headlong into a flock of Asian Glossy Starlings (Aplonis panayensis), having a rowdy breakfast party.

Throughout our hike, the butterflies were merrily flitting around us as we trampled through their backyard.

Near the end of our route, we bumped into a family of grumpy monkeys

…and their spawn engaging in some mischief or other.

From Chestnut Northern Trail to Mandai Road is a comfortable 5-km hike, but the entire round-trip journey amounted to a whopping 10 km! Even if we didn’t see any Sambar Deer that day, at least we managed to shave off some calories and earned ourselves a cup of thick creamy kopi and a bowl of lard-laden oil-coated noodles.