MacRitchie Grand Loop
Posted On 10 March 2021
Having attempted all the shorter trails in MacRitchie Reservoir Park, we decided that it was time to conquer the MacRitchie grand 11-km loop that skirts around the reservoir in a snake-like fashion.
On the park map, this would be the Yellow trail (11 km, 4 hours, moderate).
This can be attempted in either clockwise or anti-clockwise direction. If we want to do the TreeTop walk, we would take this anti-clockwise. If we want to start with a more peaceful and scenic route, clockwise would be our choice.
Whichever direction we choose, we find that it is best to start this epic hike early in the morning, before even both sun and crowds have arisen.
No matter how early we start, others would already be out and about, such as this Changeable Lizard (Calotes versicolor) caught sauntering along the footpath one early morning…
…or the Crimson Sunbirds (Aethopyga siparaja), enjoying a sweet sticky breakfast…
…or the Scaly-breasted Munias (Lonchura punctulata), indulging in an all-you-can-eat breakfast buffet.
In the clockwise direction, the hike starts along Lornie Trail, an unremarkable sand and gravel track where we are frequently overtaken by hardcore runners.
After a short distance, we are offered the option to take the scenic boardwalk or continue along Lornie Trail.
But why wouldn’t we want to take the boardwalk when we could have beautiful reservoir views accompanying us all the way?
And how could we pass up the opportunity to bump into interesting flora and fauna while we are at it?
One of the simple pleasures in life is to be able to sit on one of these benches and wait for the unsuspecting birds to land on one of those overhanging tree branches while we capture a shot of them on our camera.
While sitting on that very bench one day, a brave Scarlet-backed Flowerpecker (Dicaeum cruentatum) came and landed on the overhanging branch in front of us, and surreptitiously grabbed a mouthful of fruit before flitting off.
A party of Pacific Swallows (Hirundo tahitica) can usually be seen flying and feeding above the reservoir water surface. We never thought we’d ever catch a swallow perching on a branch. But this fellow has a particular liking for a specific branch and you can count on him perching here for a rest in between flights.
Another commonly spotted resident of the reservoir is the Olive-winged Bulbul (Pycnonotus plumosus), who is often seen flying across the waters from tree to tree.
A rare resident of the nature reserve, the Blue-eared Kingfisher (Alcedo meninting) was witnessed one day having an altercation with the Pacific Swallow. Both birds were swooping in for fish at the same spot, but the more aggressive swallow had the upper hand and chased the poor kingfisher away. After a brief but noisy pursuit, the kingfisher conceded defeat and retreated into the forest.
A more harmonious bird, the Dark-necked Tailorbird (Orthotomus atrogularis) can usually be heard tweeting incessantly among the trees minding his own business as he flits from branch to branch.
We also had the privilege of having the butterflies accompany us on our hike along the boardwalk. This lovely one came fluttering by and proudly displayed his colourful wings as he rested next to us. He is commonly called the Commander (Moduza procris milonia), perhaps because of his striking commanding colours.
The Chocolate Grass Yellow Butterfly (Eurema sari sodalis) is another one frequently seen fluttering around tirelessly or puddling at the bank of the reservoir.
As we sit and stare into the calm reservoir waters, we’ll notice thousands of bugs dancing across the water surface. These are water skeeters, also called pond skaters or water striders, renowned for their remarkable ability to use the water surface tension to their advantage to walk on water.
We’ll surely also spot some of the colourful dragonflies that inhabit the reservoir, and watch them dance around the water as they attempt to engage in oviposition.
If we do eventually emerge from the boardwalk, we’ll end up on a trail that weaves past the golf course of Singapore Island Country Club.
The idyllic scenery makes this our favourite section of the trail.
This is apparently also the favourite hang-out of the Oriental Magpie Robin (Copsychus saularis). Without fail, we will see him hopping around whenever we pass through; more often that not, with a juicy bug in his mouth.
Along this section of the trail, we’d also likely see the Purple Heron (Ardea purpurea) lurking around, as he attempts to discreetly stalk his prey, while just as discreetly, we try to stalk him.
Eventually, another boardwalk appears and transports us back into the creepy dark forest.
When we arrive at Jelutong Tower, we’ll know that we are at our half-way mark.
We would never miss an opportunity to climb the tower and take a peek at the view around us.
On a lucky day, we might also catch a glimpse of some of the elusive birds that inhabit the reserve, such as the Chestnut-bellied Malkoha (Phaenicophaeus sumatranus)…
…the Greater Green Leafbird (Chloropsis sonnerati)…
…the Asian Red-eyed Bulbul (Pycnonotus brunneus)…
…the Cream Vented Bulbul (Pycnonotus simplex)…
…and rare residents of the forest like the Black-headed Bulbul (Brachypodius melanocephalos).
Satisfied with our catches for the day, we carry on our way.
At Terentang Hut is the start point of the popular TreeTop walk, a free-standing suspension bridge that stretches through the canopy of the mature secondary forest. If we do the TreeTop walk, that will add another 2-km to our journey.
If not, we could take a break at the Ranger Station and load up on water.
Proceeding onward, we continue along Terentang Trail…
…and the seemingly endless MacRitchie Nature Trail…
…before the reservoir appears again.
If we can’t bear for our hike to end so soon, we could hop onto the boardwalk that hugs the reservoir for more breathtaking reservoir views.
Otherwise, continuing along the MacRitchie Nature Trail, we will be quickly deposited back at MacRitchie Reservoir Park, where we could join the monkeys for a picnic and a refreshing drink.