Thursday, May 6, 2010

Labrador Nature Park

Despite our efforts, Bryan and I have not yet visited every nature reserve in Singapore, so we added another one to our list last weekend. Labrador Nature Reserve is in the south-central part of Singapore, not far from Harbourfront. It's right on the shore and I was looking forward to some sea breezes on an otherwise stiflingly hot day.

We took the MRT to Harbourfront and then the 408 Parks bus (which runs only on weekends) out to Labrador. As soon as we got off the bus, we spotted a couple of cute, brown and grey-speckled geckos.

We meandered toward the jetty to check out the sea views. Along the way we saw lots of pretty flowers and trees, including a big, fruitful starfruit tree surrounded by butterflies. I always love seeing these gargantuan leaves with the holes in the center. Bryan's hand off to the left side gives a little perspective.Closer to the water, we found these dainty pink flowers.We got to the jetty and I was surprised at the lovely turquoise hue of the water. I usually think of Singapore's water as being sort of dingy-colored. Apparently the rocky beach below used to be open to the public, but it was overused and was rapidly degrading, so it is now closed except for research and special guided tours. Everyone else has to enjoy it from the boardwalk. It was still really nice, although the view over the water isn't great- there are tons of huge boats and cranes and whatnot.
The breeze was as refreshing as I had hoped, and we enjoyed walking along the jetty and looking out over the water. This guy was fishing off the jetty, right in front of the "NO FISHING" sign. Classy.There was a nice view of the shore from out on the walkway. Back on land, we walked through a small park area with a bunch of benches and BBQ pits. Lots of families were picnicking there, and it made me excited for my upcoming trip to the U.S. when I get to see MY family. There were some really cool trees in the park area, including my new favorite, the sea grape tree! Further down the seashore, Bryan liked the tangled vines growing from this behemoth of a tree. Some of the vines looked like someone had knotted or braided them.In another sea grape tree, I saw a female changeable lizard acting kind of strange. She was sitting perfectly still on a branch, with her neck stretched forward and her mouth opened wide. Bryan suggested that she might be ambush hunting- remaining motionless until an insect unsuspectingly got within range, and then striking out without warning. Pretty neat! On the beach, back toward the forest a bit, was a big, strange structure. Closer inspection revealed that it was part of the Labrador Secret Tunnels, a network of tunnels left over from World War II. The tunnels connected throughout the reserve, and to above-ground structures like cannons, lookout points, and gun towers. The structure that we found appeared to be a point for looking out over the water.We rounded a corner on the beach and were greeted with a huge red rock with a sign reading "DRAGON'S TEETH GATE" next to it. I was struck by the incongruity of the rock with its surroundings- there were no other reddish rocks in sight. And then I noticed the door in the back of the rock. It was fake! Apparently Dragon's Teeth Gate, a.k.a. Long Ya Men, was once a real structure that served as a landmark for mariners. The natural rock structure was destroyed by the British in the 1800's, as they widened the harbor so that larger vessels could fit through. The replica was erected at Labrador about five years ago. I know it has some historical significance, but to be honest it reminds me a lot of the type of structures you see at miniature golf courses!Lots of people were fishing (legally, unlike the guy on the jetty) by Dragon's Teeth Gate. This guy had an interesting technique, where he repeatedly tossed out a big, weighted net . It was interesting to watch, but he didn't seem to be catching much other than seaweed.There were tons of lizards along this rocky but manicured stretch of water. I loved Bryan's shot of the orange male changeable lizard. There were also some pretty birds and beautiful flowers.We sat along the shore for awhile and watched the waves crash up against the rocks. There were some neat sea snails clinging onto the rocks where we sat. The sea snails were really similar to the ones we saw on our recent excursion to Pulau Ubin.  Big boats periodically passing by churned up big waves, at one point splashing high enough to soak my legs. Oops!As we walked back toward the forest and away from the beach, we stopped to look at some neat plants and a cute little boy on a scooter scooted up to chat with me. I talked to him about plants for a few seconds before he wheeled away again. As Bryan and I walked along, we spotted smoke coming out of a stand of bushes and the little boy and his friend looking worried and yelling "SMOKE!!!" As I got closer it looked more and more like fire, and sure enough, when I peered into the bushes, there was a small fire burning in the leaves. The fire was surrounded by dried leaves and could have swelled in size very quickly. I hurried back to Bryan and grabbed our two water bottles, which I upturned over the fire. It went out pretty easily, and the boy declared me a hero, which was pretty silly. After the fire was out, I spotted the source- a used cigarette next to a discarded pack. Both the cigarette and the pack had been burning. In addition to being a litterbug and firestarter, whoever threw the cigarette pack out had also been the owner of some illegal cigarettes. All of S'pore's cigarette packs have gruesome warnings on them (like this one), but this one was a plain pack, which means that it almost certainly came from an illegal source. Sigh. Smoking is illegal in the nature reserves for a reason. (Strangely enough, this isn't the first time something like this has happened. Back in 2008, I was in the Grand Canyon with a couple of friends when we noticed smoke billowing out of a trashcan. We dumped two full Nalgene bottles on it, and still had to go back for more water before the fire was really out. I suspect that a lit cigarette was also the culprit that time. I mean, honestly, if you're going to be disgusting and smoke, the least you can do is put the dang thing out before you go tossing it all over the place).

As we wandered deeper into the woods, we found more war relics, including this huge cannon. Looking down the barrel of the cannon was pretty neat- I never expected that cannons had grooves like that inside them. Crazy! The cannon was manned by some black statue guys.As we continued our rather haphazard walk, we stumbled upon what appeared to be the main entrance to the secret tunnel. We'd been hoping to go inside, but there was a big gate, secured with a rather intimidating padlock. I think that you can typically get into the tunnels, but everything appeared to be closed that day, perhaps because it was a Sunday on a holiday weekend. So we snapped a picture down the dark hallway and continued on our way. I have to say, even that one glimpse into the tunnel made me want to return. It looked like an abandoned building lover's dream.At one place, there was a small door to the tunnel system that looked as though it was supposed to be locked, but wasn't. We creaked the door open and took a peak, and were surprised to see three blackish geckos! They were spotted house geckos, hiding in the dark. We took a photo and then shut the door tight and left them in privacy.We headed out of the park, bound for Harbourfront and VivoCity, where we tried out a British pub called The Queen & Mangosteen. I ended up having one of the most delicious sandwiches of my lifetime (avocado, sun-dried tomato, portabella mushroom, and brie on ciabatta bread. Amazing). But before we left Labrador, we walked past the Olive Restaurant, which was closed. The restaurant was open-air and there were no staff there, but despite these crucial facts, there was still a table near the sidewalk, covered in full liquor bottles. I couldn't believe it! Full bottles of very expensive alcohol (in S'pore, it's pretty much liquid gold), sitting right out in the open, with only a hand-written sign saying "In operation CCTV Security" to protect them. Only in Singapore!


  1. not sure if they are still there, but there were some abandoned colonial bungalows someplace on the outskirts of Labrador park.

  2. ya,anyone has any clue wats the building used for back in those days?

  3. I'm hoping you will see this, since I notice the last comment was in 2018. I'm currently writing a novel in which Labrador park is featured. If there are any other blogs you can point me to describing the park I'd be grateful. Many thanks... Tony A......