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  The Straits Times, 27 Dec 04
Getting lost - on local nature trails
by Samantha Kudus

A COUPLE went on what they thought would be a romantic evening walk in a nature reserve after dinner one night. But they strayed from the marked trail and ended up spending the night in the jungle, before being rescued the next morning.

With more people exploring nature trails, the National Parks Board has a message for them: stick to the marked trails. Some of the more popular trails include those in the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve and the Central Catchment Nature Reserve.

So far this year, NParks has organised two search rescues to find lost hikers in the Central Catchment Nature Reserve. Usually, the hikers call the police, who then notify the park rangers, and a rescue team is activated, said Ms Sharon Chan, assistant director of NParks' Central Catchment Nature Reserve. The rangers try to pinpoint their location by finding out where they started from, and how long they had been walking for.

The couple had started their walk at about 10pm in the Central Catchment area. Two hours later, they realised that they were going around in circles and called the police. A search team was immediately activated but because the forest was dark, the search team had more difficulty navigating through the trails, and the couple were finally found the next morning.

Said Ms Chan: 'Even if you are experienced, stay on the designated trail. The forest is dynamic and ever-changing, and you may not recognise the spot you had previously visited.' Nobody realises this more than three friends, who decided to go on a Sunday morning hike in the Central Catchment area. One of them suggested a route that is not open to the public, but with which he was familiar. They trekked into the forest but got lost, and called for help. About two hours later, a search team found the group - thirsty, tired and very relieved.

NParks said that it opens up only trails which are safe for the public, and these are maintained regularly. Colour-coded trail markers are placed at regular 500m intervals within the Central Catchment Nature Reserve, and directional signs and mapboards are located at the route junctions. Ms Chan said that once lost hikers call for help, they should stay where they are. One group of hikers, she said, decided to find their own way out even though the rangers had told them to stay put. The result: The search team took six hours to find them.

Mr Ho Ee Kid, president of the Singapore Adventurers Club, said: 'Stick to designated trails and stay safe; be sure you know how to use a map and compass so that you can extricate yourself from trouble if there is a need.'

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