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  The Straits Times, 30 Jan 05
TreeTop Walk too tough?
By Sarah Ng

Some visitors to the suspension bridge in MacRitchie say the 10.3km trek there and back is too tiring, and that the wait to get on is too long .Try the Kent Ridge trail Another leafy trek, the Kent Ridge Canopy Walk is only three minutes' walk from the nearest carpark and allows access to people in wheelchairs.

SOME came in slippers and court shoes, others never expected it to take so long.

The TreeTop Walk nestled near MacRitchie Reservoir Park in the lush Central Catchment Nature Reserve has drawn 45,500 visitors in barely three months, but some visitors have complained that the 10.3km there and back is a tad difficult to navigate.

Others say they are waiting too long to get onto the bridge because only 30 people are allowed on it at any one time, and there are those who ask for it to open earlier than 9am, and want more informational signs.

The 250m-long suspension bridge cost $1.6 million to build and opened on Nov 5. It attracts 2,000 to 3,000 each day on weekends and 300 each day on weekdays. It is accessible via a 5km gravel nature trail that starts at MacRitchie Reservoir. The return route takes visitors up and down a series of boardwalks.

Most visitors come prepared for the rugged terrain, decked out in T-shirts, shorts, hats and walking shoes with water bottles in hand.

But the rangers manning the walk have seen people wearing court shoes and slippers. Said park ranger Osman Sulaiman, 59: 'We also have quite a number of elderly people and we always advise them to take it slowly.'

Ms Linda Lee, 34, a secretary who was walking with her boyfriend, Mr John Goh, 37, an engineer, was panting when The Sunday Times interviewed her at the Ranger Station. She had just finished the 5km trail and was on her way to the TreeTop Walk. She said: 'I knew it's about a two- to three-hour walk to the bridge, but I never expected it to be so tiring because some parts were uphill.'

Others were not prepared to wait in the sun to get onto the bridge. Said housewife Lily Ng, 51, who visited the walk a second time with her sister yesterday: 'When we came on Hari Raya Haji, it was so crowded that we had to wait about 20 minutes to get onto the bridge. It was so hot.'

Others felt that there should be more signs to direct people to the walk. Said Ms Sharon Chan, assistant director of the Central Catchment Nature Reserve: 'The trail is graded moderate to difficult, but if you are mentally and physically prepared for the walk, it is suitable for anyone, even the elderly and children.' But if you have a fear of heights, heart problem or feel dizzy easily, then it is best that you don't do the walk, she added.

As for the queues to get onto the bridge, she said it was only 80cm wide and the flow of traffic is one-way. Rangers allow only 30 people on it at a time, so that people can enjoy the tranquillity and the views without being jostled. The bridge can't open earlier because the rangers need time to check the bridge for any faults and vandalism and ensure that it is safe before it is opened. A cleaner also comes in to clear the fallen leaves, the occasional sweet wrapper and monkey droppings left overnight. The bridge is closed at 5pm to ensure that it is still bright when visitors hike back to MacRitchie Reservoir Park, a journey that takes about two hours.

To provide more information, a mapboard with details such as the distance, estimated walking time and difficulty level will be put up at MacRitchie Reservoir Park by the middle of the year. There will also be more informational signs along the trail, highlighting the names of plants and interesting facts about them.

Some visitors The Sunday Times interviewed said the secret to enjoying the walk was to take it slow. Said Mrs Lilian Cheong, 40, a teacher: 'You shouldn't rush because it is supposed to be a relaxing activity.'

But for those who still find the trail too daunting, there's another leafy walk, at Kent Ridge Park, that is closer to civilisation and easier on the feet. The Kent Ridge Canopy Walk, which opened in November 2003, is a 280m-long boardwalk that combines nature and history. It links Kent Ridge Park to the Reflections at Bukit Chandu museum, which houses the history of Opium Hill and the battalion of the Malay Regiment in the Pasir Panjang area during World War II. It is 2m wide and three minutes' walk from the nearest carpark, and the $1.3 million boardwalk allows access to people in wheelchairs and parents with baby strollers. Said Ms Eslindah Ismail, National Parks Board's section head for parks management: 'This boardwalk is built for the family, the elderly and the physically disabled to give them an opportunity to learn about an important part of Singapore's history.'

How the trails compare


What: HSBC TreeTop Walk, Central Catchment Nature Reserve
Getting there: By bus: 74, 93, 130, 132, 156, 157, 162, 165, 166, 167, 852, 855 and 980 to MacRitchie Reservoir Park along Lornie Road. By car: Enter park via Lornie Road.
Distance: 10.3km loop trail from MacRitchie Nature Trail, includes 250m suspension treetop bridge.
Difficulty level: Trail: Moderate to difficult, gravel terrain and boardwalk, some parts uphill. Bridge: Easy.
Walking time: Two to three hours on the trail one way, 10 minutes or longer on the bridge, depending on individual's pace and interest.
Elevation: 27m, about seven storeys.
What to see: 90 species of birds, including white-bellied sea eagle and drongo cuckoo, reptiles including black-bearded dragon, and 18 rare trees and climbers.
Opening hours: 9am to 5pm, last entry to bridge at 4.45pm. Closed on Mondays. Free admission.
Nearest facilities: Toilets and water cooler at Ranger Station, about two hours' walk from the start of trail or 30 minutes' walk from the end of the TreeTop Walk.

Kent Ridge
What: Kent Ridge Canopy Walk, Kent Ridge Park
Getting there: By bus: 10, 30, 51, 143 and 176 to Pasir Panjang Road and walk up Pepys Road. By car: Enter via Pepys Road, off Pasir Panjang Road, park at Carpark C.
Distance: 280m boardwalk
Difficulty level: Pepys Road: Moderate, sloping tarmac road. Boardwalk: Easy. Walking time: 20 minutes' walk up Pepys Road or three minutes' walk from Carpark C. 20 minutes or longer on the boardwalk, depending on individual's pace and interest.
Elevation: 1m to 16m, about four storeys.
What to see: Squirrels, sunbirds, white-crested laughing thrushes, butterflies and dragonflies.
Opening hours: Always open. Free admission.
Nearest facilities: Toilets at Reflections at Bukit Chandu museum, three minutes' walk from Carpark C. Toilets and water cooler at Carpark B, 10 minutes' walk from boardwalk.

Fact sheet on the Tree Top Walk with links to more articles.

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