Gardens By The Bay: Artificial can be Fun

I’ve heard some criticism of Gardens By The Bay, Singapore’s latest attraction, with people wondering why the government would create an artificial garden in one place while it destroys natural spaces elsewhere (see Bukit Brown Cemetery as one example). But, actually I liked Gardens By The Bay. It’s not a nature reserve and nor is it trying to be one, and its paid attractions are more expensive than the National Orchid Garden at Singapore Botanic Gardens. And yes, it’s very artificial. But Singapore does “artificial” rather well (see Sentosa Island for another example of this).

Gardens By The BayThe general Gardens By The Bay area is free to enter, so you can wander around and look at the different themed areas. There are gardens for ethnic groups which showcase plants and cultural elements of the group. You can also walk in Supertree Grove. These “fake trees” or vertical gardens, depending on how you look at them, are one of the main features of Gardens By The Bay. There are restaurants and shops, some fun fountains of the type that suddenly spurt water into the air, and it all feels kind of futuristic. It’s a pleasant space to enjoy a walk in a crowded city.

The main attractions at Gardens By The Bay do cost money, though they’re not hugely expensive. We had tickets for two of them: Cloud Forest and Flower Dome.

Cloud Forest

Walking into the Cloud Forest, one of the massive domes, I was hit by a blast of cold wind and rain… Wait a minute, I thought, this is just like being back in London. Ah ha, us Brits pay to feel the tropical heat of the Eden Project in Cornwall, while Singaporeans pay to feel cold and wet.

waterfallBut it turned out that my first impression was somewhat mistaken. The water came from the 30m high waterfall, one of the Cloud Forest’s main features, and we were not in a synthesized UK, but in an artificial cloud forest, at a relatively high altitude up a mountain. This made it all seem more fun.

We walked around the base of the mountain, and then went up in the lift (I told you it was futuristic), we could see the water gushing down below. As we walked up to the mountain peak the vegetation gradually changed. At the top of the mountain we found vegetation normally found at a high altitude, or so we were told. Fortunately, Cloud Forest is full of information for visitors, about the altitude simulated, the types of vegetation and the impact of the current environmental crisis of global warming. The information was written clearly and we felt we could learn something.

plants at the top of the mountainDescending into the belly of the mountain we came upon a hall full of stalactites and stalagmites and some information about their formation. Under the mountain we learnt about the effects of global warming and predictions for the Earth’s future.

The Cloud Forest environment was fun with its wind, rain and cloud simulations, and we learnt about some important environmental issues.

Flower Dome

We also had tickets for the other dome at Gardens By The Bay, Flower Dome, where a simulated cool, dry climate supports plants from the Mediterranean, parts of South and Central America, Australia and Africa.

inside Flower DomeWe saw many plants from these regions, which are not native to Southeast Asia, including baobab trees, olive trees, and some amazing cacti and succulents. The central area of the Flower Dome is used for a seasonal flower display, which while we were there was showing an autumnal array of oranges, yellows and reds, with rustic harvest time elements. Spectacular due to its size and the well-ordered flowerbeds, the view across the whole dome from the baobab garden was amazing.

A New Garden to Visit

The two domes are both worth a visit, especially if you’re living in tropical Southeast Asia and want to experience a different climate. I preferred the Cloud Forest due to its mountain environment and contrasting climate, but the flowers were more spectacular at Flower Dome.

Autumnal display at Flower Dome

Gardens By The Bay is a pleasant place to visit for a wander and makes an good alternative to Singapore Botanic Gardens.