Recently I wrote about the great fun that we had visiting Sentosa Island in Singapore, but that wasn’t the only amazing place we had the opportunity to visit while in this beautiful Asian city-state. Our visit to the Gardens by the Bay Singapore was breathtakingly beautiful, full of riotous color, and left us in awe with its festival of lights created by the metal supertrees.
I thought I’d tell you about this must-see green development that lies on the bay in Singapore.
About the Gardens by the Bay, Singapore
WHAT IS GARDENS BY THE BAY?
Well, if you ask me Gardens by the Bay is a national treasure, but technically it’s a modern public garden space that represents plant species from most of the world’s countries and endeavors to “present the plant kingdom in a whole new way.” Which I can attest that it certainly does.
The gardens themselves are composed of three different venues along the waterfront. Bay South is by far the most popular, as it contains the two cooled conservatories and the Supertree Grove. Bay Central is a 3-kilometer waterfront promenade and green space, and Bay East is a green space open to the public with additional plans to develop it over the next few decades into a waterfront garden.
There are over 1,500,000 plants in the Gardens, representing over 20,000 species from around the world. And the number continues to climb in their efforts to enrich the permanent displays and their rotating attractions. This makes it a truly one-of-a-kind place in Asia, and probably the world. Almost 9 million people made their way through the gardens (FY 2016/17), and we were so happy to add to their count this year. I promise you will be too if you get the chance.
WHERE IS GARDENS BY THE BAY?
Gardens by the Bay is located in Marina South and fronts the Marina Bay, which is just off the Straits of Singapore. It’s actually just outside the downtown core and a few miles east of Sentosa Island. Here is a link to the map!
While these are public gardens, there is a fee to enter the Cooled Conservatories (Flower Dome and Cloud Forest). Adults are charged $28 per person, while children can gain admission for $15. (Children under 3 years of age are free.) Tickets may be purchased in advance online here or in person at the Canopy Ticketing Counter or Bayfront Plaza Ticketing Counter. There is an additional fee of $8 ($5 for children) for the OCBC Skyway. Passes are good for both indoor venues and for one day only. The Outdoor Gardens and Far East Organization Children’s Garden are free.
GARDENS BY THE BAY HOURS
Hours vary based on the venue:
- Cooled Conservatories are open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily
- Outdoor Gardens are open from 5 a.m. to 2 a.m. daily
- Far East organization Children’s Garden open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday (Closed Monday)
- OCBC Skyway is open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily
How to Get to Gardens by the Bay
Public transportation is the preferred method for tourists and citizens alike. Given the size of Singapore and its lack of garages, parking spaces, and highways, cars are a luxury item that is outrageously expensive, compounded by the high price of gas, road taxes, electronic road pricing, and pretty high daily parking fees—both inside and outside the central business district. Add in congestion on most every roadway as you’ll be a convert to public transit in no time.
That being said, your best bets are to take the bus, train or to walk to the Gardens by the Bay. There are three bus/train lines that will get you within proximity of the Gardens: The Circle Line and Downtown Line will deposit you at the Bayfront MRT Station and you walk across one of two bridges to the park, or take the East-West Line and get off at the Tanjong Pagar MRT Station, hop on the 400 bus and get off at bust top 03371 along Marina Gardens Drive. The Gardens are accessible by foot via the Helix Bridge or from the Marina Bay Sands Hotel across the Lions Bridge.
Alternately, you can take a taxi. Since we were staying downtown at The Fullerton Bay Hotel, we walked to the Gardens. Since downtown Singapore is relatively small you can usually get around by walking to your destinations.
Gardens by the Bay Attractions
Okay, this is where things get really good. I mean, just look at the pictures. Walls of green, towering metal trees, waterfalls, and the flowers (those tulips were unreal)! This really is a place of beauty, and each exhibit—both inside the cooled conservatories and out—is worthy of your time.
A soaring mountain of greenery lives within the glass dome that is the Cloud Forest Conservatory. Shrouded in mist, the plants that live here come from the tropical regions of the world. This cooled conservatory runs at about 80-90% humidity with a very comfortable temperature of about 75 degrees.
Within this venue is the Secret Garden, Crystal Mountain, Tree Top Walk, The Cavern, the world’s tallest indoor waterfall and—at the very top of the mountain—the Lost World, which you can access via the Cloud Walk.
The Secret Forest replicates species that can be found in limestone forest and caves, primarily orchids, ferns, and other lush greenery. With the mist, I thought it looked almost ethereal, something out of a fairy tale. But my favorite part of this exhibit was the Tree Top Walk to the Lost World. You can walk inside the mountain of plants, under archways and make stops at various vista points, including one where you can enjoy the cool mist of the indoor waterfall as it rains down the mountain.
It’s safe to say that the Flower Dome is the largest glass greenhouse in the world, measuring in at 2.5 acres. You’ll find the humidity here is a bit less than that of the Cloud Forest, usually around 60-80%, with a similar temperature of 75 degrees. The plants here are from the Mediterranean and subtropical regions of the world.
The Flower Dome consists of the Olive Grove, California Garden, South America Garden, South African Garden, Mediterranean Garden, Australia Garden, The Baobobs, a Succulent Garden and the Flower Field.
The Flower Field is a rotating floral display that can last from a few weeks to a few months. While we visited it was based on tulips, while the current event is Orchid Extravaganza. As you can see from the photos, there were tulips everywhere, in every color imaginable. We saw single tulips, double tulips, fringed tulips, variegated tulips, lily tulips, and the list goes on….
The succulent garden looked like it came right out of the Arizona desert, and we really liked the Australian Garden, having visited that country earlier this year. Having lived in the Central Valley of California, we were curious about the California Garden, but the plants featured there were more tailored to the lower Sierras than the farmland we’re used to. Still, made us a bit homesick.
The most dramatic exhibit, after the Flower Field, of course, is the Baobabs and Bottle Trees. The baobabs, native to Africa, Arabia, and Australia, are huge and weigh as much as 32 tons. They’re gigantic umbrella-looking trees that flower only at night. There was also the unusual Palo Borracho, with its bulbous trunks and sparse greenery. Definitely worth a look.
The Supertree Grove is unlike anything we’ve seen anywhere in the world. It is composed of 12 trees, with the tallest among them reaching 16 stories into the sky. (Six more supertrees are located elsewhere in the outdoor gardens.) Eleven of these supertrees feature environmentally sustainable features like solar cells to harness energy for the gardens and nightly light show.
There are four parts to each of these supertrees: the concrete core, a trunk and canopy made of metal, and planting panels that allow plants to grow within the supertree. Within the 18 supertrees are over 160,000 plants, as well as huge series of colored lights.
Visitors are allowed to climb the trees, which provide a great vantage point (and photo op) to view much of the city. Alternately, you can pay to venture out onto the OCBC Skyway (see below), which spans two of these superstructures. You can even grab a bite to eat at the bistro located at the top of one of the supertrees!
These structures are certainly larger than life, providing brilliant color with their orchids, ferns and tropical flowers growing vertically up the trunk. But even more colorful is the evening Garden Rhapsody light show—with musical accompaniment—that enchants visitors. There are two showings each night (7:45 and 8:45 p.m.) with the show changing every few weeks, with topics like Opera in the Gardens, Garden Waltz, and Enchanted Woods (perfect for children with its magical beings and mythical beasts).
This is a good a place as any for a photo op within Gardens by the Bay. The OCBC Skyway sits 72 feet in the air, spanning 400 feet between several of the towering supertrees. This aerial walkway allows you to get a bird’s eye view of the structure of the supertrees, as well as the Marina Bay skyline, the Bay itself, and the rest of the Gardens.
These four are the main attractions at Gardens by the Bay, however, there are additional sites available for visitation, including:
- World of Plants
- Sun Pavilion
- Heritage Gardens
- The Canyon
- Dragonfly and Kingfisher Lakes
- Far East Organization Children’s Garden
- Sculpture Garden
Gardens by the Bay Travel Tips
- Arrive around 7:15 p.m. to get a spot to watch the light show that starts at 7:45, as it can get very crowded, the photo above is from everyone lying on the ground to see the show. There is no designated seating so as you see people gathering around the main big tree find a spot!
- Plan on spending 1-2 hours each in the Cloud Forest and Flower Dome. Time will depend upon the crowds and how many photos you want to take. If you want to visit the OCBC Skyway, you can walk it in 5 minutes nonstop, but you’ll want about a half hour to really take in all the sites that are viewable from this high up. Allow another 30-45 for the Supertree Grove.
- If you want to visit when there is the least amount of crowds arrive before they open on a weekday. We arrived about an hour before they opened to get an idea where everything was and to buy our tickets. We didn’t wait at all and we were able to get as many pictures as we wanted without the huge groups of people.
- Deneding on how many days you are visiting Singapore, you could go to Gardens by the Bay conservatories in the morning and then come back another night for the light show or do them both on the same day. There is not enough to see to spend the entire day here so spend the morning here then come back at night.
- There are a lot of dining options within the Gardens, from fine European cuisine and seafood to simple cafes, and even a McDonald’s. For a fun street food experience, head over to Satay by the Bay, with their 20 stalls, featuring all manner of satay, rice and noodle dishes, snacks, you name it. You can also satisfy a sweet tooth by popping into Bakerzin, featuring decadent European and Asian cakes, cookies and pastries.
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