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8 April 2019

gardens by the bay: are they worth it, when the singapore botanical gardens are free?

in a word: yes. in a much longer version of that - say, enough to fill a blog post, i'll say: let me talk you through why i think they definitely are worth a visit. for a start, they are air conditioned, which is the holy grail in any tropical climate, and already worth spending money on. also though, it's basically hours of fun for any anthophile, with hundreds of varieties of plants, trees, flowers, and natural beauty to wander around and between, waiting for you to take a zillion photos of. that's not to say of course, that the singapore botanical gardens don't offer the same variety of tropical nature, but they are outside, in the tropical sunshine, with zero respite from the tropical heat. so, if you like that sorta thing - plants and deathly hot tropical air that sucks every bit of breath you have directly from your lungs - then save your money and go there instead.

if not, head to the gardens by the bay. ok, so first things first: the air condititioned part of the gardens isn't cheap, but you can easily spend half a day there - in fully a/c'ed greenhouses, outside in a number of unique spaces designed and curated seasonally, and at the light show in the evenng - plus, there are a number of fancy cafes and restaurants on site too, so you really can make quite the event out of it. the part of the park that isn't free to wander is the two conservatories - the cloud forest and the flower dome, but access to both only costs $28sgd (about £16 for an adult, about half of that for a child, with more of a discount for families and residents), which will get you unlimited entry to the two domes. if you want to walk to the domes from the entrance of the gardens, it's about a twenty minute journey, or a couple of minutes and dollars in a garden shuttle. we did that. because, hot.

the flower dome

on entering the air conditioned (i feel like i'm going on about this, but seriously: it's hot there) flower dome conservatory, i first couldn't breath - it was that cold. well, not cold, but certainly chillier than we were used to; a shock of air con to the system after being in the heat all morning was really something else (according to the site, it's 23 degrees in there. lol). inside the dome itself you do a ton of walking (it's 1,300m2 in size!), so you soon warm right back. it's really incredible to be inside the largest greenhouses in the world, and not hard to see why the attraction continues to win awards of excellence year after year. we visited just after christmas, so the seasonal display was a showcase of anime disney characters dressed up for the holiday season. it seemed bonkers to me that disney cartoons would warrant their own display in such an epic space, but everyone seemed to love it. 

personally, i wish i could have visited during one of the flower shows, as that's more my jam, but it was just as nice to wander from region to region to enjoy the various displays. every continent (bar the antarctic) was represented in flora, and some even by wooden sculptures of fauna that originate in those areas. n this cool/dry conservatory it's endless spring, as the climate of five continents are replicated across nine different gardens. you can wander amongst thousand-year old olive trees as you make your way to the arid dessert displays, and the ever-changing flower field.

the cloud forest

you have to leave the flower dome to get to the cloud forest, but they are only a short walk from one another (as you will know if you have ever seen an aerial shot of singapore). the site describes this conservatory as the "cool-moist" dome, which is.. great, but really all it means is: this one's hotter. not as hot as the outside, but way more humid than the flower dome. on first entering the dome, you will just note the immense man-made 30 metre waterfall straight inside. good luck getting through without getting wet, seriously - the constant waterfall mist will follow you wherever you go in this dome!

the plants and flowers in this conservatory are derived from the tropical highlands, so imagine if you will, tropical orchids and tropical ferns, and other such tropical delights - with slightly less of a tropical climate than, well, the tropics. the waterfall is pretty great though, and very refreshing everytime you get splashed by it. there's a "cloud walk" i absolutely did not want to try on for size, but bex did - wandering 35 metres above the rock hard ground, and by all accounts said it was very safe. you can make that decision for yourself.

the supertree grove

this the iconic view you'll know of singapore; the giant metal trees that sit outside the marina bay sands hotel, and light up nightly in a wicked light display that we did not stick around to see - not even once during our trip - though we were assured it is pretty cool. the trees are between 25 and 50 metres tall, and were designed to provide shade during the day, and make the light show ultra epic by night. there's another mental sky walk here - a casual 22 metres above the rock hard ground, but hell no i did not give it a try. it actually costs more money to get up there, and i would rather someone pay me to do things like that, than to have to shell out for the honour, but again i'm told it's pretty neat.

more than 158,000 plants from over 700 species of tropical flowering climbers have been planted in the supergrove, and each of the supertrees have different planting schemes in a range of colours to keep them looking fresh, and no two look the same. all the plants used are lightweight and soil-less, for ease of maintenance, but all look very lush and when we visited, the plants had grown almost to the top of the trees - in the next few years, the supertrees will be wholly covered, and even more incredible to look at.

as well as the three main areas, there are the kingfisher lakes, the serene garden, the heritage garden, the outdoor art sculptures, and a whole lot more. so, is a trip here worth it when the singapore botanical gardens are free? 100% yes. no doubt in my mind. absolutely, yes.

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