It is sometimes necessary to spend a day in soothing surroundings, even for the restless of travelers. For those touring in Singapore, at the north east end not far from the country’s urban roar, a 133 hectares of relatively-untouched and open green space still remains. This bit of greenplot is not only one of the best spots to wander about calmly, but it also presents an invitation to witness a diversity of habitats and wildlife.
The history of Coney Island Park
Coney Island Park, also known as Pungau Serangoon, can trace its beginnings back to the 1930s and 1940s when it was owned by Tiger Balm brand founders Aw Boon Haw and Aw Boon Par. In honor to its proprietors, the area used to go by the name of Haw Par Island. In fact, the Haw Par Beach Villa – a house built by these two brothers – still stands today as a reminder of the islet’s almost forgotten past.
In 1950, with the downfall of the Tiger Balm empire, the island passed onto the hands of a businessman whose aim was to turn it into a leisure resort under the name of “Singapore Coney Island”. Nonetheless, just three years later the territory found itself being put up for auction and, from then on, passing through the hands of numerous landowners until being acquired by the local government in 1975.
After a series of land reclamation projects that saw the size of the island expand, one of which resulted in the emergence of the adjoining Serangoon Reservoir, Singapore’s National Parks Board opened Coney Island Park in 2015.
A multifaceted landscape
Most may think of a park as an open space filled with grass and a few benches. Though this is often the case, it is far from what visitors will run into at Coney Island Park. This little spot of green holds an array of habitats including grasslands, coastal forests, casuarina woodlands and mangroves.
You can choose to cruise this varied terrain by foot or bicycle, or join one of the guided tours offered by National Parks volunteers. Guided tours are organized Saturday mornings during the months of June, November and December. Bike rentals can be found at Punggol Settlement which is situated at the west entrance of the park. Signage showing the way across the park has been installed to guide solo visitors. These will also lead you to any of the five beach areas the park is divided into and, if you are planning for a peaceful scape into the park’s white sands, we recommend you follow the paths to beach areas C and E.
The legacy of a vanishing wildlife
The variety on this island does not limit itself to the amount of habitats it houses, but it stretches to encompass the number of plants and animals that reside on its grounds. Inhabitants include around 80 species of birds, 86 species of trees, and over 157 species of animals; many of which find themselves currently endangered.
Crab-eating Macaques will probably come across most visitors paths, playful Smooth-coated Otters might make their appearance, but more evasive species such as the vibrant Sultan Dragonfly, the lovely Long-tailed Parakeet, the magnificent spotted wood owl, or outlandish Giant Mudskipper will only be spotted by the most vigilant of walkers.
If you happen to be a wildlife enthusiast, a pro-tip is to make use of the designated bird-watching huts and wait quietly and patiently for an interesting dweller to pass by.
While Casuarina trees are the most prevalent, native Paku Raja cycads – actually the last two survivors of their kind in the whole of Singapore – still stand proud within the park’s boundaries. If you happen to be a tree hugger, feel free to stop by and show these champions the affection they deserve.
Trails of sustainable efforts
Other than allowing for Coney Island Park to retain its natural state with little human intervention, the National Parks Board has strived to manage it in a sustainable manner. No running water or electricity can be found within the park. The toilets found at the southern access bridge, for instance, run using rainwater and solar-powered pumps.
All of its signage, benches, boardwalks and the mini-obstacles found at Casuarina Exploration playground were built using wood from the park’s uprooted Casuarina trees.
Address: Serangoon Island
Monday – Sunday | 7am – 7pm