Step inside Singapore’s very own Cloud Forest and walk amidst the mists of a manmade highland ecosystem, brilliantly designed to generate environmental awareness.
Within Gardens by the Bay, standing at an impressive 58 meters high, a huge glass bubble seals in the cool-moist ecology of a tropical highland environment and locks in thick swirling mists. At its centre, 35 metres high, a mountain blanketed in dense green flora and fauna, flashing occasional myriad blooms of begonias and tropical rhododendrons stands still. A waterfall plunges from the peak and refreshing streams of water spring from various points of the mountain, adding to the wet sounds of a damp hilltop landscape. The name of this majestic biome in the heart of Singapore, is Cloud Forest.
Cloud Forest is a glass conservatory built to simulate cool highland environments found in a handful of regions across the globe, which exist at elevations of approximately 800 to 3,000 metres. This unique type of forest, veiled in perpetual mist, is found in Central and South America, Africa, Southeast Asia and the Caribbean, yet in total such ecosystems cover less than one percent of all global land. Cloud Forests are distinct environments; laced with massive ancient trees and rare plants which spread across undulating topography and they are home to numerous creatures not found anywhere else in the world. Not only are these ecosystems home to rare species and plants, but they are essential life support systems which perform a number of important ecological functions that trickle into other ecosystems and human communities, existing at lower altitudes.
Just like the diminishing rainforests and the melting ice caps, cloud forests are also threatened by climate change and other human activities such as farming, poaching, logging, fires, hunting and overpopulation. Unfortunately, the very particular climate and moisture of cloud forests renders them highly sensitive to changes in their environment and therefore, to climate change. In reality, cloud forests are likely to be one of the first ecosystems lost forever if continual damage is done and now more than ever decisive action to protect these natural treasures is required.
Simulating this fragile ecosystem, Cloud Forest in Singapore hopes to generate awareness for all its visitors regarding the declining state of cloud forests all over the world. A trip to the conservatory tucked away in Singapore’s Gardens by the Bay, could be highly education even to those with preexisting knowledge about climate change, and could be key to reigniting your passion for environmentalism.
The Cloud Forest in Singapore
You will be thankful for some relief from the sticky Singapore heat upon entry to the chilled Cloud Forest. Not only will the mist cool you down, but blinds shielding the dome will keep you out of the sun. The cool conservatory biome of Cloud Forest is carefully maintained at a temperature of around 24 degrees by glass which uses special sensors. These sensors can automatically initiate the spreading of screens across the dome, therefore shading the interior when required, resulting in perfect, self-regulating climate control (perfect for plants and visitors alike).
Once inside the refreshing atmosphere of the dome, visitors can get up close and personal with the plants and various features of the Cloud Forest. Scaling the heights of Cloud Mountain, you can wander along winding suspended walkways which protrude from, and pass through, the mountain structure. On your way around, you will catch glimpses of the outdoor gardens from up high, as well as discover rare plant life and vegetation flourishing upon the Cloud Mountain’s steep sides. In fact, the mountain is covered in around 4000 square meters of vegetated surface imported from various parts of the globe.
Cool, humid air and trickles of water falling from the mountain will not only refresh guests upon contact but more importantly, water droplets delight certain resident plants too. Epiphytes including orchids, ferns, lichens, mosses, cacti and bromeliads absorb their much needed nutrients from the humid air and rainfall, making the dome’s humidity key to nourishing plants.
As you explore the conservatory, you’ll discover plenty more to do than just observe. With seven levels to explore, Cloud Mountain provides guests with the opportunity to learn about the biodiversity and geology of Cloud Forests. Take an elevator to the top, to Lost World, and spot carnivorous plants such as the Venus Flytrap, before descending to Crystal Mountain Cave where you’ll find a variety of stalactites, stalagmites and hollowed-out crystals. Spend some time here learning a thing or two about the geology of the earth. Near the base of the mountain, visit the Cloud Forest Gallery and you’ll be greeted by an interactive exhibition portraying the story of our current geological age – The Anthropocene. At ground level, the intriguing Secret Garden boasts more than 7000 plants and 135 hybrids in a landscape representing limestone forests and caves. Interspersed amongst the foliage you’ll find art sitting within the ponds and plantings.
Meandering through the innovative green gem that is Cloud Forest, visitors will have their attention split between admiring nature’s pure beauty and gaining indispensable environmental knowledge. In many parts, it’s not just about cloud forests either. Visitors will also be confronted with information about climate change and environmentalism more broadly. At the Cloud Forest Theatre, visitors are informed about climate change through short clips and films with a focus on sustainable futures. To get the most out of your visit, be sure to watch video clips about the creation of Gardens by the Bay and the central position eco-sensitivity took in their approach to the planning and design of the gardens. Stay for a little longer and watch ‘+5 Degrees’, a short film informing visitors about how our planet might change when the temperature of earth increases.
To leave with a dose of hope and optimism, stay to watch ‘Green World’; a film which helps the public to see how they can make changes to reduce their impact on the environment. The setting for a screening of this type couldn’t be more inspiring or persuasive. If an innovative bubble of tropical wilderness, constructed in the heart of a bustling city doesn’t ignite the environmentalist within you, we aren’t sure what will!