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A tropical Eden: The Singapore Botanic Gardens

Please only travel when and where it’s safe, and follow all local guidelines. Also double-check what's open before your trip.

Fat raindrops splatter the hot paved walking trail, turning into steam twizzles.

We’ve just started our walk through the Singapore Botanic Gardens.

We have 2 days in Singapore, and this doesn’t bode well for our visit. 

The Singapore Botanic Gardens are over 160 years old.
Singapore’s botanical gardens are over 160 years old

We huddle together under a big tree’s leafy canopy, hoping the sudden downpour will be short-lived.

And then we notice the warning sign on the trunk.

It says something like: “Do NOT visit the gardens if it rains. Take shelter immediately.”

Visiting the Singapore Botanic Gardens
Gimme shelter!

Well, we might get soaked. But there’s no lightning and this isn’t a thunderstorm. 

What dire consequences could there be if caught in the rain?

Have we taken refuge under a poisonous manchineel tree?

Caustic liquid dripping from this tree will blister your skin if you stand beneath it during rain.

Doesn’t look like this is a manchineel tree though…

Or will the gutters flood so ferociously that we risk being washed away? Don’t think so.

So, wise and experienced travelers that we are, we shrug and do nothing – we just bide our time under the tree until the rainstorm passes, as suddenly as it started. Phew!

Then it’s time to continue with our planned visit.

Visiting the Singapore Botanic Gardens

Singapore Botanic Gardens
Visiting the Singapore Botanic Gardens is one of the best things to do in Singapore

One of the best botanical gardens in the world, the Singapore Botanic Gardens should be high on your list of Singapore tourist attractions to visit.

They’re mature – with a history dating back over 150 years.

They’re big – over 183 acres and about to get bigger soon.

And they’re splendid – they’ve been named a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The National Orchid Garden is a highlight when visiting the Singapore Botanic Gardens.
The National Orchid Garden is a highlight when visiting the Singapore Botanic Gardens

Singapore Botanical Garden facts (some strange!)

Types of plants:

When visiting the Singapore Botanic Gardens, wander into the Cool House to see carnivorous plants.
When visiting the Singapore Botanic Gardens, wander into the Cool House to see carnivorous plants like these

These Singapore gardens feature more than 10,000 types of tropical plants.

The gardens include orchids, ginger, palm trees, vines – even carnivorous plants that eat insects.

Victoria longwood water lilies at the Singapore Gardens look like giant trays.
These Victoria longwood water lilies look like giant trays

What gardens will you see?

There’s a bonsai garden and a sun garden with cacti and yuccas.

And a healing garden has 400+ varieties of medicinal plants.

Got a stomach ache? This monkey bush in the Healing Garden can help - photo Singapore Botanic Gardens
Got a tummy ache? This Monkey Bush (aka Abutilon indicum) in the healing garden can help

There’s also a ginger garden and a fragrant garden (with sweet-scented flowers).

And of course, there’s the National Orchid Garden.

The National Orchid Garden is a must-see at the Singapore Botanic Gardens.
The National Orchid Garden is a must-see at the Singapore Botanic Gardens

Number of orchids:

The National Orchid Garden has the largest display of orchids in the world, with over 60,000 orchids.

Visiting the Singapore Botanic Gardens - orchids
You’ll see some 60,000 orchids in the National Orchid Garden!

Celebrity orchids:

Some orchids are named after celebrities, royalty and other famous folk, such as Elton John, Jackie Chan, Nelson Mandela and Princess Diana.

Recently, a new white-and-purple free-flowering orchid hybrid (the Vanda William Catherine) was named after Prince William and Kate Middleton.

Crocodile attack:

In 1890, an escaped crocodile (a British colonel’s pet) found its way into Swan Lake.

After the croc attacked a gardener, the lake was drained to find it, but by then, the croc had disappeared.

Visiting the Singapore Botanic Gardens - Swan Lake
Swan Lake is so peaceful today (it’s hard to imagine a crocodile once lived in here!)

Visiting the Singapore Botanical Garden

When to go:

Singapore is hot. Go in the morning, before it heats up, and take a hat and water with you.

Be prepared for some walking:

These botanical gardens in Singapore are large and will take many pleasurable hours to walk around the whole area.

If time is short (or you have trouble walking), you might want to limit your visit to the National Orchid Garden.

Singapore Botanic Gardens entrance fee:

There’s no fee! How nice is that!

Entrance to the gardens is free – and they’re open daily from 5 am to midnight.

National Orchid Garden Orchid ticket:

But you have to pay to enter the National Orchid Garden in Singapore – and this garden is open shorter hours, from 8:30 am to 7 pm (last entry at 6:00 pm).

More information:

See the Singapore Botanic Gardens website for loads of useful information.

Where to stay in Singapore?

We stayed at two wonderful hotels in Singapore and written about both of them.

See our reviews of the Fullerton Bay Hotel and Grand Hyatt Singapore.

Experience more gorgeous gardens!

Read our posts on these gardens:

Vancouver gardens | Get your flower fix at the VanDusen Botanical Garden.

Victoria gardens | It’s blooming at these top 5 Victoria gardens in British Columbia!

Hawaii gardens | You’ll love Kauai’s beautiful Allerton and McBryde Botanical Gardens, even if you don’t have a green thumb.


Photo credits: 5, 6, 7, 10 © Janice and George Mucalov, SandInMySuitcase | 8, 11 Singapore Botanic Gardens


About the authors:

Janice and George Mucalov

Luxury travel journalists and SATW, NATJA and TMAC “Best Travel Blog” award winners, Janice and George are the owners and founders of Sand In My Suitcase. Between them, they’ve traveled to all 7 continents.

Find destination guides, global food-and-wine stories, luxury hotel reviews, articles on cultural explorations and soft adventure trips, cruise reviews and information, insanely useful travel tips and more!

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Denise

Monday 24th of September 2018

Those are beautiful pictures! I just love the Botanic Gardens in Singapore, I could go back so many times and there would still be something new to explore.

Janice and George

Thursday 4th of October 2018

Agree! The gardens are huge, and there's lots to see :-). A nice respite from the city...

Kathryn Burrington

Thursday 22nd of October 2015

I'd love to visit and photograph this garden one day. If you come to London you must visit the gardens at Kew. Don't know how they'd compare to these gardens but they're just as old and scientifically important and make a fabulous day out. Did you ever find out why the sign said to not visit the gardens in the rain? I'm intrigued.

Janice and George

Friday 23rd of October 2015

With the world’s largest collection of living plants, we know the historic Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew must be amazing. They’re the ultimate botanic gardens, right? So, yes, we’d love to visit them! And no, we never did find out the meaning behind the sign. Because there are so many signs in Singapore warning you of this and that, and directing you here and there, we suspect it was just their way of telling us that we’d get wet if we visited in the rain :-).

Leigh

Monday 19th of October 2015

Wow - those orchids are magnificent!

Suze

Tuesday 13th of October 2015

The manchineel tree sounds a bit lethal, glad you didn't get caught under one of those! Love the photo of the boy practising tai chi

Irene S. Levine

Tuesday 13th of October 2015

So lucky that you had the wisdom to wait for the sunshine! What beautiful gardens~