Singapore: Gardens by the Bay




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We asked around before visiting Singapore what we should see. Several places were mentioned including the Night Zoo and Sentosa Island. But on our cab ride to the cruise ship, we passed the Gardens on the Bay. We saw its artificial trees (called supertrees) standing out and wondered what they were. And as we got closer to the ship, we passed the entrance. Our cabbie said it was worth a visit. And during our cruise, others also recommended it. So after we visited Chinatown, we checked in at the hotel, and hopped a cab to Gardens by the Bay. Just one word to describe it. Wow!

The Gardens occupy 250 acres of reclaimed land adjacent to the Marina Bay Sands Hotel. The park consists of three large garden areas as well as two conservatories and two supertree groves. The entire complex cost over a billion Singaporean dollars to build.

Dragonfly statue alongside one of the waterways in the Gardens.
Dragonfly statue alongside one of the waterways in the Gardens. Three supertrees are visible in the background.

As a public park, there is no admission charge. Residents and visitors are free to enjoy most of the park without charge. But the conservatories charge an admission fee of $28 per person.

The conservatories are massive. The larger one, the Flower Dome, covers three acres. It stands 125 feet high and is the world’s largest columnless glass building. It features seven different gardens representing various semi-arid sub-tropical vegetation from around the world. Its temperature is maintained at between 23 and 25 degrees C.  It seems cool compared to the outside temperature which is tropical. Singapore sits just above the equator.

Pictures don't do it justice. You have to be inside the conservatory to fully appreciate its size and scope.
Pictures don’t do it justice. You have to be inside the conservatory to fully appreciate its size and scope.

We paid to go in and it was a stunning experience. It is hard to convey the vast scope of the Flower Dome. During our visit, one of the areas was decked out for the Year of the Monkey with red lanterns and topiary monkeys.

The conservatory also features many intriguing wood sculptures that look like they are pieced together from driftwood. We hoped to pick up miniatures as souvenirs but the gift shop did not have any.

Two driftwood sculptures of mountain goats in the Flower Dome.
Two driftwood sculptures of mountain goats in the Flower Dome.

There was one garden devoted to Australia and others included South Africa and South America. The gardens are at different levels, tiered with sloped walkways. It is very easy to navigate.

I’ll create a separate post of just pictures so you can see more of this breathtaking masterpiece.

We expected the second conservatory, the Cloud Forest, to be anti-climactic after the Flower Dome. Were we wrong on that! While it covers a smaller area – two acres, it is much much higher than the Flower Dome. When you walk in you see its centrepiece – a 138 foot high mountain in the middle with five waterfalls pouring from the summit creating spray and mist. The Cloud Forest recreates the cool, moist mountains of the tropics. The mountain is covered from top to bottom with vegetation – orchids, ferns, and other vegetation indigenous to tropical mountains.

Waterfalls greet you as you enter the Cloud Forest.
Waterfalls greet you as you enter the Cloud Forest.

Inside you walk around it and then take an elevator almost to the top. A short hike up brings you to a small mountaintop lake. Then there are elevated walkways that take you all the way to the bottom again. Some of the walkways run close to the mountain so you can see the foliage at close hand. Other parts extend away from the mountain – aerial walkways that have you walking over the vista below.

Walkways about two thirds up the mountain.
Walkways about two thirds up the mountain.

Again, words cannot convey the size and scope of this amazing display so I have created a separate photo gallery. At the end of the tour is a presentation on global warming that I found a bit alarmist.

It had started raining just before we went into the Flower Dome and it was still raining when we exited the Cloud Forest so we had dinner at Majestic Bay, a nice Chinese restaurant just below the Flower Dome. We hoped it would clear up by dinner’s end as we wanted to see the light show at the Supertree Grove as well as walk along the elevated walkway that connects some of the trees.

The supertrees are, in fact, connected to the domes and help regulate the temperature and conditions inside. The trees range up to 160 feet high. As Wikipedia relates, “The Supertrees are home to enclaves of unique and exotic ferns, vines, orchids and also a vast collection of bromeliads such as Tillandsia, amongst other plants. They are fitted with environmental technologies that mimic the ecological function of trees – photovoltaic cells that harness solar energy which can be used for some of the functions of the Supertrees, such as lighting, just like how trees photosynthesize; and collection of rainwater for use in irrigation and fountain displays, exactly like how trees absorb rainwater for growth. The Supertrees also serve air intake and exhaust functions as part of the conservatories’ cooling systems.”

Supertrees lit up during the evening light show.
Supertrees lit up during the evening light show.

The rain had indeed let up when we finished dinner and so we headed to the grove for the light show. All the supertrees are lit up with various colours and flashing lights in time to music. It’s a 15 minute production and a marvel to watch.

After the light show we walked through the gardens and on to the Marina Bay Sands Hotel. It is an amazing structure itself, with three towers supporting an infinity pool and restaurants at the top. Guests can swim right to the edge and look over. Not for the faint of heart!

Room rates are quite high starting at $479 a night. We heard that the hotel is booked up every nigh

Supertrees with the Marina Bay Sands Hotel in the background.
Supertrees with the Marina Bay Sands Hotel in the background.

t and you should make reservations six months ahead. We wandered through the lobby straight out to boardwalk around the Marina Bay Sands Shopping Mall on the other side. We had a pleasant walk around the boardwalk before taking an escalator down to the mall itself – which, like many malls in Singapore, is large. Very large!

We loved our visit to the Gardens by the Bay. A must see for visitors. Be sure to check out the two additional photo galleries I’ve compiled below.

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