For the longest time, our adventures in the Botanic  Gardens seem to have been at the Bukit Timah end (which I found out the other day is known as the Bukit Timah Core) of this magnificent property – probably because this is where the most interesting stuff for kids seem to be such as Jacob Ballas Garden and the Evolution Walk (Central Core). We always went straight past the magnificent main Tanglin Gate on Holland Road and ignored this end, known as the Tanglin Core.

However, recently we have started exploring this area, and whilst there is nothing child specific, we have found a heap of interesting things that engage and amuse our two boys. Here’s one example of an “adventure route” we have taken a few times, with great success.

Park at Tanglin Gate (click here for photo). Now, this is not to be confused with The Visitor Centre, as Tanglin Gate is the entrance closest to Gleneagles Hospital on the junction of Holland / Napier Road and Cluny Road. There is quite a large subsurface car park hidden away in the basement, and unless it’s a Sunday afternoon or a public holiday, we have always parked with no problem. Head up any of the stairs or out past the café, and you will find yourself by a reception area where you can buy food from the machines to feed the fish. From here, head away from the information centre and follow the signs to the Swan Lake. If you keep close to the Cluny Road side, and in the direction of the big wrought iron Tanglin Gate, you will follow a twisty path including lots of little bridges criss-crossing over a small river feature.

This brings you to the lake at exactly the best area to feed the fish – and boy are these fish voracious in their feeding! There are some huge monsters in there (we call them sharks to keep the boys on their toes), lots of colourful smaller ones and of course, a bunch of terrapins. There are signs up saying only to use fish food from the machines ($1/capsule) but everyone just seems to bring their own bread, which the fish love. We then walk around the lake clockwise under the huge willow tree to your left, and have our first enforced water break at a little shade house on the other side. Continue on, and you will come to a section that has some vegetation between the path and lake on your right – this is a good spot to look out for big monitor lizards, and every now and then one of then ambles across the path nonchalantly.

You will soon come to a bridge, which is a good spot to watch the swans who are usually nesting quite close. Go over the bridge and turn left (now with the lake on your left) and there is a small viewing deck, which again offers a good spot to watch the swans gliding elegantly or building their nest if it’s that time of the year. Follow this path and after about 15 minutes at kiddy-pace, it brings you to the waterfall and the main Plaza area close to the Ginger Gardens. Here you’ll find a gift shop, restaurant and ice cream shop (if you read our previous post, you’ll remember this ice cream is loaded with sugar and yucky colourings). Directly in front of you is a magnificent view down Palm Valley towards the Symphony Lake, and slightly beyond that is the main Visitor Centre.

At the plaza head around to the right and follow the main path that leads back towards Tanglin Gate. At this stage you have options; if you bear right up the small hill to the Bandstand and follow the path ahead, it brings you to the Bonsai Tree collection which is quite cool. In this general vicinity, there is a Cacti Garden, the Sun Garden and also some beautiful sculptures. Keep heading toward Tanglin Gate and where a series of paths intersect, there is a huge rotating granite ball water feature (The Swiss Water Ball). It sounds a little boring, but our two love climbing all over this and take it in turns to push the ball in different directions (much to the horror of passers by).

At this point you will have the Swan Lake in view down to your right so even the most map un-savvy will realise they are heading back to the gate. From here it’s about 10-15 minutes walk back to the car park past the Botany Centre.

This route is perfect for when you have a couple of hours to spare in a morning or late afternoon – during the middle of the day it can get really hot. Or you can take your time, take a picnic, make it a mission to see everything and easily take a good part of the day. The usual accessories are a must – such as hats, sunblock and water. Don’t forget either bread or a healthy pocket of dollar coins to feed the fish also. The boys usually grab a map each at the beginning, and at periodic times we’ll all stop, work out where we are and which way to go – on a few occasions they have even had the map the right way round….

Let us know if you have been, and what you discovered to keep the little ones amused at this end of the Botanic Gardens?