A trip to Sisters' Islands, a rare look inside the Istana, birdwatching in Sungei Wetlands, a last-chance visit to Bukit Brown--don't miss these excursions.

The haze may be an indefinite weather forecast, but that doesn’t mean you should miss out on getting up-close-and-personal with a slice of trivia outdoors. Here are eight walking tours to check out.


Gillman Barracks

1. Gillman Barracks

This indie arts enclave has teamed up with the volunteer organization Friends of the Museums to provide free tours by trained guides, who will not only give participants a low-down on the art works there, but also a peek into the area’s history and heritage. Depending on your preference, you can choose to sign up for the weekly Art & History Tour or for the less artistically inclined, the monthly History & Heritage Tour, which dives into how Gillman Barracks evolved from a British military outpost in the ‘30s to a contemporary arts commune. Tours are usually held from Fri-Sun and registration is required.


The Istana; photo credit: Icemoon

2. The Istana

If you’ve always wanted to visit the sprawling grounds of the Prime Minister’s office, here’s your last chance—for 2015, that is. The Istana is only open during five national holidays through the year: Chinese New Year, Deepavali, Hari Raya Puasa, Labor Day and National Day. And on Deepavali (Nov 10), there is a Nature Guided Walk bringing visitors on a tour of the tightly-guarded compound’s biodiversity. You can roam on your own or join a small group, which departs every half hour from 10am-4pm. Admission to the main gate is free for Singaporeans and Singapore Permanent Residents and guided tours cost $4 for adults.

The Singapore River in the '90s

3. Singapore River

The Singapore River Walk is a revamped 2.8km self-guided tour covering 14 heritage sites from Collyer Quay to Robertson Quay. You’ll be fed with titbits of the history of the river and landmarks like buildings, places of worship and bridges all along Marina Bay and the Central Business District. Highlights include seven new spots such as the former Thong Chai Medical Institution, a clinic established in 1867, Masjid Omar Kampong Melaka, the oldest mosque in Singapore and Clemenceau Bridge. And when all that history gets a little too heady; you can always sneak an early happy hour at Clarke Quay. For more information, go here.

Sungei Buloh Wetlands

4. Sungei Buloh Wetlands

You might be lucky enough to spot the reserve's many native species like mudskippers, crabs, shellfish, water snakes, birds, spiders, monitor lizards and otters, which inhabit the 130-hectare park's mangroves, mudflats, ponds and forests.  It's also currently the migratory season for shorebirds, plovers and sandpipers (unless the haze ruined that too). So if you have a fetish for feathers, then join a free guided walk every Saturday at 9:30am, excluding public holidays and eve of public holidays. Head here to register.

5. Bukit Brown Cemetery

The clock is ticking fast for this historical plot of land where many of Singapore's prominent figures, such as businessman Ong Sam Leong, were laid to rest. The cemetery is slated to be demolished for the much-debated construction of an eight-lane road to the MacRitchie Viaduct and Adam Flyover, to be completed by 2017.  As of now, the gates and its four columns have been removed. Guided tours are conducted intermittently and the most recent one was held on Oct 4. More updates here.

6. Fort Canning Park

Art and history is the focus of the Fort Canning Sculpture Trail, a free guided tour of the area's contemporary and historical works of art, some left behind by the British. We expect some interesting nuggets of trivia from the excursion, as the park once housed the palaces of 14th century Malay kings, the headquarters of the Far East Command Centre and the British Army Barracks during World War II. The next one is happening on Oct 17, from 3:30-5:30pm at Stamford Green, beside the National Museum of Singapore.

Haw Par Villa

7. Haw Par Villa

The 78 year-old park is famous for its creepy exhibits of the "Ten Courts of Hell", a macabre depiction of the Chinese afterlife, and outlandish dioramas of Chinese folklores and legends.  It was also a rite of passage for many locals in the '70's and '80's. And attempting to revive its flagging popularity (the park's Hua Song museum closed to due losses) is tour organizer Journeys, which will restore statues, sculptures and organize daily tours at the attraction. Right now, guided tours, which cost $35 for adults, are held every Friday  from 9:30am-12:00pm. To join, go here.

8. Sisters Islands Marine Park

Its free guided walks are so popular, you have to book way in advance or risk waiting for months. Singapore's first marine park covers nearly 40 hectares around Sisters' Islands, comprising a rich ecosystem of coral reefs, sandy shores and seagrass areas.  At low tide, you might see marine life such as black sea cucumbers, hermit crabs, giant clams, sea slugs and more. The area is also home to rare species like the Neptune's Cup Sponge, initially assumed to be globally extinct for more than a century until its discovery here in 2011. The next walk is on Dec 11 and 13, and registration opens at 10:00am on Nov 1. For more information, visit here.