He is a man who goes by many names.
Mr William Ho, 50, is best known as Uncle William, Kranji Farms’ only official tour guide. You can also call the affable father of two the Quail Manor Uncle Quail.
Mr Ho runs the Lian Wah Hang Quail & Poultry Farm in Lim Chu Kang, a quail egg business. It was started in 1954 as a chicken farm by his father,Mr HoSeng Choon, 92.
The younger Mr Ho started hosting tours and learning journeys in Kranji in 1997, thanks to former Member of Parliament Seet Ai Mee.
Dr Seet is the director of 24-year-old Discovery Vacation Camps, a company that organises science programmes for children.
She convinced Mr Ho’s father to open his farm for a tour and roped in Mr Ho to lead them. The farm stopped hosting visitors in 2004 after a new regulation was put in place during the avian flu epidemic.
HOW TO GET THERE AND AROUND
While it is most convenient to drive or cycle around Kranji Farms, you can also opt for the Kranji Countryside Express shuttle bus, which runs daily, including on public holiday.
The service runs from Kranji MRT station to selected farms in the Lim Chu Kang area. It costs $3 for a round trip and you can hop on and off the bus within the same day.
It runs on a fixed schedule but at irregular intervals so plan ahead to cut waiting times. For the bus schedule, go to kranjicountryside.com.
From Choa Chu Kang MRT station, there are also buses by fish farm Qian Hu Corporation and Farmart Centre, which offers dining options, fresh produce for sale and farm animals that you can feed or observe up close.
This led Mr Ho to set up a small company in 2004 that hosts educational tours in Kranji. Based in Farmart Centre in Sungei Tengah Road, it also sells produce such as quail eggs from his father’s farm.
In 2014, he launched another company, called Uncle William, which specialises in Kranji farm tours. His wife,Ms Serene Quek, 47, helps him and is in charge of the accounts.
The couple have two children, aged 16 and 13.
Mr Ho, who obtained a nature guide licence from the Singapore Tourism Board in the early 2000s, caters mainly to schools and corporate clients.
He enjoys leading tours for children the most. “Children who grow up in the city are getting a bit weird. When they draw chickens, they are headless and featherless,” he says with a laugh.
“The farms are a good place for little ones to relate to nature.”
His four-hour Uncle William’s Farm trail tour stops at Hay Dairies, a fish farm and a vegetable farm and ends at Farmart Centre, which comprises F&B outlets, a retail area and an animal farm.
Tours run from Tuesday to Sunday and cost $23 for adults and $20 for kids aged two to 12, excluding lunch and transport.
At the beginning, his tours drew small groups of five to six each, but demand for his services soon grew.
Now he gets four to five groups averaging 30 people each a week. The maximum number of participants he can take at one go is 300, which he manages by employing part-time staff.
Mr Ho says: “What keeps me going is not the money. It makes me happy, especially when the children I met 20 years ago grow up and bring their own children here.”