Singapore will have a new wildlife and nature attraction in Mandai, complete with eco-lodges and a rainforest-themed park where visitors can get up close to wildlife.
When the Mandai nature precinct is completed by 2023, two wildlife parks - the new Rainforest Park and the relocated Bird Park - will join the existing trio: the Singapore Zoo, the River Safari and the Night Safari.
Sleeping under the stars could be an option for those who want to spend a night or two in Mandai, as options such as tents, suites and family rooms are being considered.
There will also be nature trails, boardwalks, outdoor seating and playgrounds, where no admission fees will be charged.
The 126ha Mandai hub sits just outside the Central Catchment Nature Reserve and borders Upper Seletar Reservoir.
The plans to turn the area into a nature precinct were announced yesterday by developer Mandai Safari Park Holdings. Tourism experts welcomed the move, saying it could help Singapore benefit from the fast-growing nature tourism.
At the 12.5ha Rainforest Park, visitors can stroll along aerial walkways that extend from the forest floor to treetop canopies, or enjoy the cool forest as they relax in pods suspended from the ground.
The Bird Park, which will be relocated from Jurong, will occupy 17ha and open as early as 2020. Birds will fly freely in nine "upsized" aviaries, each featuring a unique landscape such as bamboo forests.
Mr Mike Barclay, group chief executive of Mandai Safari Park Holdings, said yesterday that encounters with wildlife may be fleeting and irregular in the Central Catchment Nature Reserve, and the Rainforest Park will give people a chance to get up close to wildlife.
The hub is being designed to be in harmony with nature. The two new parks will be developed on previously occupied land and measures will be taken to minimise impact on the flora and fauna in the area.
An eco-bridge will be built across Mandai Lake Road for animals to move between the central and northern reaches of the Central Catchment Nature Reserve.
Plans for a makeover were first announced in 2014 by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong. The first phase could start as early as later this year and will cost $1 billion. It will cover construction of the two new parks, infrastructure and enhancing facilities at the existing three parks.
Dr Michael Chiam, Ngee Ann Polytechnic's senior tourism lecturer, said: "More Singapore residents are getting away from their concrete jungle environment into nature and wilderness, to relax and be rejuvenated. This hub has great potential to attract them."
Housewife Foo Kailing, 34, liked the idea of having public access spaces. The mother of two children, aged six and eight, said: "I've taken my children to the zoo only once. With more open spaces that are free, there are more reasons to go back."