W1702 – Supertrees and Domes

In my last post, W1702 – Bullock water-cart, I described the morning of our second day in Singapore, when Carol and I took the metro to go and explore the Chinatown area of Singapore.

We were both booked on the same shore tour later that day – it left the ship mid-afternoon to visit the Gardens by the Bay, where we would stay until mid-evening.

Gardens by the Bay is a nature park spanning some 101 hectares of reclaimed land in central Singapore, located next to the Marina Reservoir. Gardens by the Bay is part of a strategy by the Singapore government to transform Singapore from a “Garden City” to a “City in a Garden”. The stated aim is to raise the quality of life by enhancing greenery and flora in the city. The concept was first announced in 2005, and a year later an international competition was held to select the design for the park, which was completed in 2012. The park is divided into three distinct areas, Bay East Garden, Bay Central Garden and Bay South Garden – our tour took us to the last of the three.

The design of Bay South Garden draws inspiration from Singapore’s national flower, an orchid, and as well as conventional features such as horticultural themed gardens and a children’s garden, it has two dramatic elements – two huge glass Domes and a number of Supertrees.

Supertrees are tree-like structures that dominate the Gardens’ landscape, ranging in height between 25 and 50 metres. They are vertical gardens that perform a multitude of functions, which include planting, shading and working as environmental engines for the gardens. They are fitted with environmental technologies that mimic the ecological function of trees – collecting solar power for lighting, and collecting rainwater for irrigation and for fountain displays. The Supertrees also provide air intake and exhaust for the cooling systems for the glass Domes.

The design of the Domes is special in two ways, by allowing such large a glass roof without additional interior support such as columns, and minimising their environmental footprint. Rainwater is collected from the surface of the Domes and circulated in the cooling system which is connected to the Supertrees. The Supertrees are used both to vent hot air and to cool circulated water.

The first of the two huge glass Domes is called the Flower Dome. This is the lower but larger of the two Domes at 1.2 hectares. It replicates a mild, dry climate and features plants found in the Mediterranean and other semi-arid tropical regions (e.g. parts of Australia, South America and South Africa). The Flower Dome is 38 metres high, and it’s temperature is maintained between 23 °C and 25 °C by day, slightly lower at night.

The second Dome is called the Cloud Forest Dome. This is the higher but slightly smaller of the two Domes at 0.8 hectares. It replicates the cool moist conditions found in tropical mountain regions between 1,000 and 3,000 metres above sea level, found in South-East Asia, Central America and South America. It features a 42-metre “Cloud Mountain”, which visitors can ascend using an elevator, and then descend by a combination of aerial walkways and escalators. A 35-metre waterfall provides visitors with refreshing cool air. The “Cloud Mountain” itself is an intricate structure completely clad in epiphytes such as orchids, ferns, mosses, bromeliads and anthuriums.

Having cleared Immigration, we were taken by coach to the parking area for Bay South Garden. Here our local guide led us on foot past three of the Supertrees to the Flower Dome. Here he led us around many of the footpaths inside, while he provided information about the plants and trees we could see:


Our route took us high above the grove of cherry blossom trees which were in flower, just as well as when we reached that area at ground level it was packed with mainly Asian visitors:


In one corner there were a series of three statues of partial people, which reminded me if a similar piece of artwork I had seen last year in Hornfleur (see M1623 – Hurrying around Honfleur):


Nearby were some other familiar characters:


Our guide then led us through to the other dome, the Cloud Forest Dome, where the first thing we saw was the amazing sight of the huge man-made waterfall cascading down in ribbons in front of us:


He then led us to where there was a short queue waiting to take one of the lifts up to the top of the man-made mountain. From there we gradually made our way back down again, using the aerial walkways and escalators to move from floor to floor. The views down from the top were amazing, the people, trees and plants below looking very small:


On the way down we passed many attractive plants and flowers, and in one bed they were made of lego!


Part way down we came to where there was a viewing platform cantilevered out beside the waterfall – Carol with her fear of heights was reluctant to step out on it, but I took her firmly by the hand and she braved it out to see the water cascading past us:


At one point we had a good view of the iconic Marina Bay Sands hotel though a window of the Dome:


There were also attractive cascades and pools of water to be seen:


On one floor there were several large rock formations and crystals on display, with large mirrors hanging over them so that they could be seen from all angles:


Eventually we reached ground level once more, and on exiting the Domes we had to pass through the inevitable gift shop. Once everyone was thought that, our guide led us to another part of the park where we could optionally buy ourselves some food. Carol and I had enjoyed a good lunch on the ship, and so we were content to just sit on a bench overlooking the Reservoir and rest. We watched as the skies darkened and listened to claps of thunder, but like the day before fortunately the storm never came our way and we remained dry.


When the other passengers returned our guide then led us to the area containing most of the Supertrees. By now it was dark, and the Supertrees were all lit up with coloured lights and looked amazing against the night sky. We were there to watch a 10 minute audio and visual show – they played a sequence of various pieces of music from popular films, and synchronised with the music the lights in the trees changed colour and flashed on and off. It was a very spectacular show, and a magical climax to a very entertaining and enjoyable tour:


Once the show was over, our guide led us back to our coach, which took us back to our waiting ship.

Postscript: After a late dinner on board ship, I went up onto the topmost deck to take some more photographs of the scenes at night, this time while the cable-cars were still running as each car was lit up with twinkling lights:


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