Although Singapore is best known for its futuristic buildings and world-class food, it also puts a lot of focus on wildlife conservation. Since this country is so small and there are a lot of urban developments, there’s a higher concentration of wildlife in the greener areas. We have spent many hours, both day and night, searching and photographing the rare and unique species that live here. So, here are some of our favorite species to see in Singapore and how to find them!
Note: Most of the parks in Singapore are closed at night, with only a handful staying open 24 hours. Be sure to know the hours of the parks you are visiting or else you can be hit with big fines!
Raffles Banded Langur
Meet Singapore's most striking and acrobatic primates - the Raffles' banded langurs! These remarkable monkeys are easily recognizable with their black and white fur and striking white crests on their foreheads. Sadly, deforestation has decreased their population to around 60, but you can still catch a glimpse of them in the remaining forests of Singapore.
Best time of day: Early Morning or Late Afternoon
What to look for: Raffles Banded Langurs (RBLs) live in the tree tops, so keep your eyes up! They are easiest to find when they are on the move because they make a lot of noise as they jump from tree to tree. RBLs are not particularly graceful. They love eating seeds from saga trees, so if you find empty pods on the ground it is a good sign that RBLs are in the area! Be sure to listen for the distinct male call.
Best parks: Central Catchment Area but most commonly Thomson Nature Park, Lower Pierce Reservoir, and Upper Pierce Reservoir
The long-tailed macaque is a common sight in many green spaces and nature reserves. These monkeys have gray-brown fur with a pale underside and a long, slender tail. These cheeky monkeys have been known to raid garbage bins and steal food from unsuspecting visitors in parks and urban areas. So while they may be entertaining to watch, it is important to keep a safe distance.
Best time of day: All Day, Every Day
What to look for: You can find them in trees and on the ground. They are not difficult to find because they are quite literally everywhere. They are typically in very large groups so you can often hear them making noise, rustling in the trees, or fighting or playing with each other.
Best parks: Pretty much any green space in Singapore and often spotted in residential areas
Lessor Mouse Deer
The Singapore lesser mouse deer is one of the smallest hoofed animals in the world. They have reddish-brown fur with a white underbelly and unique fang-like upper canine teeth. Due to such small stature, this species is timid and elusive.
Best time of day: Early mornings or Late Afternoons
What to look for: Look for areas with dense vegetation, as mouse deer prefer to stay hidden in the underbrush. It's important to be quiet and patient when searching for mouse deer, as they are easily frightened by loud noises and sudden movements.
Best parks: Central Catchment Nature Reserve specifically Bukit Timah Nature Reserve and Thomson Nature Park, Lower Pierce Reservoir, Upper Pierce Reservoir, and Pulau Ubin
The Malayan colugo, also known as the Sunda flying lemur, has large, round eyes and a furry body that ranges in color from brown to gray. Despite its name, it cannot actually fly. Instead, it can glide through the air using a skin membrane that stretches between its limbs and allows it to glide for distances of up to 100 meters from tree to tree.
Best time of day: Early evening to Early morning since they are nocturnal animals. During the day, you will find them sleeping.
What to look for: Calugos are well camouflaged in their natural habitat. Look for areas with tall trees and dense vegetation where they will most likely be gliding from tree to tree in the early morning and evenings. During the day, they will be resting high in the trees.
Best parks: Bukit Batok, Bukit Timah, and Chestnut nature park
Common Palm Civet
The Common Palm Civet has a long, slender body and a pointed snout. Its fur is gray or brown, and it has a white mask-like pattern around its eyes. It has a long, bushy tail, and its feet are adapted for climbing trees. They are also known for their unique ability to digest coffee cherries, which has led to their use in the production of the highly sought-after civet coffee. Common Palm Civets are nocturnal and arboreal, meaning they are most active at night and spend much of their time in trees.
Best time of day: Night
What to look for: Common Palm Civets will most commonly be seen up in trees. Since you’ll be looking for them at night, you will see their eyes reflect the light from your torch. They smell like pandan!
Best parks: Central Catchment specifically Thomson Nature Park, Mandai areas, and the Southern Ridges.
Pied Oriental Hornbill
The Oriental Pied Hornbill has a distinctive appearance with a large, curved bill and a casque, a structure that protrudes from the top of its bill. Its feathers are black and white, with a white belly and a black tail. The Oriental Pied Hornbill is known for its loud calls, which are used for communication between members of the same species. It is also a cavity nester, meaning it nests in natural tree cavities or abandoned woodpecker holes.
Best time of day: All day
What to look for: Look up at the skies and trees. Although not the most common bird in Singapore, they make their way around the country quite frequently and visit the nature and city areas of the country. Be sure to listen for their distinct loud call.
Best parks: All Parks provide an opportunity to see Pied oriental hornbills. We personally saw them the most in Pasir Ris and around East Coast Park.
The smooth-coated otter has a sleek, streamlined body with short, dense fur that is dark brown or black in color. It has webbed feet and a long, muscular tail that helps it swim and maneuver in the water. The smooth-coated otters in Singapore are usually spotted in groups of two to ten individuals, consisting of a dominant breeding pair and their offspring. They are also known for their playful behavior and have become popular among locals and tourists.
Best time of day: Any time of day
What to look for: If there’s water, you can find them. The otters in Singapore are very active which means you’ll most likely see splashing as they hunt and play. Their high pitch call is very noticeable even in the busy parts of the city.
Best parks: Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve, Marina Bay, Gardens by the Bay, Pasir Ris Park, and Kallang River
Saltwater crocodiles have broad, heavily armored bodies and long, powerful tails. They have a thick, bony ridge or "boss" behind their eyes and a V-shaped snout. They have an average length of 4 to 5 meters. It is found in the brackish and saltwater habitats of Singapore.
Best time of day: Any time of day but the best chances are during low tide when they are sunbathing on the banks.
What to look for: Crocodiles also often bask in the sun on riverbanks or in shallow water, so keep an eye out for any large shapes in the water or along the shoreline. You might get lucky seeing them swim across the surface during high tide. Typically you will only see their head and tail unless the visibility of the water is good.
Best parks: Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve
Spotted Wood Owl
The Spotted Wood Owl has a distinctive appearance, with brownish-gray feathers marked with white spots all over their body, including their wings and tail. They have a large, round head with prominent ear tufts, and their eyes are large and yellow in color. The beak is curved and dark in color.
Best time of day: All Day, but dusk and dawk if you would like to see them awake.
What to look for: Owls roost in trees during the day, so scan the trees in the early morning or late afternoon. Look for the distinctive ear tufts and white spots on their feathers. Spotted Wood Owls have a distinctive "whooping" call.
Best parks: Bukit Timah Nature Reserve, Central Catchment Nature Reserve, Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve, Botanic Gardens, West Coast Park, and Pasir Ris.
Asian Water Monitor
Water Monitors have a distinctive appearance, with a long, muscular body and tail, strong legs, and a powerful jaw. Their skin is rough, with small, raised scales, and is typically dark brown or black in color with yellow or cream-colored bands or spots on their body and tail. They have a long, forked tongue that they use to sense their surroundings and to locate prey. Water Monitors are commonly found in coastal areas, mangroves, and parks.
Best time of day: All Day, Any Day
What to look for: Look for them basking in the sun on rocks, logs, or the banks of rivers and ponds. Water Monitors prefer to live in areas with access to water, such as rivers, ponds, and mangroves. Water Monitors leave distinct tracks in the mud or sand, and may also leave scratch marks on tree trunks or rocks. Look for these signs to identify areas where they are likely to be active.
Best parks: Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve, MacRitchie Reservoir, Pasir Ris Park, Bukit Timah Nature Reserve, and Jurong Lake Gardens
The king cobra is the longest venomous snake in the world and can reach lengths of up to 5 meters (16 feet). They have distinctive markings, with a black or dark brown body and creamy yellow or white bands that run across their bodies. They have large, flattened heads and long, slender bodies. King cobras are found in various habitats in Singapore, including forests, mangroves, and parks. They prefer areas with dense vegetation and water sources and are known to be good swimmers.
Note: King Cobras are venomous snakes and can be dangerous even deadly if approached or provoked.
Best time of day: All Day, They are active during the day and hunt for prey such as rodents, birds, and other snakes.
What to look for: Stay alert and keep an eye out for any signs such as movement or rustling in the undergrowth.
Best parks: Central Catchment Nature Reserve, Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve, MacRitchie Reservoir, and Bukit Timah Nature Reserve
Oriental Whip Snake
The Oriental whip snake is long and slender, with a distinctive elongated head and large eyes. They can grow up to 2 meters (6.5 feet) in length. They have a bright green coloration with black or white stripes along their body which help to camouflage them. Oriental whip snakes can be found in various habitats, including forests, mangroves, and parks.
Best time of day: All Day
What to look for: Oriental whip snakes can often be found in trees and shrubs. Look for areas with a lot of vegetation. If you are doing a night walk, their green colors pop even more with a torch making it easier to spot them.
Best parks: Any park in Singapore with forested areas
The mangrove pit viper has a distinctive triangular-shaped head and a relatively thick body that can grow up to 1 meter (3.3 feet) in length. They have a range of coloration, from green to brown, with varying patterns of spots and blotches. Their eyes are large and often have vertical pupils. Mangrove pit vipers are typically found in mangrove forests and other coastal habitats.
Note: Observe from a safe distance, these snakes can be aggressive and deadly.
Best time of day: All day but they will be most active at night
What to look for: mangrove pit vipers spend days in the same location, usually on the roots of mangrove trees. Look for signs of their presence, such as shed skins. The best way to find them is to trace the root systems with your eyes and look for odd lumps that shouldn’t be there. Their camouflage makes it tough to spot them.
Best parks: Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve, Chek Jawa on Pulau Ubin, and Pasir Ris
Wagler's Pit Viper
The Wagler's pit viper displays significant sexual dimorphism, with distinct differences in the appearance of males and females. Females are generally larger than males and feature striking yellow, black, and white coloration. In contrast, males are smaller and possess red and white facial stripes, red and white spots on the body, and a reddish tail. Both sexes have beautiful golden eyes. Wagler's pit viper is typically found in rainforests, forest edges, and other areas with dense vegetation.
Best time of day: All Day- Wagler’s Pit Vipers can stay in the same place for weeks
What to look for: Look on the lower half of trees and bushes, they are typically waiting for their prey to walk past. Both males and females camouflage very well, but the black and yellow of the females usually pop more on the green plants.
Best parks: Bukit Timah Nature Reserve, Central Catchment Nature Reserve, and MacRitchie Reservoir Park
Golden Orb Spider
The Golden Orb Spider is a large and brightly colored spider species found in tropical and subtropical regions around the world. They are famous for their striking appearance, featuring a bright golden-yellow hue on their body and legs, although some species may exhibit variations in coloration such as brown, black, or red.
These spiders are also known for their impressive size, with females often growing up to 10cm (4 inches) in body length, making them one of the largest spider species in the world. The males, on the other hand, are much smaller and less conspicuous in appearance.
Golden Orb Spiders build large, intricate webs that can stretch up to several meters in diameter. Their webs are made of strong and durable silk that is also sticky, allowing them to capture a wide range of prey, including insects, butterflies, and even small birds. The silk itself is also golden-yellow in color, which adds to the spider's striking appearance.
Best time of day: All Day and Night
What to look for: Golden orb spiders build their webs in high places, usually between trees or bushes. The colors of the spiders are a bright contrast to the greenery around them.
Best parks: All Nature Parks and Reserves, these spiders can live practically everywhere with foliage
Four-Lined Tree Frog
The Four-lined tree frog has a distinctive appearance, with greenish-yellow skin and four dark stripes running down its back. Its toes are webbed, and it has large, bulging eyes with vertical pupils. These frogs are relatively small, measuring up to 6 cm in length.
Best time of day: All Time of Day, but they will be most active at night since they are nocturnal.
What to look for: Four-lined tree frogs are usually found in trees, bushes, or other vegetation close to water bodies such as streams, ponds, and reservoirs. Another common place to find these frogs are in the bathrooms at the reserves since there is a constant supply of water and insects.
Best parks: Bukit Timah Nature Reserve, MacRitchie Reservoir Park, Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve, Botanic Gardens, and Thomson Nature Park
In addition to the species above, there are also some rare animals living in Singapore that are highly elusive and difficult to find. While not impossible to spot, discovering them requires a great deal of luck. These species include:
Greater mouse deer