Exploring the Tranquil Mangroves of Sungei Buloh with Young Nautilus

Embarking on a nature expedition through the captivating mangroves of Sungei Buloh with Young Nautilus guides (Samuel and Shafiqah) was an eye-opening experience for my family.

As we traversed the winding trails and wooden boardwalks and listened to our guides' introduction of Sungei Buloh, we immersed ourselves in the rich history and ecological significance of this natural sanctuary.

Background of Sungei Buloh

Originally a prawn and fish farm in the 1960s, Sungei Buloh has undergone a remarkable transformation into a thriving mangrove ecosystem, thanks to Singapore's dedicated conservation efforts. Today, it stands as a testament to the importance of preserving our natural habitats and safeguarding biodiversity.

During our exploration, I learnt from our guides that Sungei Buloh is an important feeding and roosting ground for migratory birds like the Common Redshank that visit annually during the migratory season. These migratory birds may come from as far as Canada, and they stopover in Singapore along the flyway to the warmer South.

Samuel shared that we were fortunate to spot baby crocodiles and baby monitor lizards basking in the sun—a testament to the mangrove's status as a safe haven for these young creatures to grow and thrive.

Our Expectations

As a family, we've been on trails of varying terrains and terrain difficulty in the Pacific Northwest, USA, where we had dwelled for years prior to relocating to Singapore.

One of our favourites had been the Mercer Slough wetland in Bellevue, Washington State. This wetland boardwalk hike was extremely manageable for our young family of an older toddler and a baby.

We had however not sighted much wildlife on this hike, despite repeated attempts over the years.

Our Experience

I naively thought there'll be parallels between the Mercer Slough wetland hike and this trail through Sungei Buloh.

We soon realised that the Sungei Buloh nature exploration couldn't have been more different from our previous wetland exploration experience. Unexpectedly, it was the hardest trail we've taken as a family.

The challenges were exacerbated because we happened to have visited on a day with excessive heat warning in Singapore. Even without excessive heat though, I would still think the trail was not quite compatible for my sun-sensitive children. The Young Nautilus team had initially thought Sungei Buloh would be suitable when selecting a programme for my family because the trail was mostly shaded/sheltered.

However, from my experience, while some parts of the trail were indeed shaded/sheltered, there were sections that still necessitated direct sun exposure. Unfortunately those sections of the trail took place in the first hour of the programme 3-4pm, within Singapore's high UV index hours of 10am to 4pm.

On hindsight, Samuel shared that it was possible for the Sungei Buloh exploration to take place with less sunlight exposure e.g. skipping the Kingfisher staircase loop (tradeoff: less wildlife sighting + view of Sungei Buloh waterways joining into the Strait of Johor) and staying on the main boardwalk trail instead. We weren't aware of that, until after the exploration. If your children are sun-sensitive like mine, I would recommend giving the Kingfisher section in Sungei Buloh a miss, or visiting Sungei Buloh at your own pace in the cooler evening.

Kingfisher pod sideloop

To give an honest picture of our experience, both children were melting, with my toddler vigorously scratching heat-triggered hives. The husband and I were also trying hard to regulate our own discomfort. I was prepared to cut short the exploration at some point when my children's discomfort proved too great.

Thankfully, we never did seem to reach that limit. Samuel and Shafiqah were accommodating, giving us space to break out of the group and speed through some parts of the session before the children's energy fully depleted.

This is the part where Sungei Buloh's amazing biodiversity really made all the difference. We were able to gently steer the children towards the next sighting time and again, slowly building up their resilience and tolerance. Unlike Mercer Slough, we sighted wildlife at practically every turn in Sungei Buloh. The continuous sightings gave us the motivation to keep on the go despite physical discomfort.

From the impressive Malayan water monitor lizards to the majestic white-bellied sea eagle circling the skies, to the elusive crocodiles, there was just so much to take in. The children definitely watched, enthralled, as a Malayan water monitor lizard made its way in plain sight across the lotus pond. What a treat it was for us to observe such vast biodiversity in their natural habitats.

Lessons to takeaway

  • Urgency of conservation efforts in protecting vulnerable species and preserving biodiversity for future generations. Because our expedition coincided with a day marked by an excessive heat warning in Singapore, this really brought relevancy to the challenges faced by both humans and wildlife due to climate change. Samuel's impassioned words underscored the importance of collective action to address environmental challenges and protect our planet.

  • Time builds mastery. By putting in the hours, you can become an expert in an area of interest. I was curious how Samuel amassed all the rich knowledge he has on mangrove biodiversity. Behind Samuel's wealth of knowledge lies a story of dedication and self-learning, he shared that his knowledge came from making 40/50+ trips to Sungei Buloh to observe and gain hands-on experience.

  • Our trail sightings were highlights. There's a lot of behind the scene invisible work that made our nature exploration such a rewarding experience. Samuel and Shafiqah had screened the routes in search of wildlife prior to the start of our exploration. They sussed out locations for wildlife, and efficiently pointed them out to us when we began the trail.

While waiting for other participants to arrive, Samuel and Shafiqah engaged my children by showing them the juvenile oriental whip snack in camouflage right beside the gathering point

Trip planning considerations

If you're planning an outdoors nature exploration with young children, these are my recommendations for a smoother, more enjoyable experience:

  • Bring as much water as comfortable to carry around for hydration. My children are usually camels, but this trip, they depleted our water supply 3/4 into the journey. We were surprised by how much water they were drinking, and asking to drink, and had to carefully ration our water for the 2 x 45 mins programme.
  • To maintain a cool water temperature, I would recommend using vacuum insulated bottles like Hydroflask. We had ice cubes in ours, which we broke into ice chips for the children to suck on during the walk. That provided some relief from the searing heat and was our saving grace.
  • Be prepared to carry young children. Bring a hiking carrier, or baby carrier, stroller and kids' wagon (if you're skipping the Kingfisher staircase loop.)
  • Use damp towels and headbands to cool down children's necks and foreheads on really hot days.
  • Use mineral-based sunscreen to protect children's skin especially if you're taking the routes with more sunlight exposure.

I was worried about bug bites, and brought an essential oils based mosquito repellent spray along. Didn't encounter any mosquito bites and didn't have to do a reapplication.

For sun-sensitive families, Young Nautilus shares that they have these alternative nature exploration programmes:

  • Pasir Ris mangroves that commence at sunset time (5-7pm)
  • Changi Sandy Intertidal walk
  • Changi Seagrass Intertidal walk
  • Punggol Promenade Pebbly Patrol

for older children (7yo and above, due to longer walking route and slightly more challenging terrain),

  • Coney Island rustic exploration + intertidal walk
  • Pasir Ris park intertidal walk

I've also provided feedback to Young Nautilus team about allowing for reschedulings or more flexible set off timings on days with excessive heat warnings, which sadly might be a growing reality due to climate change.


Our guided nature expedition of Sungei Buloh with Young Nautilus left my family inspired and enlightened, with a renewed appreciation for the beauty and fragility of our planet.

Since our mangrove exploration, I've been doing a follow-up on this topic by introducing "The Flood" and "Hostile Planet" documentaries to my children, which features mangrove wildlife we've seen (monitor lizards, crocodiles), and also sends the same climate change conservation message.

The Young Nautilus team also gifted an activity sheet (and mangrove themed temporary tattoos) for children to remember the nature exploration by and recap facts learnt through the exploration.

Appreciate this thoughtful touch!

Product recommendation

Babo Botanicals mineral sunscreen

Hydroflask vaccuum insulated bottle (lead-free review)

Ollie’s Mosquito Repellent Spray
Miraculove Brand Icon

Hi! I am Yunnie. I am the newly minted mama to a little baby girl and a mum friend to everyone on this special (and many times scary) journey of motherhood. Also a graduated bride with a penchant for weddings.

Hi! Thank you for taking time to read my blog. I am a stay-home Singaporean mama living in Seattle who is passionate about child-led and open-ended play for children in a conducive home environment.

Discovering Montessori and Reggio has been a life-changer for me. It made me an empathetic and mindful parent who follows my child’s needs and interests in the activities I plan at home. I hope the Montessori-friendly and Reggio inspired baby and toddler activities I share here inspire you too.

Happy reading!