Weird and wonderful wildlife in Singapore: where to see dugongs, otters and crocodiles

Spot crocs (don't get too close), watch otters and look for pangolins: we've been finding out where the weirdest and wildest residents of Singapore live...

Singapore may feel all skyscrapers and concrete at times – especially when the kids are demanding you bring them to a farm ‘right now’ – but we still have plenty of pretty parks and green patches alongside our urban jungle. And with that glorious green comes glorious wildlife! We’re not talking run-of-the-mill shrews and squirrels here: pangolins, otters and crocs, we’re looking at you! We’ve been donning our wellies and taking a hike around Singapore to find the spots around the island where you may just find our weird and wonderful wildlife neighbours, with not a ticket queue or gift shop in sight.

Known as sea cows – but ironically more likely to be found in Singapore than actual cows – dugongs (pictured above), the gentle giants of the ocean, can be spotted wallowing in the waters around the Northeast of Singapore, Changi, Pulau Ubin and Pulau Tekong.

We spotted a palm civet cat in our garden recently: it frightened the life out of our less-than-brave shih tzu! Photography: Paul Williams via Flickr

Civet Cats
Although the word cat is a bit misleading – these furry cuties are actually closely related to mongooses (or is it mongeese?) – the common palm civet is the most likely kind of civet you’ll spot around Singapore. Look for them in forests, parks, mangroves and even your back garden: they are not averse to a nighttime rummage around urban areas! You’ll find them all over Singapore – look up though: they love to lurk in the trees. 

How cute is this baby pangolin? Photography: Rusan Rugoals via Flickr

While you may think you have stumbled across proof of alien life, the truly odd looking pangolin is really a shy, nocturnal mammal that is covered in entirely earthly scales made of compressed hair. Occasionally they wander into residential areas, but mostly you can spot them around the forested areas of Central Catchment Nature Reserve, Bukit Timah Nature Reserve, Bukit Batok, or on an island-hopping day trip to Pulau Ubin or Pulau Tekong.

Indo-Pacific humpbacked dolphins and Indo-Pacific bottle dolphins are often spotted wild and happy in the Straits of Singapore, usually between here and Batam. Sisters Islands are a good bet for a sighting of these beautiful creatures.

This otter and his family tried to join us for lunch along Boat Quay! Photography: Tracy Tristram

We weren’t expecting to have guests for lunch at Boat Quay recently, but our kids were over-the-moon to spot a family of otters testing out their fishing skills right by our riverside cafe! These guys are getting more and more easy to sight, and can often be seen playing around the Marina Bay area. Other good areas for otter spotting include Sungei Buloh Nature Reserve, Pulau Ubin, Serangoon, Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park and Punggol. The kids WILL want to get close and hug them – it’s easy to be fooled by their cute appearance but they are wild and have VERY sharp teeth!

Is it a mouse or is it a deer? Either way you can try and catch a rare sighting of these secretive little creatures around Pulau Ubin, Bukit Timah Nature Reserve, MacRitchie Reservoir and Central Catchment Nature Reserve.

Wild boar
Wild boars are native to Singapore and can grow up to a whopping 100kg – so don’t get in their way! They are easy to find on a day trip to Pulau Ubin, or head over to Tuas where reports were recently made of a large family of boar living at the bus interchange (trying to break across the border to get to Legoland, maybe?).

Those herons are way braver than us when it comes to this scary wildlife spot in Singapore! Photography: Possy’s Pics via Flickr

Estuarine Crocodile
Crocs in Singapore you say? No need to run for the hills just yet – just stay away from suspicious moving logs in the water areas around Sungei Buloh, Kranji Reservoir and Pasir Ris Park! There’s a croc-spotting viewing spot at Sungei Buloh which makes a great place to try and catch a glimpse (without getting close to any snapping jaws!).

Not a cuddly kind of creature, but certainly an adorable one, porcupines were once feared to be extinct in Singapore, but have recently been spotted alive and well over at Pulau Ubin and Pulau Tekong. Way more prickly than even the grumpiest of kids: stand back if you find one!

Meet the resident monkeys at Pulau Ubin! Photography: Tracy Tristram

Meet the resident monkeys at Pulau Ubin! Photography: Tracy Tristram

These crafty fellas have totally got the measure of us human folk, and have sussed out that when there are people about, there is often food too – they can spot a carrier bag from the top of the highest tree! You’ll find them in all the forested areas around Singapore, and they can often be seen in residential areas these days too. Pulau Ubin is a guaranteed spotting zone, and exactly where we stumbled across a cheeky family eating pineapple that clearly didn’t belong to them.

Oriental Pied-Hornbills
You’ll often see wild hornbills around Pulau Ubin and Changi, and these seriously cool looking feathery friends sometimes visit urban areas to find and feed on fruit. Head into the forested areas of Pulau Ubin where they set up camp for nesting.

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