On the trail of a trailblazer!

Yesterday afternoon, a bunch of us at Science Centre Singapore stole away to Dairy Farm Nature Park, with the intention to traverse the Wallace Trail and suss out the Wallace Education Centre.  It proved an immersive and most interesting experience! Here’s a snapshot of the diverse flora along our trek! I would have loved to add fauna to this collection, but our heavy footfalls gave our presence away as the wildlife scampered or flitted away even with the slightest of snapping twigs and rustle of leaf litter.

 

The info panels in the Wallace Education Centre were most enlightening and flattering of Wallace’s contributions to field biology. I think it’d be fair to add though, that both Wallace and his contemporary – Charles Darwin, co-founded the theory of evolution by natural selection, rather than merely state that it was Wallace’s contribution on evolution theory that helped jumpstart Darwin’s prominence in that field.

It was only in navigating this winding trail that Wallace’s accounts (detailed in the book – Dispelling the Darkness) of collecting specimens in the Bukit Timah forest, became a vicarious experience for me. It also gave me a greater appreciation of the endurance and courage needed to work in such an environment.

Sections of this trail were straddled by towering lallang grass that was up to 2m high! I felt instantly acquainted with the fear of the unknown. Wallace’s angst was finally palpable. His thoughts on the subject are displayed in the Wallace Education Centre:

“In the midst of this entomological banquet, there is however, one drawback … the possibility of being eaten up by a tiger! While watching with eager eyes some lovely insect, the thought will occasionally occur that a hungry tiger may be lurking in that dense jungle behind intent upon catching you.”

I bet you won’t find one too many naturalists today who’d venture out, collecting forest denizens amidst such grave danger!

Another commendable feat is that Wallace had collected over 20,000 beetles in the Malay Archipelago including 700 species in his two months in Singapore! I find that astounding especially given the difficulty in finding such beetles even in low-lying vegetation! I glimpsed just one species of beetle during my 3-hour walkabout.

I’m so glad we covered this trail yesterday. To literally ‘follow in the footsteps’ of Wallace practically in our own backyard in Bukit Timah, makes the whole experience of knowing about Wallace – so much bigger. You simply must try this, if you haven’t already!

Island Adventurer is one great place to learn more about Wallace and of his work. Tucked in Hall B of Science Centre Singapore’s mezzanine floor, this latest exhibition focuses on Wallace’s adventure in expeditions and field studies. It was created in collaboration with the National University of Singapore’s Faculty of Science and Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research. 

8 responses to On the trail of a trailblazer!

  1. Ling says:

    Nice blog and photos Danny! Would definitely recommend the Wallace trail to anyone who’s looking for some adventure in the ‘wild’.

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    • Kiat Teng says:

      Thanks Danny for the nice complete account of our mini “adventure”.

      Fully agrees that going through the trail had probably given us some insight on how tough the life of a naturalist could be when venturing into the wild and unknown, even though our experience is the lesser “wild”!

      By the way, Danny, I think you probably didn’t notice the fauna in the form of mozzies out there 🙂

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      • Danny says:

        Yes Kiat Teng, we certainly had it easy, traversing Wallace’s trail!

        He would have had to contend with lurking tigers and other real and present dangers at the time… It’s so nice to know that memories of him can endure with the set up of the informative Education Centre – a must visit if anyone wants to suss out this trail!

        As for the mozzies, I definitely felt their love bites even if I didn’t notice them on the trail! ; )

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    • Danny says:

      Thanks very much Ling Ling! Yes, stuff like this should never be kept a secret! Hopefully, more can come and retrace the historical footsteps of Wallace, and be inspired by what he saw in Bukit Timah!

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  2. Deborah Lim Yang Hua says:

    Nice photos.

    How long did it take for the trail to be completed?

    Would like to gather friends for a visit and capture pictures of flowers etc…

    By the way, any decent toilet stops available along the trail?

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    • Danny says:

      Thank you reading the post and commenting on the photos Deborah!
      I’m glad that you plan to attempt the trail with your friends!
      Hopefully what my colleague – Kiat Teng has filled you in with, will help you plan your nature expedition.

      Don’t forget your sun hat or cap! : )

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  3. Kiat Teng says:

    Hi Deborah, it took us about 2 hours (rough estimate) to cover the Wallace Trail, the Wallace Education Centre and a little bit of the trail behind the Education Centre (part of the Dairy Farm Loop).

    You might find these two links useful:-
    http://www.nparks.gov.sg/cms/docs/eguide_Wallace%20Trail.pdf
    http://www.nparks.gov.sg/cms/index.php?option=com_visitorsguide&task=parks&id=85..

    There are toilet stops both at the Visitor Centre near the carpark and next to the Wallace Education Centre.

    Hope this helps and do share the photos with us too!

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