Trekking in Clementi Forest is no walk in the park
With people getting lost there and a recent injury to a hiker, experts advise to stick to well-travelled paths
Certain spots in Clementi Forest are known for their natural beauty, and with the Covid-19 pandemic curbing a number of activities, many people are spending their free time going on hikes in the area to enjoy the outdoors, take in the sights and stretch their legs.
But there are no designated trails in Clementi Forest, and a number of people of late have got lost while trekking there.
Yesterday, Chinese-language evening daily Lianhe Wanbao reported that a 17-year-old boy fell and injured his leg while hiking with his parents on Monday evening and had to be carried out on a stretcher by four Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) firefighters for 2km, before he was taken to Ng Teng Fong Hospital.
SCDF did not reveal the specifics of the teenager's injury.
The recent incidents have raised some concern among experienced trekkers who organise guided tours there and around the country.
Speaking to The New Paper yesterday, Mr Vijay Kumar Patil, founder of SGTrek, an outdoor activities travel platform, said: "Two years ago, Clementi Forest was largely untouched. Due to the recent social media exposure and the pandemic, it has gained popularity since. However, many who go there to explore nature are inexperienced trekkers, and they don't know the danger of getting lost."
Last week, the police received a call for assistance after three women got lost during a hike. Officers eventually rescued them.
In the last three months, Mr Vijay, 39, said he has had to shepherd four groups of trekkers out of the forest, after he stumbled on them while on his own guided hikes.
"I spotted the lost trekkers wandering about the forest. When we approached them, they said they got lost after deciding to explore the area on their own and were unable to retrace their steps. So we either pointed them in the right direction or followed them out," he said.
"They were mostly families with young children. A few of them were not even in proper hiking footwear and were wearing sandals."
The 85ha Clementi Forest has 98 species of vascular plants on record, according to a 2012 survey by botanists from the National University of Singapore. There is also a stream running through it.
Guided hikes there weave through two unofficial trails formed by experienced trekkers over the years and it stretches from Clementi Road and Bukit Timah Road to the Rail Corridor.
Apart from proper shoes, a first-aid kit, torchlight, sufficient water and snacks and a fully charged phone with a power bank are among essential items one should have while trekking.
Mr David Lim, founder of TLC Adventure Tours, has also run into lost trekkers in Clementi Forest in recent months.
He advises those wishing to explore the area but who are unfamiliar with it to stick to the most-used paths.
Said Mr Lim: "If you are inexperienced, it is important to avoid the forested areas as they can all look the same after some time, and the branches or roots there could cause you to trip and lead to injuries."
All trekkers regardless of their experience should avoid Clementi Forest after 6pm when it starts to get dark, or during or just after rain due to how slippery it gets underfoot, he added.
The forest will have official designated trails sometime in 2023, with the National Parks Board (NParks) recently announcing plans for the new Clementi Nature Trail and Old Jurong Line Nature Trail.
In February, the Singapore Land Authority and NParks released a joint statement saying wooded areas like Clementi and Ulu Pandan are not managed for recreation and public access.
"The terrain and ground are uneven, and paths are not provided. These areas also consist of regrowth vegetation with self-sown trees like Albizia, which are prone to falling and snapped branches.
"We advise the public to be mindful of these dangers for their own personal safety," the statement added.
The recent incidents at Clementi Forest have led some on popular Facebook group Singapore Hikers to wonder if the authorities would limit access to the area.
The group's founder Joven Chiew, who is in his 40s, believes the significance of the forest means it is unlikely to happen.
The head of sales and marketing at a software company said: "Clementi Forest is quite unique, with the link to the Rail Corridor. It contains the old Jurong Railway Line which is an important part of Singapore's history.
"But those going there should keep in mind their safety, which is always the priority for any outdoor adventure."