Sightings of otters in various parts of Singapore might have sent the public into a tizzy last year but for housewife Jenny Tan, 47, it was spotting a barn owl while kayaking along the Marina Reservoir that had her squealing in delight.
She says: "We caught sight of a barn owl perched in a corner beneath the Benjamin Sheares Bridge as well as a sea turtle and some otters too.
"It was a surprise for me to learn that such wildlife can be found in the middle of the city."
Ms Tan was on a guided kayak tour organised by the People's Association (PA) Water-Venture as part of its annual Discovery Series of guided expeditions on water to explore Singapore's flora and fauna.
This year, the series will take participants through three different waterscapes - reservoirs, open seas and mangrove habitats - with mangroves being the latest addition.
There will be nine tours in total, with routes ranging from 3 to 11km in areas including Jurong Lake, Marina Reservoir and Seletar Island.
Each expedition can have up to 100 participants who are split into smaller groups of 10 to 20 and accompanied by volunteer trainers.
Most of the programmes do not require any kayaking experience, but participants need to be older than 10 or 12 depending on the expedition.
Those between the ages of 10 and 12 need to be accompanied by an adult.
The cost starts from $20 for members of the public and $15 for PA Water-Venture members.
The trips will begin later this month and run till August.
Those interested can sign up on the PA website.
Only the Sea Discovery programmes, which takes participants to Seletar Island and Punggol Beach, require proof of kayaking experience. Participants need to have a 1-star kayaking certificate or must have attended a previous PA's Discovery Series event, or have gone for a kayaking orientation programme.
Introduced in 2013, the Discovery Series aims to let Singaporeans appreciate the wildlife and vegetation along the country's waterways.
For example, during the mangrove tours, you are likely to spot the common mangrove tree api-api putih (Avicennia alba) and wildlife such as the black-crowned night heron as you kayak through Sungei Api Api in Pasir Ris and Khatib Bongsu in Yishun.
The programme began with just the Reservoir Discovery Series. Following its success, Mr Roy Chew, PA WaterVenture's deputy director of the community sports division says other waterscape tours were introduced "to offer participants more opportunities to experience different waterscapes and terrains".
He adds that participation for these water tours has jumped fourfold since 2013 from 99 to 465.
Nature lover Ron Yeo, 40, who will be advising the volunteer trainers, hopes that the expeditions will widen the public's perspective of the diversity of Singapore's natural habitats.
Says the civil servant: "Many are so detached from nature here that they don't realise that there is a great deal of flora and fauna to be found in our own backyard.
"By kayaking through these mangroves and reservoirs, participants can get up close and personal with nature."
PA WATER-VENTURE DISCOVERY SERIES
Where: Various parts of the island. Meet at the PA Water-Venture outlets
When: Nine expeditions will run from May 24 to August 23, 10am to 12.30pm
Cost: $20 to $40. $15 to $35 for PA Water-Venture members
Info: Go to one.pa.gov.sg to sign up. Search "Discovery Series" under "Activity"
This article was first published on May 8, 2015.
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