I am painfully aware that if I fall, I will splatter into a crater on the ground, much like a certain coyote on Cartoon Network. I am hanging, arms akimbo, in a Spider-Man-meets-Tarzan sort of way, but I am in a secure climbing harness, suspended from a thick metal wire. Still, my heart is in my mouth. I am high above the ground, dangling from one of the tallest trees I have ever encountered. This is not the Singapore I know.
My previous trysts with the city were spent in safe, expensive havens. Like other tourists, I too spent much of my time in Singapore’s glittering malls proving that shopping was a worthy national sport. How did I come to be perched on a treetop?
It started with an innocent remark from my 12-year-old daughter (repeated at five-minute intervals for good effect): “We’re always shopping in Singapore. We should do something different.” When she suggested Forest Adventure, I pictured a breezy stroll past trees, plenty of sunshine, a picnic by the water, and finally, a lovely, climate-controlled cafeteria flanked by stores. I had clearly underestimated the “adventure” part.
Forest Adventure is an outdoor recreational centre in Bedok Reservoir Park. There are two obstacle courses to choose from: a Kid’s Course for children under ten (closer to the ground and more my speed) and the Grand Course for teens and adults. A young Chinese guide helps us slide into a harness and reads out the rules. Children below 16 must be accompanied by an adult who is responsible for guiding the child through the course and ensuring the safety gear is latched on properly. My daughter shoots me the sort of furious look that preteens specialise in, and I realise that I’ve been doing this a tad obsessively.
The Grand Course has 34 different mid-air obstacles that require balancing on logs and suspended tree stumps, walking on shaky bridges, and swinging from trapezes. Physical exertion aside, I have an unnerving fear of heights. “If the adult gives up mid-way,” our guide informs us, “the child must too.” I don’t want my daughter to see me quitting, so I grit my teeth and resolve to complete the course.
With a group of 12 impossibly fit adults and tweens, I attempt the Tarzan where I jump from a treetop into a sprawling net ten feet above the ground. Clutching at the net for dear life, I feel a frisson of alarm when I realise I now have to climb the netting and swing sideways before I reach the next platform on the adjoining treetop. I can hear my middle-aged muscles mutinying. The next bit is easier: a zip line that stretches across the entire reservoir. Gliding smoothly over the expanse of glittering water, I feel like I am flying—sheer exhilaration.
My daughter, who has gambolled through the course like a mountain goat, encounters a problem at the Infernal Bridge. The crossing requires us to put our feet through rings that are suspended midair and then propel ourselves to the nearest tree platform. She is afraid and wants to turn around. Just when I am about to call on a safety officer—they have an inflatable ball-like mechanism that lowers injured participants to the ground—the people behind us start cheering us on. “You can do it! Don’t turn back now. Face your fears! That’s what we’re here for.” Surprisingly, it works. With some more coaxing, my daughter pries her eyes open, takes a deep breath, and slowly moves forward. I sigh with relief, and pride.
It takes us three hours to complete the course. By the end, muscles I didn’t know I had are aching, but my heart sings. Then again, it only makes sense that treading on treetops would put me on top of the world (+65-8100 7420; forestadventure.com.sg; open Tue-Sun 9.30 a.m.-6.30 p.m. except on public holidays; $46/₹2,160 for adults; $43/₹2,020 for juniors under 18; minimum height for participation is 4ft7in.)