Camping in Singapore

Camp my style
Why stay cooped up at home when camping is a breeze with facilities and attractions in the parks
Veronica Koh Straits Times Life 25 Apr 10;

Instead of letting his seven-year-old twin sons stay at home playing computer games, Mr Ivan Lim has got them clicking with nature. He takes them camping at East Coast Park.

Along with his wife and parents, he heads to the park once a month to show the boys how to pitch a tent, cycle and swim too.

Mr Lim, a 36-year-old project director who lives in a condominium unit in Yew Tee, says: 'It started out as a family outing earlier this year, but my kids had so much fun that we made it a routine.

'I get them to try new activities and they're also picking up survival skills.'

His wife Esther, 35, an accounts manager, says: 'Our jobs prevent us from taking long vacations. Camping provides a quick getaway to spend time with the family.'

Increasingly, more Singaporeans are in Mr Lim's camp, as camping takes off. Since April last year, the National Parks has allocated 21,000 camping permits to campers, which works out to 57 permits a day.

Suppliers of camping equipment which LifeStyle spoke to agreed that camping is becoming more popular.

Sports and camping equipment shops Adventure 21 and Camper's Corner reported an increase in sales in the past five years. Sports Connection's camping gear sales have risen 100 per cent from 2008 to last year. The shops declined to give figures.

Campers have a choice of heading to the parks at East Coast, Pasir Ris, West Coast and Changi Beach if they have a permit. They can pitch a tent without a permit on Pulau Ubin, although they must inform the police.

Go to East Coast Park over the weekend and you will see a sea of tents along the shoreline, sometimes numbering up to 50.

However, Singapore-style camping is not exactly roughing it out. Camping areas come with stores and toilet facilities.

Some campers bring their own food from home or go to nearby eateries, especially if they are at East Coast Park where there are plenty of choices, or Changi Beach Park, where Changi Village Food Centre is a 15-minute walk away.

Today's tents are a breeze to set up compared to old-style heavy canvas, multiple tent poles and hammering in pegs.

Camping instructor Winnie Tan, 19, who goes camping at East Coast Park, says: 'My friends and I can go camping and not worry about food or forgetting a toothbrush because we know the food centre and convenience store is nearby.'

Camping permits here are free, which appeals to bigger groups on a budget.

When it comes to organising a camping trip, no one does it quite like sales coordinator Suzi Sairi, 25, and her extended family of more than 50 members. The youngest is two years old and the oldest, 65. Pitching 12 tents at a go, her family shares tasks such as food, trash duty and games. They have a Facebook group for their camping trips at various parks.

She said: 'For a big family like ours, camping is less restrictive than being cooped up in a chalet. There may be problems such as rainy weather, but it's going through these experiences that helps our family to bond.'

Marketing coordinator Nur Khamisah Dawood, 51, is also into family camping. She goes with her extended family of over 30 relatives.

She says: 'Chalets cannot fit everyone and overseas holidays are expensive. Camping is a vacation at a lower cost.'

The activities of Pasir Ris Park spurred engineer Tan Choon Liang to take his two daughters, aged seven and 10, camping instead of spending the weekends at their five-room flat in Hougang. They enjoy playing at the park's extensive playground and feeding the ponies at the park stable.

Mr Tan, 45, said: 'Instead of just lying around in a tent, it's good that the park has attractions to keep my children occupied.'

For businessman Terrence Lim and his wife Fanny, it is never too early to start camping. They take their 16-month-old son Elliot every weekend to Pasir Ris Park, pitching tent near the beach so that he can play in the sand.

Mr Lim, 37, said: 'We don't want him to merely watch TV, so we started this as soon as he could walk.'

Camping is also popular for couples seeking a romantic getaway.

Student Veronica Neo, 19, goes camping with her boyfriend whenever they can. They pack a picnic and spend the night at the beach. She said: 'People always associate camping with roughing it out, but they forget that the beach is a very romantic place as well, especially at night.'

Once a fortnight, pest control operator Azman Sahlan and his wife head to a remote area of Pasir Ris Park, where they pitch a tent and fish together.

Mr Sahlan, 40, said: 'It's just us, the sea and the fish. It gives us a chance to spend time together without the distractions of the outside world.'

Some, such as 18-year-old student Adeline Wan, pitch a tent just to study. 'It's a refreshing change from studying at home or at the library,' she said.

Student Melissa Chua, 20, combines her love for camping with her passion for photography. Once every few months, she camps at Changi Beach Park and spends the day taking photographs.

'I take whatever captures my eye... aeroplanes, boats, the sea, the sunrise.'

Some campers venture beyond Singapore and actually rough it out.

Once a month, insurance agent Ngoh Seh Suan, 31, goes on an overnight cycling trip with his friends to Johor, covering up to 220km and going as far as Kota Tinggi and Jason Bay.

They take their own stove and mess tin to cook, buying oil and eggs from nearby villages. He relies on a GPS device to find his way around.

Adventures have included having to hide food from wild boars.

'It's hard to have a quiet getaway in Singapore as the camping areas are overcrowded. I enjoy discovering new places overseas and the challenge of seeking out good camping spots.'

Pitch your tent here

Campers need to apply for a camping permit, which are available from an AXS machine or go to www.axs.com.sg

Designated camping areas

# Changi Beach Park: between Carpark 1 and 4 and Carpark 6 and 7

# East Coast Park: Areas D (near Carpark D) and G (near Carpark G)

# West Coast Park: Area 3 (near Carpark 3)

# Pasir Ris Park: Area 1 (near Carpark A) and 3 (near Carpark D)

# Sisters' Island and Pulau Hantu at Sentosa: Overnight campers have to notify the executive management of Sentosa by sending an e-mail to administrator@sentosa.com.sg for a camping permit.

# Jelutong, Noordin and Maman Beaches at Pulau Ubin: Camping permit not required, but campers should inform officers at the Pulau Ubin Police Post on the day that they are camping.

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