• Published Date: Issue Apr/ May 2022

    Behind the neat, ordered facades of HDB blocks are living compendium of lives, people and stories; some more colourful and compelling than others, but all unique and interesting in their own special way. Photographer Dan Ng hopes to inspire Singaporeans to rediscover nature in their backyard by documenting the hidden wildlife of Pasir Ris town.

    Photographer Dan Ng

    Dan Ng cuts a patient figure in the early morning light, his still silhouette framed by the leafy trees of Pasir Ris Park. His eyes are peeled for movement, fingers at the ready to capture a magical wildlife moment.

    As a wildlife photographer, Dan is usually up and cycling to the park from his HDB flat before sunrise, in hopes of catching the animals in action at twilight. “It’s convenient for me because I live nearby, and I’m always raring to visit because it’s a different adventure every day.”

    Passion for Nature

    Armed with his camera, Dan spends his time on the multiple trails within the park, where various wild birds and animals may be spotted. One of his favourite spots to capture different wildlife is along the Mangrove Board Walk, where one can discover the quiet beauty of the 6-hectare mangrove forest.

    “You’ll be amazed by what you can find hidden within Pasir Ris Park and located right here in our backyard,” he says.

    Dan patiently points out snakes, mudskippers and crabs nestled amidst the mangroves, which are often less visible to the untrained eye. He wishes more visitors would learn about the unique biosystem and the creatures that call the mangroves home. Actively conserved for being a rich ecological habitat, the marshland is also an important site for migratory birds.

    Dan’s photography sessions start before sunrise

    Building Friendships

    With HDB blocks located all around, Pasir Ris Park is easily accessible to those seeking to unwind in nature, and a popular stomping ground for the town’s residents. Dan shares that there is a bustling community who is very into wildlife spotting. One such person is hobbyist photographer Jayaprakash Bojan, with whom Dan has struck a firm friendship.

    “Jaya’s like a superstar at Pasir Ris Park,” Dan recalls with a smile, “I approached him for a photo together, and that was how we became friends.” Having a mutual interest in wildlife videography, Dan and Jayaprakash embarked on a project to document the various unexpected animal species within the park, recording footage for months on end.

    Dan on a photoshoot with his co-producer Jayaprakash Bojan

    The duo has since produced 2 films that cast a spotlight on the thriving biodiversity at Pasir Ris Park. While their first film was only 11 minutes in length, the second film is a 44-minute anthology of short stories celebrating the park’s wild residents, from otters to owls.

    “We wanted to help people fall in love with nature, which can be just a few steps away,” Dan shares. “We also wanted to spotlight a side of Singapore which many may not be aware of.”

    Dan and Jayaprakash credit the close-knit resident community for playing a significant role in the filmmaking, such as offering timely tip-offs on WhatsApp group chats about wildlife sightings. “If we miss the photo opportunity, it can take a while to spot that particular species again, so it’s important for us to be quick,” Dan explains.

    Even as he seeks out that perfect shot, Dan also stresses the importance of respecting nature. “Occasionally, we do notice that there are too many photographers crowding the animals, for instance, when the otters come ashore. We try to remind everyone to give our wild residents space, to avoid scaring them off.”

    The duo recorded footage for months on end, documenting various animal species in Pasir Ris Park

    Finding the Silver Lining

    For Dan, the pandemic has brought new perspective on what Singapore has to offer. He used to travel frequently as a content creator and being unable to go abroad freely was initially tough. However, he has come to treasure being a stone’s throw away from nature, and says that cycling from his flat to Pasir Ris Park instantly boosts his mood as he soaks in the greenery and biodiversity around.

    He recounts with a laugh, “Sometimes I don’t even need to go to the park, birds would come by my window. When I was editing the films at home, I got confused with whether the parakeets’ calls were coming from the video or from outside!” Nurturing his craft in wildlife photography has motivated Dan to showcase more of Singapore’s natural charms and inspire others to get close to nature by rediscovering where they live.

    Sharing that he and his wife have recently collected keys to their BTO flat at Punggol, Dan is looking forward to exploring their new neighbourhood thoroughly: “I can’t wait to check out what Punggol has to offer, and I’ll be excited to make another documentary about the wildlife there too!”

    Cycling and walking paths make it a breeze getting to nature parks from home


    Click here to discover the residents of Pasir Ris Park with the wildlife filmmakers.