My wife and I are both big fans of family road trips. Let’s face it, when else do we have a captive audience for my hilarious Dad jokes and Mum’s Spotify playlist of obscure ‘80s indie albums? The kids don’t mind too much, so long as there’s something exciting to see at the end of our journey. Nature and the outdoors are good bets, but we’ve done the zoo and all the parks countless times. So what’s left in Singapore?
My youngest daughter – our household’s number one animal lover – came up with the answer. “Look, Dad!” she says, excitedly pointing to a news report. “Three-metre crocodile spotted in Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve. Can we go? Pleaaaasse!”
“A croc safari sounds great. Get yourselves ready and, er, make it snappy!” I reply.
A seven-seater SUV, the rugged Outlander is tailor-made for family road trips. In my experience, nothing causes more squabbles than when the kids are crammed inside a small cabin for long periods. Contrast that with the Outlander’s roomy interior that can comfortably swallow my family of four and all our gear, plus a friend or three! Maybe they should re-name this car the “peace maker”. Safety is another essential factor for my family – the Outlander’s seven airbags, Reinforced Impact Safety Evolution (RISE) body system and seatbelts with pretensioners and force limiters all get it another big tick.
While big and practical, the Outlander still manages to be stylish – sporty-looking 18-inch alloy wheels, LED headlights and a sleek grille all add to a strong first impression. Inside, the flexible cargo space proves very handy – the second and third rows of seats easily fold flat, or we can simply fold the second row only in a 60:40 split to fit bigger items like a bicycle… or a crocodile (just kidding!). Today, we’re loaded up with less bulky gear, simply some refreshments, mozzie spray, binoculars and a few other safari essentials.
Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve is located in the furthest northwest fringes of Singapore. It’s a long drive, but a smooth, quiet ride so no one was complaining and we enjoy the ease of connecting an iPhone direct to the Multimedia Audio System with Apple CarPlay. Large windows add to the airy feel of the Outlander’s interior, while a nice high seating position gives commanding views of the road.
Handling is surprisingly refined for a seven-seater. Acceleration and braking prove responsive on the busy expressway, while I’m equally impressed by the assured road holding and lack of rolling or swaying when we finally hit Kranji’s winding back roads. The Outlander’s Active Stability Control (ASC) brings peace of mind when the road surface looks greasy from a recent rain shower. It also helps that I can shift gears without removing my hand from the steering wheel thanks to the paddle shifters.
Singapore’s first ASEAN Heritage Park, Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve has 202 hectares of mangroves, mudflats, ponds and coastal forest. Arriving mid-afternoon, we don’t have time to explore everything, so we focus on the tidal ponds area, following a two-kilometre circular walking trail.
I’m immediately struck by the peacefulness and sweet, fresh air – it feels like we’ve left Singapore far behind. We’re still getting ready in the carpark when we hear a commotion in a nearby tree – no less than five hornbills appear, chasing one another playfully from branch to branch. Later on the boardwalk, we discover birdwatchers out in force, their giant lenses targeting a huge grey heron that swoops majestically overhead.
Our walking trail treats us to an exotic array of wildlife, mudskippers splashing in the muddy creeks, a spider the size of my palm lurking in a bush above our heads. We spot some reptiles on the boardwalk too, a beautiful paradise tree snake and a shy monitor lizard, its blue tongue flicking out to taste the air. But still no crocs, yet.
We’d almost given up hope when we see a group of people standing silently up ahead, their heads all pointing to a mudbank some 50 metres away. It takes a while for us to identify the camouflaged critter, but then its mouth opens wide and the sunlight catches a fearsome row of teeth. Thrilled by the sighting, we remain mesmerised until the croc finally slithers off into the pond.
Perhaps even more incredible is the fact that in less than an hour we’ll be driving back among our familiar urban surroundings. Our road trip in the Outlander will be over, but the memories of these wonderfully wild encounters will stay with us forever.
The Outlander delivers total flexibility with a third row of seats creating a seven-seater SUV. Simply fold the rear seats flat to provide generous boot space, with the second row offering a convenient 60:40 split fold for bulky items such as baby buggies or bicycles. The Outlander’s ECO mode employs energy saving measures to help you get the best fuel economy and the lowest emissions, while Auto Stop & Go also suppresses fuel consumption by automatically turning off the engine each time you step on the brake pedal and stop the car.