Muhammad Herizzad manoeuvres his way through the labyrinth of trees as if it’s his second home as I follow closely behind.
He’s my tour guide for the day at Sentosa Cove. But we aren’t here to see lavish houses, fancy yachts or manicured gardens. We’re going to trek up Mount Serapong to search for the abandoned Fort Serapong, one of the many forts built when Singapore was under British rule.
An avid urban explorer since 2007, Mr Herrizzad started the group Temasek Rural Exploring Enthusiasts in 2014 to share his passion and educate the public on the historic sites of Singapore.
“Exploring actually expands my mind and knowledge,” says the 36-year-old. “Every time I rediscover and learn about a place, I gain more insights about its history in depth.”
Mr Herizzad organizes free exploration trips to different sites in Singapore regularly. For the much-forgotten Fort Serapong, our trip is his 25th.
Navigating through the dense forests here is not easy. Mr Herizzard had to do careful research before he started offering this tour.
“The obstacles we face are the terrains we have to pass through to reach the place,” he says. “In Singapore, not all places are accessible, so the risk is high.”
There are multiple warning signs along our route, but we trudge ahead nevertheless while watching out for any pitfalls that could be hidden beneath piles of fallen leaves.
I also have to ignore the hordes of bugs that are zipping around my legs during the exhausting trek.
But slowly and surely, we are nearing a hole – what looks like an opening to an underground pit. My guide starts his descend into the pit and reassures me to do the same.
Beneath the unassuming pit was a sight that I would’ve never expected to find in Sentosa. As I look at the hidden reservoir, I understand why Mr Herizzard is in love with urban exploring.
“The most enjoying part is when you find the place you’re searching for. It takes sweat, blood and tears to find these places,” he shares.
Built between the 1870s and 1890s, Fort Serapong was part of the British southern coastal defence at Pulau Blakang Mati, or the present-day Sentosa.
Once standing proud, the fort is now graffiti-stricken on both its façade and interior. The stone walls have long lost their shine.
“I believe every place has its own stories to tell, whether it’s historical, a mystery, myth or even a superstitious incident,” Mr Herizzad says as I continue to stand in awe of the abandoned fort.
Urban exploring is not an activity for everyone. Those who enjoy it are usually reasonably fit and have an appetite for history, nature and adventures.
Mr Herizzad also has this advice for those who might like to join him in the future:
“Leave only footprints, take only photos. The most important part of urban exploration is to respect the place.”