Yes, you heard me right! There are real Swiftlets' nests, commonly known as Bird's Nest ( made by the swiftlets using solidified saliva), in Singapore! I happened to stumbled upon one such area during the last weekend to visit Mt Imbiah Battery. I had signed up some tours for Battle for Singapore and this trip was one of it. What I had not expected is to find intact bird's nests in the battery.
Upon arrival, I joined a group of history enthusiasts. We were told current status of Mt Imbiah, stories of WW2, the history of the battery, and the suspected use of each rooms. Although the place was decomissioned prior WW2, this battery is the only intact battery in Singapore that remained relatively untouched after the British army left Singapore. The rest of the batteries (Fort Siloso and Fort Connaught) in Sentosa had been bombed. The underground rooms were where the infantry used to store weapons was flooded and almost suffered the fate of being buried away as a result. Luckily, that idea was being abandoned and measures were made to drain away the water. Otherwise, we will not get the chance to visit and experience how it was like in such a battery.
We were also brought through a very narrow passageway (basically the passageway is the perimeter of the underground magazine), we were told that this passage will help to keep the ammunition that were stored next to it dry. It is also in this passageway, we found the swiftlet nests. We were told the swiftlets are Jin Si Yan and the nests found here are poisonous, not for human consumption. Walking though the narrow passageway in a dark and groomy environment is pretty scary if you asked me. We were told to switch on our torchlight in our phone but I don't know how to operate mine. Luckily, majority of the members of the group had their lights on, so I followed behind. From their lights, I managed to see 2 rows of bird nests near the ceiling on the both sides of the corridor and snapped a picture of 2 nests next to each other (below). You can imagine the excitement I had because I had never seen any bird nests of any kind in my life before. What an experience it was! The swiftlets were probably frightened by us as we were making quite a commotion and they flew all over the place. Luckily, we were told there were swiflets in the passageway, otherwise I may have thought they were bats. One of the birds even bumped into my hand. In the innermost of the passageway, I felt the floor soft beneath my shoes. I could not see what it was. I believe they are feathers. When we were finally out, one of the guides asked whether we saw any big fat cockroaches! Eeewwww... Yes, these are some of the creatures you can find here, much to my amusement. I am sorry to tell you that the magazine is not open to public except in tours like this. Plans are made to preserve the site. I do hope in future, it will be open to public, including the magazine.
|Bird nests in Mt Imbiah Battery|
In the next photo collage, I am pleased to tell you that you will be able to visit and know more about swiftlets in Swiftlet Garden Museum. This particular museum is located at D'Kranji Farm Resort. When we first saw this museum during our farm hop last December, I was pretty excited to know more. It is not a very big museum but with the guided tour, you will be able to know the history of Bird's Nest and how it was harvested. It was Admiral Cheng Ho who brought them back as delicacy for the royal family from the South East Asia. You will also learnt that swiftlets are monogamous and not all swiftlets are able to produce edible bird nest, only a few species do. You get to know how despicable some manufacturers are to the extent of bleaching bird nest to make them white so that they are be sold as premium bird nests.
You also get to learn how this particular plant, Swiftlet Garden Group of companies , harvest their own bird nests in swiftlet houses without harming the swiftlets and how these nests were processed. Essences ( glycoprotein extracts to produce food supplements for anti-cancer -SGBx, and stem cell therapy-NUSGx) of bird nest were extracted to make cookies, chocolates and coffee. To find out more, you may want to visit their homepage. The items can be purchase from their visitor's centre. Although I believe in consuming whole food rather than extracts (which were made into products), I bought the oats and blackcurrent cookies because Little One likes them.
We do hope to visit the musuem again. Hopefully if we are not rushing for time so that we can stay and read the boards in the museum. At that time, I also wished to visit their farm in Malaysia. Currently, their farm does not have open farm tours available but I do hope that they conduct some day. I am sure plenty of people, especially the Chinese, would be interested.
|Swiftlet Garden Museum|
Left: Harvesting in swiftlet houses
Bottom Right: Mock up of Bird's Nest in swiftlet house
Top Right: Harvesting naturally in a cave
PS: I am in not affiliated or associated with the above mentioned company.