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The small city state of Singapore is a place of constant contrasts, where old meets new and worldwide influences combine to create an addictive melting pot of cultures and styles. But one of the greatest surprises in this megacity of 5 million people, is the extent to which nature has been encouraged to exist alongside modern life.

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Efforts to bring wildlife back to the metropolis have paid off, and Singapore is now the most biologically diverse city in the world. Types of tree thought to have been destroyed by development have been found growing again in gardens and smooth coated otters have made a comeback in the waterways.

The city residents take preserving their natural environment very seriously, and roughly half of Singapore’s 716 square kilometres are taken up by forest reserves, wetlands, scrubland and beautifully manicured gardens. Hop on the right urban bus and you can soon end up in thick jungle, surrounded by the calls of monkeys and tropical birds.

Flickr: Kai Lehmann

Flickr: Kai Lehmann

Perhaps the most impressive natural feature of the city, and probably the most famous is the immense Gardens by the Bay nature park. Built on 250 acres of reclaimed land, the park is made up of three areas, all of which make masterful use of plants and water to explore different themes.

Two huge conservatories also burst with life and were both built using sustainable, eco-friendly methods. The Flower Dome is the largest conservatory in the world, covering three acres and housing plants from semi-arid tropical regions.

The real wonder though are the other-worldly Supertrees. These are vertical gardens that reach between 25 and 50 meters high, with a narrow trunk ending in an interweaving set of ‘branches’. They are planted with a wide variety of rare ferns, vines, orchids and creepers and over the years this foliage will slowly take over to envelope the entire Supertree.

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They even have features that mimic those of real trees, such as cells that harness solar energy and collection tubes for rainwater.

It seems the Singaporeans really appreciate living alongside an abundance of flora and fauna, and their efforts to make Singapore a ‘city in a garden’ set a great example for the rest of the world.