It is said that you should never judge another until you have walked a mile in their shoes. But, what happens when they don’t have shoes, or feet even, for that matter. I found out when I tried the Tree VR experience at Cloud Forest, Gardens by the Bay.
Tree is a VR booth where you can immerse yourself into the role of a tree, following its lifecycle from seed to maturity. It is located at the Crystal Mountain section of the Cloud Forest dome.
The Gardens by the Bay staff at the VR booth explained that I would be a kapok tree. This species is native to Central and South America, including the Amazon rainforest where the Tree VR experience is set. A smaller variety of the kapok tree can even be found in found in Southeast Asia, including Singapore.
After donning the vest, headset and headphones, and being passed two handheld controllers, the experience began.
Life as a Tree
I started off as a small seed in the ground, surrounded by brown soil. As the seed germinated, I found myself pushing upwards and breaking out into the bright sunlight.
Being a kapok tree, I found myself growing up ever skyward. Everything around looked fresh and wondrous. As I made my way up, soon I noticed the animals and birds all around me. However, as a tree, I could not do much but watch them since I was firmly rooted to the ground.
Soon, I had burst through the forest’s canopy layer and found myself with a majestic view of the surrounding Amazon rainforest. A kapok tree can grow up to 60 metres in height.
The Tree VR experience is an eye-opening opportunity to get a first-person perspective of the beauty and fragility of nature.
Lessons from Nature
It was amazing to think that a small seed can grow into a giant of the forest. It was a reminder that even the smallest idea or effort has the potential to grow into something much bigger
While it was awe-inspiring getting the perspective of the tree as it grew, it also felt slightly helpless. Unlike the Ents from Lord of the Rings, real trees are firmly rooted to the ground. While the animals milled around, there was very little else I could do but admire them. It reminded me of an old grandparent – rich in wisdom but not quite as mobile. This underscored the importance of caring for the forest and nature in general – sometimes the most important things are also the most vulnerable.
Overall, the Tree VR experience was worth the $5 which I spent to try it out. As a parting gift, the staff at the booth passed me a paper envelope with a kapok tree seed inside.
Message received loud and clear.
The Tree VR Experience at Cloud Forest, Gardens by the Bay will run till 16 February 2020. The experience costs $5 and runs for around eight minutes. Admission is based on time slots with limited places available each hour. Purchase tickets from the ticketing booth before entering the Cloud Forest. Alternatively, if there are available time slots, it is possible to purchase tickets within the Cloud Forest dome at the Tree VR attraction entrance.