Our second day in Singapore we wanted to explore the zoo and safari in Singapore. There are 4 such attractions we chose. Singapore Zoo, River safari & Night safari which we planned to do together as all these attractions were together. Jurong Bird park on another day. So we opted for the park hopper pass, which is valid for 7 days from the date of purchase, which allowed us to go through all the 4 attractions. Online purchase through credit card gave us a further saving of around 24SGD per card.
Getting up early and having a nice breakfast at our hostel was great experience. From the terrace we say sunbirds and Sunda pygmy woodpecker which you can see above. After breakfast we took bus opposite Clarke Quay MRT station. http://gothere.sg/ is a great website which helps you to get both routes as well as fares across Singapore. They have an app too which allows you to use the same web interface. Here are the instruction we got.
- Walk to the bus stop at Clarke Quay MRT, Eu Tong Sen Street.
- Board Bus 190 at Clarke Quay MRT (04222), Eu Tong Sen Street in about 9 min. Alight at Choa Chu Kang Interchange, Choa Chu Kang Loop, 25 stops later.
- Board Bus 927 at Choa Chu Kang Interchange (44009), Choa Chu Kang Loop in about 12 min. Alight at Singapore Zoological Gardens, Mandai Lake Road, 18 stops later.
So two changes of bus, 33 stops and 65 minutes of great travel from south of Singapore to the north, later we were at Singapore Zoo.
Since 1973, Singapore Zoo has been known for having among the most beautiful wildlife park settings in the world, 26-hectare wildlife park is nestled within the lush Mandai rainforest that stretches into the magnificent Upper Seletar Reservoir. More than 2,800 animals representing over 300 species of mammals, birds and reptiles can be seen here. Get hold of the map which is available both electronically as well as printed form at the entrance so you won’t miss anything major. We wanted to walk around the park even though we had tram tickets built right into our pass.
The zoo is designed in such a way to represent various habitats from the savannah grasslands of Wild Africa where lions, zebras and rhinoceroses roam, to the rugged canyons of the Great Rift Valley of Ethiopia where colony of Hamadryas baboons live. Stroll right into the home of free-ranging kangaroos and have them eating out of your palms at our Australian Zone. Wander into the spectacular diversity of the Fragile Forest where flying foxes soar freely, mousedeers tread gingerly across your path, and ring-tailed lemurs bask in full view on the open sundeck.
We started from the Treetops Trail. Being the first immersive experience that welcomes every visitor at Singapore Zoo, this zone begins at the Rainforest Courtyard right at the entrance of the park leading on to an elevated platform through the forest canopy, a pathway that brings visitors closer to nature and its wildlife.
We were immediately greeted by Cotton topped Tamarin who was almost at touching distance. Siamang hanging on a vine and crossing across to next tree. Lesser mouse deer gingerly drinking water from a tub nearby. Zoo is a walk-through exhibit that bring animals and visitors together in one space for incredibly intimate encounters.
Next was otter exhibit. Two-tiered exhibit featured the outdoor ground level and the indoor underwater- viewing gallery. The trail led us to the White tiger. Despite an incidence 4 years back when these tigers mauled one of the zoo worker and killed him, the tigers are one of the star attractions. With their blue eyes, pink noses, and creamy white fur covered with brown stripes, this giant cat is truly a cat-tivating sight!
White tiger habitat is landscaped to resemble a dense jungle clearing. Here, our feline seen strolling about in the shady spots. The moat separating visitors from the tigers also serves a second purpose as a wet playground since tigers are one of the few wild cats that love swimming.
Trail then took us to Red river hogs which live in the rainforests and dense savannahs of western and central Africa. They have coarse, bright red fur, black legs, ear tufts and a stripe of white running down their spines – which makes them the most striking of the 16 species of wild pigs. When you see them in the water, you’ll soon realise that they are excellent swimmers – which is why they live near rivers, lakes and marshes.
Next we were transported into the Australian Zone. Here, grey kangaroos and agile wallabies hop about freely as you enter the walk-through area, while koalas lounge comfortably in their indoor exhibit with specially controlled temperature and humidity. The Australian Zone was originally conceptualised in collaboration with Australia’s own wildlife icon, the late Steve Irwin.
We had chance to get up to within an arm’s length of koalas – Chan, Idalia, Pellita and Paddle. Often called “koala bears”, koalas are actually not bears. They are marsupials, which produce under-developed young that complete their development in the mother’s pouch.
Koalas spend most of their time on trees either sleeping or eating. They can consume up to 500g of eucalypt leaves a day and these leaves are all they eat. Because eucalypt contains toxins (which are poisonous to most other animals) and is also extremely high in fibre, much energy is required from the koalas to digest them. This is why they need to sleep 18-22 hours a day – to conserve energy. Their indoor exhibit is kept at specially controlled temperatures and humidity the koalas are accustomed to. They are a gift from Australia to mark Singapore’s 50th anniversary of independence, and will be staying at the Singapore Zoo only until the end of 2015. We were lucky to see them before they depart back to Australia at the end of this year 🙂
The Goodfellow’s tree-kangaroo is a marsupial adapted for arboreal locomotion. The species is native to the rainforests of New Guinea, and the border of central Irian Jaya in Indonesia. The species is listed as Endangered, which is a result of overhunting and human encroachment on their habitat. It is named after British zoological collector Walter Goodfellow.
Next zone we ventured was Great Rift Valley of Ethiopia. After a walk through the tribal entrance and dramatic rocky landscape that is reminiscent of the majestic mountains, rugged terrain and waterfalls of the Great Rift Valley in Ethiopia we saw Hamadryas baboons. The Hamadryas baboon exhibit features a colony of more than 90 baboons. We watched as the clans engaged in their social activities. From territorial males protecting their harems, to a female with very pronounced genital swelling announcing her fertile state to a fellow male, to couples eating ticks off each other’s fur, and even adults getting rough with the young, it’s a primate soap opera playing out right in front of our eyes.
Next stop was Primate Kingdom. Singapore Zoo has a total of 39 species of primates. Here each primate species has its own island, with a landscaping of trees. The Zoo’s famous ‘open’ concept flows through this zone as only moats are used to separate the primates from visitors. These moats are filled with various species of fish, the most impressive being the fearsome South American arapaima!
Here we saw Lion-tailed Macaque, Black and White Colobus Monkey, Patas Monkey, Brown Capuchin, Sulawesi Crested Macaque and Douc Langur.
By that time, it slowly started drizzling. To escape from drizzle, we wanted to see one of the animal shows. Singapore Zoo animal shows are a must-see for both young and old. All of them are conducted twice a day. Splash Safari Show, Animal Friends Show, Elephants at Work & Play Show and Rainforest Fights Back Show. So we went to see Elephants at Work & Play Show. One the way we could see few of the elephants being fed with groundnut. Dexterity with which each nut is picked from the sand and then lightly dusted and eaten, using its trunk is simply amazing.
The venue of the show was packed with students, but the rain became stronger which forced the zoo to cancel the show. Disappointed we returned to another place which had Splash Safari Show Showcasing Sea lions. Even that show was cancelled due to heavy rain.
All this roaming made us hungry. So we headed towards Ah Meng Restaurant. This restaurant gets really crowded so try to eat there outside of regular eating times to avoid the scrum. You can get a variety of food and drink both Western and Asian. We tried quite a variety of dishes including laksa and chicken and rice curry. Food was tasty, but not the best one we had in Singapore. Fortunately, the prices are reasonable. They are not as cheap as you can find in hawker centres but not ridiculously expensive tourist prices. It is a typical self-service place where you line up, order your food and then pay at the checkout. Recommend you stake out a table (chope is the Singapore tradition – To reserve a place, by placing a packet of tissue paper on it) before getting food lest it get cold whilst you wait for one while carrying a tray of food and beverages!
Since we were before the regular lunch rush, we got out food fast and were able to watch the next show of Rainforest Fights Back. Rainforest Fights Back is a 20-minute, informative and entertaining presentation that brings together more than 10 species of animals, showcasing the rich and diverse wildlife of the rainforest.
Deforestation is causing our rainforest friends to lose their homes. Otters, snakes, macaws, lemurs, spider monkeys and more join tails to battle for the future of their habitat and our planet in this show. Watch as some of them climb and fly overhead and marvel at their abilities. Discover the healing powers of the rainforest, and tells you, how you can do your part to save it!
Since we already had our food, we wanted to see how animals having their lunch served. As it was feeding time at Wild Africa Zone we walked towards it. It was still drizzling. We watched second largest land mammal – White Rhinoceros, fastest animal on land – Cheetah, painted wolf like African Wild Dog, Zebra, Giraffe, King of the jungle, African Lion, Timon the Meercat and Pumbaa the Warthog all having their lunch with a guide explaining about them in this very interactive session at Wild Africa.
Next zone was Reptile Garden. Nestled in glass-fronted exhibits that are lushly planted to the animals’ natural habitats, were the king cobra, shore pit viper, oriental whipsnake, rattlesnake, dog-toothed cat snake, Green tree python and the longest snake in the world, the reticulated python. Other reptiles including the Shingleback skink, Gila monster, Malayan box turtles, alligator snapping turtles and more can be seen here. We could see tiny tots really enjoying the exhibit and asking curious questions. The exhibits were so close we could just go and touch them if we wanted to 😉
The largest lizard in the world, Komodo dragon, the second largest species of tortoises on Earth, Aldabra Giant Tortoise, False Gavial, Rhino Iguana all inhabit this Reptile garden. In the 300 square-metre Bornean Marsh habitat, we can enjoy a spectacular bird’s-eye view of the water pool and marsh vegetation that is now home to three false gavials, giant river terrapins, box turtles and Burmese land tortoises.
As we finished covering the all the zone of the park we saw the Orangutans being fed with sunflower seeds. They all came down from the tree tops to get the seeds from feeders hands.
Last stop at the zoo was Frozen Thundra. Built to resemble the arctic habitat, the Frozen Tundra has a cool temperature, an ice cave with a waterfall, and a large pool filled with giant ice blocks. Inuka, locally-born polar bear, is the star of the Frozen Tundra. From the viewing gallery in the frozen tunnel. Rain had hampered our joy of seeing Inuka as she was resting at the far end of the pool. Wolverines were slightly different from Marvel superhero character. Racoon dog from Japan was trying to chew a piece of bone given for it.
We had a bonus species on our way to River safari, outside the zoo we spotted a wild monitor lizard who gave a great pose for our photography
Nestled between Singapore Zoo and Night Safari is River Safari inspired by the world’s most iconic rivers. This features world’s largest freshwater aquarium housing one of the world’s largest collections of freshwater fauna.
Rain had made the park to abandon River Safari Cruise that day. But we could explore rest of the exhibits which are meant to be walked around. So we took a leisurely stroll and meandered through the park on an exploratory river adventure of the Mississippi, Congo, Nile, Ganges, Mekong and Yangtze rivers. With the pristine Upper Seletar Reservoir as a backdrop, River Safari is also home to the Giant Panda Forest, Squirrel Monkey Forest and the enchanting Amazon Flooded Forest.
First was the Mississippi River and get a rare inside-look at the home of the beavers. We did nose-to-snout with the rare Mississippi paddlefish and primitive alligator gar. As we travelled down to the Congo River, we saw world’s largest freshwater puffer fish.
River Nile where the sharp-toothed tigerfish and the many-finned birchir resided. Ganges River, with Indian gharial resting by the sandy shore along with peculiar-looking softshell turtle and the goonch catfish.
The Mekong River beckons with a massive aquarium that houses the magnificent Mekong catfish and the giant freshwater stingray. The Mekong catfish can grow up to 2 metres long and the giant freshwater stingray, an awe-inspiring 600 kilogrammes in weight!
Next, was Yangtze River, home of the world’s largest amphibian – the giant salamander. Just around the corner, was the Giant Panda Forest, home of Kai Kai and Jia Jia. These adorable Giant pandas from China were dozing in their naturalistic habitat. Outside Red panda was lying in its shed.
The Amazon Flooded Forest is another must-see ecological showcase. It is an immersive re-creation of the Amazonian rainforest, which gets submerged in up to 15 metres of water every year during the rainy season.
Just around 3-minute walk away from river safari is the Night Safari. We reached there bit earlier than 7PM starting time. So we tried to have an early dinner at the Safari Sizzles. It is a casual fast food and is overpriced for what they gave. Compared to all other restaurants there, it was the cheaper option. There was a long que to get into the tram ride. Since we were quite tired of walking the whole day, we opted to go to the tram ride instead of taking walking trails.
Night Safari is the world’s first safari park for nocturnal animals. A guided tram ride that takes you across 7 geographical zones of the world. From the rugged Himalayan Foothills to the swampy banks of the Asian Riverine Forest and more, your tram guide will share fascinating facts and tales about the animals and habitats along your journey.
I know we missed several animals which were not visible from the tram journey. But tram journey was not very exciting as we thought it is. There is a very large hype about it in tourist literature. For one it highlights most of Indian and Asian species which we all are familiar with. For people who have not seen any wildlife in darkness it might act as a new thrilling experience, but for experienced wildlifers, it is surely a boring experience. The tram tries to cover too many habitats quite fast.
So after the tram ride we decided to skip the walking trail. At the exit we caught the glimpse of the tribal warriors as they thrill you with their fiery stunts in the Thumbuakar Performance. I tried my best to get the fire capture of the fire show performance.
After the Night Safari experience, we returned back using the bus to reach the nearest MRT station – Ang Mo Kio station. From there using MRT we were back to the hostel for the much needed sleep and rest 🙂
Third day was reserved for shopping and travel around Singapore city, more about it in part 3.
You can check all the other parts Singapore travel blog here
- Glimpses of Singapore Part 1
- Glimpses of Singapore Part 3
- Glimpses of Singapore Part 4
- Glimpses of Singapore Part 5
- Glimpses of Singapore Part 6