Well, this was my main reason for stopping off in Singapore – the Zoo and it’s associated Night Safari. Both are located in the same area, and as the former closes, the latter opens its doors for the night.
Getting there was easy with the directions provided and the superb public transport system in Singapore. A short walk to the MRT station, about 50p for a ticket, arrive at interchange and swap to the bus for another 50p and I was there. In total, it took about an hour. Everywhere I had to stop and ask people, they were incredibly helpful. Schoolkids who needed to get past me said “excuse me”. Anyone I thanked said “you’re welcome”. I’m in the land of polite people and it’s such a refreshing change.
At the Zoo, I bought a 3-park “hopper” pass for the main zoo, the Night Safari and the Bird Park for tomorrow. The grand total was S$40 – around Â£12.50. This is an astoundingly good price considering Singapore’s reputation for it’s “touristy” attractions. And let me tell you, that reputation is well-deserved.
Now, I loved Auckland Zoo. Edinburgh’s not bad. Chester was wonderful – the first I’d been to in years at the time. Barcelona is eye-opening. But Singapore Zoo really is superb. I mean no disrespect to the others as Singapore has one major advantage over many others – the climate. Many of the animals here (and in other zoos) come from hot, humid climates: Africa, Asia and South America. Edinburgh can’t hope to keep, say, a tiger in the right conditions without some kind of environmental control whereas Singapore can keep them in the open air all year round.
This aside, the layout is superb. So much thought has gone into everything from the signposts to the names of the burgers at the attached restaurants. The range of animals is just wonderful, the conditions they are kept in just as good as you could hope for in most cases (sadly, cages are still necessary in some cases) and the place is spotless. Staff are also very knowledgable, enthusiastic and helpful.
Singapore Zoo has the largest primate collection in the world, and they know what to do with it. Orangutan roam freely in several areas and could, I’m sure, just clamber down from the trees should they wish. Two very small primates did, in fact, do just that. They were fed just off one of the pathways and took to running back and forth near the visitors.
There are several areas where tourists can walk around with no cages, bars or glass between them and the animals. The best by far (in my opinion) was the Fragile Forest exhibit with sloth, tree kangaroo, flying foxes, ring-tailed lemur and countless butterflies and parrots. Absolutely awe-inspiring. I can’t believe how close I was to some of these beautiful animals, and able to get some of the best photos I’ve ever taken.
In addition, some shows are put on during the day at the amphitheatre, as well as many “feedings” where visitors can watch or participate (usually for a few dollars). I watch one of the shows and paid S$5 to have my photo taken with a sealion and a monitor lizard. Worth every penny as it goes towards the zoo’s own conservation drive.
What else? Blimey. Well, I saw my first ever Komodo Dragon in the flesh. It took some doing as he/she didn’t want to come out at midday and just poked his/her head up out of the burrow. Later in the afternoon, he/she finally went for a wander and I got some good pictures.
A bizarre one, but I saw two Giant Tortoises attempting to make baby Giant Tortoises. And who thought tortoises were quiet creatures? Without too much detail, the male makes a fair bit of a hollow gaspy grunt each time he … erm… thrusts. So now I know how to tell the difference between male and female tortoises. The male’s the one on top.
Singapore Zoo also has the only three white tigers in captivity. These stunning creatures are not albino – they have pink noses, blue eyes and pink pads on their feet. They’re also completely mesmerising.
I could go on.
It has the only “research and study” exhibit I’ve ever seen at a zoo. Nobody else seemed to either find it or care, but this small boxed room near the entrance has some interesting information on animal care and health. And… windows into the veterinary surgery where animals are taken for treatment. While I was there, I could see a small hooved animal having work done on one of its feet. I couldn’t see much more as there was someone (with a very nice bum) leaning over the table from the side I was looking from. That kind of thing would be pot luck, but the surgery seemed geared up for most of the “not huge” animals.
The amount of educational material available at all the exhibits is top notch. There are mildly interactive things for kids to play with, a water fun park for them to splash in at lunchtime and no fewer than two KFCs. I admit to using both of them, but only as the burger joint that’s part of the Night Safari was so expensive, I had no other choice than to double back and have a KFC for dinner – it was less than half the price of a meal at Bongo Burger.
Onto the Night Safari and as the name suggests this attraction is geared at nocturnal creatures. As such, I have very few pictures as flash photography isn’t allowed in the park. This, of course, doesn’t stop some idiots. Bumping into them and making them drop their camera so it smashes, however, does.
The walkways and tram both open at 7pm, just as the sun’s starting to go below the horizon. Night falls within roughly 30 minutes of this time, and being on the equator this time doesn’t change year-round. Some of the animals they have here are just beautiful, and you’d simply not get the chance to see them in other zoos without keeping them indoors and messing with their body clocks.
Several of the animals are “repeats” from the main zoo – giraffes, lions, tigers and so on – but it’s worth seeing them in the near-dark. Their behaviour is different. For other animals, night-time is simply the only time they’ll move. Watching a leopard pace around through just a centimetre of glass maybe isn’t the closest I’ve been to a wild cat this year, but it’s still enough to raise the hairs on the back of my neck. The lesser bush-baby has the opposite effect and I just wanted to cuddle it and take it home.
The Night Safari is less than half the size of the main zoo, but is definitely worth a visit – especially for the Creatures of the Night show which was packed to the rafters for the performance I saw. On the way in there had been another show – again I’d paid S$5 to have some pictures taken with a serval, a python and an owl. There are also a place on the way round where you can have a snap with a corn snake.
Afterwards, I opted for the easier single bus back for $4. A whole 30p more than public transport, but less faff. I couldn’t believe that I got stuck in a traffic jam at 10:40pm. Only in Singapore, I guess – it really is a 24-hour city.
I’ve only been able to pick a small smattering of pics to post with this entry. The rest of the ones I like will go onto Fotopic when I get the chance.