Stepping off the plane I was full of anticipation for three fun-filled days in Singapore to explore four of the world’s best wildlife facilities: the Singapore Zoo, Jurong Bird Park, Night Safari and River Safari.
Little did I know was that I was about to experience the most incredible animal encounters and get up close and personal with some of my favourite species… David Attenborough style.
Kissed by a giraffe? Hand feeding an elephant AND a rhino? Breakfast with my favourite species of all time, the orangutans? Holding a macaw? Not to mention a behind-the-scenes visit with the giant pandas, a River Safari Cruise and watching in awe as three vets treated a huge spotted hyena in the vet hospital?
Arriving at opening time we were greeted by our lovely and knowledgeable hosts, Natt and JX. Together, we would spend the next two days exploring all four properties.
Singapore Zoo is known to be among the most beautiful zoo settings in the world and is famous for its “Open Concept” landscape that offers visitors the opportunity to be inspired by the wonders of nature. It is also the only zoo in the world to house free-range orangutans – which are affectionately known by the zoo keepers as the ‘divas of the zoo’ due to their love of the limelight.
Covering 26 hectares, the park is home to over 2800 animals representing over 300 species. Is it any wonder it attracts over 1.7 million visitors annually?
The zoo was impressive on so many levels. For me, it was the wide open spaces where animals can roam and wander – something other zoos should take note of. Also, the strong emphasis on storytelling and teaching people of all ages the importance of conservation. It does this through a series of educational and interactive displays and engaging signage that pop up everywhere you look on your travels throughout the zoo. Walking the various trails can be exhausting, so it’s good to stop for short breaks and delve into the history and educational elements of each area, as well as make the most of the ample photographic opportunities.
We were lucky enough to meet some very inspiring people on our travels and gain a glimpse into what goes on behind the scenes from an operational perspective. This was one of the highlights of being hosted by Wildlife Reserves Singapore (WRS), as everyone that works there is working towards the same goal: to protect local and global biodiversity.
We met Dr Sonja Luz, Director of Conservation and Research. The stories she shared about the various global partnerships Singapore Zoo is committed to – to assist with protecting the critically endangered species – were nothing short of heroic. One key message that resonated with me, was for us all to realise it’s not just about the charismatic endangered species (such as the elephants and rhinos), it’s also about the other lesser known species we need to protect and who are an integral part of the wider ecosystem.
Dr Sonja encouraged all kids to spend time drawing a new and different animal each week, one they’ve never heard of before, so that they get to know it and can assist in worldwide endeavours to save it. She believes this simple gesture will help to create greater awareness of extinction in the next generation.
We were also fortunate to meet with Dr Francis Cabana, Wildlife Nutritionist, who manages the Zoo’s Wildlife Nutrition Centre, where food for over 5000 animals is prepared each day!
This is no mean feat considering every animal has different dietary requirements and are specific with the way their food is presented in different shapes and sizes.
The most unusual meal Dr Francis and his team prepare each week is for the Sunda pangolin, otherwise known as the scaly anteater. This consists of beef (where they have to physically remove the sinews) mixed with ants and ant eggs. It is then made into a disgusting stew and mixed with hard boiled eggs. Dinner, anyone?
The animal kitchen prepares over 600 tonnes of fruit and vegetables a day. As you would expect, elephants eat the most and consume approximately 200 kilograms of grass, pellets, fruits and vegetables, per elephant, per day.
The grand finale for me at Singapore Zoo was meeting a 26-year-old polar bear called Inuka. He is the world’s first polar bear born in the tropics and is most likely the only polar bear in the world who likes to sunbake in his spare time. The zoo keepers have to ensure he receives the correct balance of cold conditions and some sunshine to keep him healthy. An interesting fact to mention – did you know that when a polar bear is born, it weighs a mere 200 grams? That’s a bag of Twisties. When they are older they can get as big as 530 kilograms. That’s nearly six grown men!
Separate to Singapore Zoo is the River Safari. This is Asia’s first ever river-themed wildlife park, which opened in 2014 and is a sanctuary for over 6000 specimens of aquatic and land animals.
It has fish and turtle exhibits, a series of large tanks housing the giant freshwater stingray and giant Mekong catfish and manatees, crocodiles, a thrilling boat ride on the ‘Amazon River’ and my favourite: the Giant Panda Forest!
Jurong Bird Park
Day two of our wildlife adventure had arrived and I could not get up early enough! I was full of excitement and couldn’t wait to check out the much anticipated ‘High Flyers Show’. This is not to be missed and is a high-altitude, free-flying performance that will leave you marvelling at the amazing natural talents, beauty and intelligence of our feathered friends from around the world.
Starring in the show is the hyacinth macaw plus the great-pied hornbills, which are endangered in the wild. You’ll also get to see and hear the mimicking ability of Amigo (a yellow-naped Amazon), the only bird in the world that sings in three languages.
You could easily spend a whole day here exploring over 5000 birds and 400 species (15% of which are threatened).
Apparently the birds are so well looked after here at Jurong Bird Park, that some even receive regular acupuncture sessions to relax and rejuvenate.
The final stop on our whirlwind tour was the world famous Night Safari.
This tourist attraction and wildlife sanctuary opened in 1994 and now attracts more than 1.1 million visitors a year.
There are four walking trails to choose from including the Leopard Trail and the Wallaby Trail and there is also a 40-minute tram journey, which allows you to hop on and hop off at the East Lodge to spot the wildlife along the way.
The Night Safari kicks off with a fantastic ‘Creatures of the Night Show’ that is sure to pump up your adrenaline! This 20-minute animal extravaganza had the audience gasping in awe and surprise as we all got to view some extraordinary nocturnal creatures!
Traverse six geographical regions of the world, from the Himalayan Foothills to Equatorial Africa and discover the nocturnal world of the animal kingdom.
If you arrive at around 6pm you can enjoy some dinner at either Bongo Burgers or Ulu Ulu Safari Restaurant before embarking on your adventure into the night.
You could easily fill up three or four days exploring all four properties and I can promise you, your kids will love you for it! Both the Singapore Zoo and the Jurong Bird Park have water parks for the kids, which is a huge hit in the hot Singapore climate and high humidity.
Entry prices and opening hours are available here.