By Ed Junaidi on November 23, 2015
Singapore is a concrete jungle where neon lights shine brightly at night, traffic runs incessantly during the day and residents mainly dwelling in high rises – the entire city is an epitome of modern economic progress, making this city-state one of the most developed nations within South East Asia. But there is also another side to Singapore besides advanced urbanisation that I found amazing – apparently, this island is also a paradise full of wildlife, preserved and conserved within four parks managed by Wildlife Reserves Singapore (WRS)!
These parks offer the chance for visitors to get close to wildlife; to see, observe and learn about animals living in many areas around the world and to appreciate and conserve animals that are extinct. These four parks – Singapore Zoo, Night Safari, River Safari and Jurong Bird Park – receive many awards and recognition that they are certified as world-class.
Due to such high exemplary standards, I reckon that other zoos and wildlife parks throughout the world should emulate WRS not only in terms of visitor experience but also wildlife sustainability, rehabilitation and conservation. It is very important that humans realise the importance of preserving nature and wildlife because they ensure an ecological balance that is essential for human survival.
That morning when I stepped in front of the entrance gate to the zoo, I was already intrigued as to how Singapore Zoo offers such remarkable settings to simulate the animals’ natural habitats. Today, the park is a home to over 2,800 animals representing over 300 species.
I arrived early at the Singapore Zoo to experience the popular Jungle Breakfast with Wildlife, where visitors can enjoy morning breakfast in the company of orang-utans. Of course, the humans and the orang-utans didn’t share the same food – the former fed on bread and jam while the latter fed on mainly bananas and fruits. After we finished our breakfast, I was able to take a selfie together with the orang-utans to immortalise the unique moment!
Talking about orang-utans, Singapore Zoo takes pride in being one of the first in the world to offer two free-ranging orang-utan habitats in the zoo. Visitors are able to enjoy great views of the orang-utans, some of which are at eye level, thanks to the elevated boardwalk surrounding the island habitat and free-ranging area. I tried calling some of them for another round of selfie, but they turned me down. Apparently, they were only interested in me during breakfast!
As I explored the zoo, I was totally fascinated by how each enclosure is designed to replicate the animals’ natural habitat, ranging from Fragile Forest to Elephants of Asia, Australian Zone to the Great Rift Valley of Ethiopia. The whole set up allowed me to not just observe the animals but also learn a great deal about them and their natural habitats.
One impressive feature that I would like to highlight about Singapore Zoo is its Wildlife Healthcare and Research Centre, built to the tune of SGD3.6 million to offer another add-on experience visiting the zoo. There is a viewing facility, which is equipped with interactive displays to allow visitors to learn how the vets maintain the health of the animals, and also allows visitors to witness surgery and treatments conducted on the animals.
One of the most famous parks belonging to WRS is the Night Safari. Opened in 1994, Night Safari is the first safari park ever built dedicated to nocturnal animals. Now, Night Safari is home to over 2,500 animals from 130 species, of which 38% of them are already threatened. It is an independent zoo in itself and with its own set of animals.
According to WRS, Night Safari is a 12-time winner of the Best Attraction category awarded by Singapore Tourism Board, receiving over 1.1 million visitors annually.
When I arrived, it was still early and the park was not opened yet. While waiting, I had the chance to witness fire eating performance by Thumbuakar tribal dancers, making me feel like I have been transported to some remote jungle in Africa!
There are two ways to explore the park: one is by following the walking trails, and the other is by hopping on a 40-minute tram ride through seven geographic regions, from the Himalayan foothills to the jungles of Southeast Asia. I did both find it totally awesome!
There was live commentary on the tram, presenting the animals that roamed freely within their own respective geographic regions. The guides share with the visitors educational information about wildlife and what it takes to conserve them. The ride was fun, especially when you’re passing by side by side with the animals, like the friendly Malayan tapir that slowly approached us when we passed by the South East Asia region.
At the end of the tram ride was a show called the Creatures of the Night, held at a small open theatre and performed by nocturnal animals. The show was informative as well as fun, which highlighted on the aspects of predatory nocturnal wildlife and how to survive the night in a jungle.
Once the show was over I tried out the four interlinked trails that cross through the seven geographic regions. The trails are equipped with discovery stations for visitors to learn more about each animal presented during the Night Safari. Visitors get to get up close and personal with many endangered animals such as the Sunda pangolin and the clouded leopard.
I must admit, compared to the rest, this park is the one that intrigued me the most. I have been visiting several aquariums in several countries, from Malaysia to Indonesia, Korea to South America, but this is the first river-themed aquarium I had ever been to, which is the first and only river-themed wildlife park in Asia.
The park is home to 400 plant species and over 6,000 animal specimens representing 200 species, of which 40 are threatened. River Safari is designed to profile freshwater habitats from iconic rivers of the world such as Mekong, Amazon, Nile, Mississippi, Congo, Ganges and Yangtze.
Taking a stroll along the aquariums put me in awe. I discovered that there are hundreds of freshwater animals that I had never heard before and was surprised to know that stingrays and dolphins also live in the river systems. It was eye-opening to learn that the Mekong River has the most types of gigantic fish.
I find that most fascinating animals displayed here are mostly the giants and megafishes such as the giant freshwater stingray (up to 5m in length and 600 kg in weight) and the Mekong giant catfish (up to 3m in length and 295kg in weight). Besides that, visitors can also witness the giant river otter, Chinese giant salamander, arapaima, and alligator gar. All of these are displayed in enclosures, while the other animals that live in the rivers can be seen by taking the Amazon River Quest boat ride, which is only 10 minutes long. The cruise takes visitors on a journey through the man-made river to witness almost 30 types of animals that live along the Amazon River including the jaguar, Brazilian tapir, capybara and giant anteater.
On top of the river animals, there is also a pair of giant pandas and red pandas, located within the Giant Panda Forest located within the Yangtze River zone. I had the opportunity to meet Kai Kai and Jia Jia, the giant panda couple loaned by China, but these lazy giants only chose to remain on their back while chewing on bamboo non-stop.
In this park, WRS draws the public’s attention towards the loss of natural habitats due to water extraction, over-exploitation and pollution. WRS stresses the importance of taking care of the freshwater ecosystem because based on scientific reports; the biodiversity of freshwater habitats is disappearing at a faster rate than marine and forest environments.
Jurong Bird Park is the oldest and the first wildlife park in Singapore as well as the largest bird park in Asia. WRS has successfully been keeping this park alive and sustainable. It is evident that Jurong Bird Park takes the extra effort in setting up the park to simulate the birds’ natural habits such as the iconic 30 metre high Waterfall Aviary, Lory Loft and Penguin Coast.
As I entered the park, I first explored the Penguin Coast, where I was greeted by around 100 penguins. Penguin Coast is divided into two sections: indoor and outdoor. The indoor section houses the cooler climate penguins like Humboldt, Rockhopper, macaroni and the majestic king penguin, while the outdoors is filled with African penguins. At first I found it was very intriguing how the African penguin can live in a warm climate like Africa, consequently, I learned that the African penguin is a species that’s confined to southern African waters; therefore they are naturally found in a warmer climate unlike the penguins exhibited in the indoor section.
My arrival was also in time for the High Flyers Show held at the Pools Amphitheatre. This is indeed one of the significant attractions that should not be missed as visitors will get the chance to witness how intelligent and beautiful the birds are.
Then I further ventured from the Heliconia Walk to Lory Loft, the zone where birds roam and fly freely. I truly enjoyed getting closer to birds within the Shore Birds, Scarlet Ibis and Royal Ramble exhibits. Hornbills and toucans are kept in an enormous cage though.
Walking through Lory Loft was a fun experience! There are about nine colourful lory species. I took the opportunity to feed these birds. It was fun, especially when there are more birds coming to eat from your hands and felt like I was the centre of attention!
WRS impressively built the world’s first and tallest man-made waterfall inside an aviary. The Waterfall Aviary is one of the largest walk-in aviaries that consists of more than 600 birds that fly and roam freely, crossing between more than 50 species including common crowned pigeons, sun conures and Von der Decken’s hornbills.
I did not get to explore more of Jurong Bird Park due to time constraint, but I truly recommend that visitors must also visit the other interesting zones within the park such as Wings of Asia, Pelican Cove, Bird Discovery Centre, and Breeding and Research Centre.
Gaya Travel expresses our heartfelt gratitude to Wildlife Reserve Singapore for making Ed Junaidi’s trip to Singapore a reality.
|Jurong Bird Park||Night Safari||River Safari||Singapore Zoo|
|Admission Charges||SGD 28 (Adult) SGD18 (Child 3yrs-12 yrs)||SGD 42 (Adult) SGD 28 (Child 3 yrs -12yrs)||SGD 28 (Adult) SGD 18 (Child 3yrs -12yrs)||SGD 32 (Adult) SGD 21 (Child 3 yrs-12yrs)|
|Opening Hours||8.30am – 6.0pm Daily||9.00am – 6.00pm Daily||9.00am – 6.00pm Daily||8.30am – 6.00pm Daily|