on March 10, 2009
Inaugurated in 1973, the Singapore Zoological Gardens offers one of the best experience of its kind in Southeast Asia, comparable to the one of the Dusit Zoo in Bangkok. Occupying an area of 28 hectares, it hosts 315 animals, of which 16% are threatened species.ConceptThe zoo is of the open type, with the animals being kept in landscaped enclosures simulating their natural habitats. Those are separated from the visitors by dry or wet moats concealed with vegetation or below the line of vision; in the case of dangerous animals, glass-fronted enclosures separate the visitors from them. Moreover, instead of just observing the animals, there is also an extensive educational content offered in most areas of the zoo. Several projects aimed at the conservation of threatened species take place within it, as happens with the oriental pied hornbill, the pangolin and the orangutan.AwardsNot only I enjoyed the visit; Michelin awarded the zoo a 3-star rating in 2008 and Forbes Traveler recognized it in 2007 as one of the World’s Best Zoos.Timing and FeesThe zoo is open every day of the year, from 8:30 AM to 6 PM. The entrance fees are S$18.00 for adults, while children between 3 and 12 years pay half of this fee (and of any other fee mentioned below). Additional charges exist for the tram and the boat (S$5.00).Since Wildlife Reserves Singapore is the parent company of the zoo, the Night Safari and the Jurong Bird Park (the last two being also reviewed in this journal), special tickets valid for one month and combining the attractions exist:3-in-1: S$40.00 for adults.2-in-1: Any two of the three parks, S$30.00 for adults.AccessBy CarTake the Pan Island Expressway (PIE) towards Jurong, and leave it at Exit 7 of the Bukit Timah Expressway (BKE), afterward, follow the brown signs to the Singapore Zoo. By BusTake bus 171 from the City to Mandai Road, alight there at the first stop and transfer to bus 927. By MRTAlight at Ang Mo Kio station (NS16) and take bus 138 or at Choa Chu Kang station (BP1/NS4) and take bus 927.On Sundays and Public Holidays it is possible to take bus 926 from the MRT Woodlands (NS9) or Marsiling (NS8) stations. By Special ServiceBusHub Services offers a daily bus service from pick-up points below to Singapore Zoo, and back. A one-way trip costs $4 for adults and half that for children. Buses depart twice a day, roughly at 9 AM and 1 PM, and on holidays also at 10 AM. The detailed list of stops and times appears at www.bushub.com.sg. A similar service is offered by them for Jurong Park.City Tours offers a similar service on a door to door hotel basis for $11.90 per person, reservations can be done at www.citytours.sg Food and SouvenirsBy the entrance are the Zoo Shop and three restaurants, Ah Meng Kopi specializing on local food, Pizzafari serving pizza and an outlet of Ben & Jerry’s.Visiting the Zoo I strongly recommend avoiding the zoo during the morning and reaching it in the early afternoon, so that the visit can be comfortably combined with the adjacent Night Safari. Since the zoo is relatively far from the city, that simplifies the traveling patterns. Pick up a map by the entrance as they include details of the daily events, feeding sessions, keeper talks, rides and photography opportunities of the day. Next to the entrance is the Rainforest Walk where Asian small-clawed otters, Malayan tapirs, babirusas and white tigers can be seen. The last are not albino, but feature white and black stripes instead of orange and black ones. A similar colony exists in the Dusit Zoo of Bangkok.Next to the white tiger exhibit is the Upper Seletar Reservoir, where the visitor can enjoy a twenty-minute cruise on the Boat Safari. Stork-billed kingfishers and the white-bellied sea eagle - Singapore’s largest bird – can be seen there.The Rainforest Kidzworld offers activities for children including the Wild Animal Carousel and the Water Play, where swimming is possible. Horse carriages take the visitors around this area.The Fragile Forest zone is home to free ranging mousedeer, lemurs, tree kangaroos and butterflies, all of them moving free amidst rainforest trees, ferns and cascades. Soundscaping and a misting effect add reality to the exhibition; the visitors walk through a path tactfully separated from the animals’ environment. At 3:30 PM there is an exhibition called Elephants at Work and Play at the Elephants of Asia exhibit, which shows a working elephant’s typical day at a logging camp. The Australian Outback is home to grey kangaroos, wallabies, the cassowary, emus, bearded dragons, frilled-neck lizards, carpet pythons and of the inland taipan – the deadliest snake in the world. The Great Rift Valley of Ethiopia hosts over eighty Hamadryas baboons alongside Nubian ibexes, black-backed jackals, rock hyraxes and banded mongooses in a landscape of massive rocks. The pygmy hippos are one of the main attractions of the zoo; strangely graceful despite their shape, they can be watched through a transparent aquarium. Originary from the forests and swamps of western Africa, they are a rare nocturnal forest creature. Their survival in captivity is more assured than in the wild, since in the last there are less than three thousand left.The polar bear and the penguins are one of the most prestigious items in the zoo; these are probably the closest specimens of their types to the equator line. Other items include giraffes, jaguars, white rhinos, African lions, the Primate Kingdom featuring orangutans, chimpanzees and others as well as Mandrills and Manatees.The proboscis monkey is one of the rarest specimens in the zoo. It has a nose big enough to probably smell ripe fruits all the way to Africa; unluckily, taking its picture is rather difficult since it sits high on trees.The Komodo dragon is a species of lizard originary from the island of Komodo (and adjacent ones) in Indonesia. It is a huge attraction because it is the largest living species of lizard, reaching a length of up to to 3 metres and a weight of 70 kilograms. Feeding TimesCertain animals can be visited during their feeding times; the timings are available at the entrance of the zoo. I did manage to visit the zoo during the rare event of feeding the Komodo Dragons (on the first and third Sunday of every month), which probably is the most unusual display. A heavily protected man – within a thick rubber overall, since the dragons are poisonous – feed them with chicken and rats. The last are eaten whole, while the chickens (mercifully killed before the event) are attacked by several dragons at once and eaten in a few cruel bites.If interested to witness feeding sessions, then Sunday is the best day for a visit, since beyond the abovementioned Komodo dragon, the polar bears, the King Cobra and the Sungei Buaya Crocodile are fed only during this day.
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