I absolutely love visiting Singapore! It is the first country I ever visited in Asia (in 1996) and the third country I traveled to outside of the United States. With its multi-cultural mix, excellent food, tropical weather, and popular attractions, this small city-state has so much to offer. Singapore, population 5.6 million, has four official languages – English, Malay, Tamil, and Mandarin – and most signs are written in all four languages. Open-air food courts (called hawker centers) remain open until very late at night. Public transportation is convenient with a subway (called the MRT) which runs to almost all the major sightseeing areas and shopping districts. Located in the middle of the island, the Singapore Zoo can be reached by bus.
Having not been to Singapore for a while, I decided to pack a lot into my itinerary for this long weekend.
1 – Singapore Zoo / River Safari / Night Safari
Day 1 – The Zoo
Our plane landed at five in the morning – far too early to check in to our hotel. We checked our luggage, made use of the concierge room to freshen up, grabbed a quick bite to eat at a nearby food court, and headed out for the day.
The Singapore Zoo, River Safari, and Night Safari are located next to one another and have a common entrance plaza. In the plaza you can buy tickets or grab something to eat or drink at the food court. I recommend purchasing your tickets online in advance as it is possible to get really good multi-park deals.
SINGAPORE RIVER SAFARI
The last time I was in Singapore the River Safari did not exist. So I was really looking forward to this new attraction. The park is divided up into different sections that represent different river regions of the world. The Nile, Mekong, Yangtze, and Mississippi are a few of the regions showcased at the River Safari.
The park is laid out in a straightforward fashion with a single path taking you through each exhibit. The first enclosure was the Mississippi River enclosure.
Our next stop was the Mekong River enclosure. I loved the size and amount of detail in the displays. Unlike some aquariums that have little to no display ambiance, each river here had a different look and feel.
As a side note, we visited on a Friday early in the morning and there were several school groups touring the park. If you plan to visit on a weekday, I suggest arriving either right as the park opens or waiting until after lunch to visit in order to avoid large crowds of children.
After the Mekong River we headed to the Yangtze River. This enclosure showcased animals that can live both in and out of the water. This Chinese Alligator was sunning itself and didn’t move the entire time we were there.
Continuing with the same Chinese region, we headed into the Panda enclosure. Now, I have to admit that it seemed odd to have pandas in a river-based park, but I didn’t really let it bother me. It’s pandas after all and they were as cute as ever!
Stepping away from the glassed-in enclosures, we headed down a long path to a dock jutting out into the Upper Seletar Reservoir. From here we took a short cruise. Both the Singapore Zoo and Night Safari border this reservoir and some of the animal habitats open out to the water. This meant that the cruise turned into a safari as we got to see running giraffes, a rhino, and other animals along the way. So relaxing and enjoyable! This cruise is my favorite part of the park.
The last enclosure in the park is the Amazon Flooded Forest. Looking like a partially sunken forest, this display was gigantic. A pod of manatee live here and the tank was actually large enough for them to be able to disappear into the distance as they swam away from the viewing window.
After a quick lunch at the food court located between the parks, we made our way to the Singapore Zoo.
The Singapore Zoo is my all-time favorite zoo to visit. It opened in 1973 and was one of the first zoos in the world to make use of open plan habitats for its animals. You will never see a cage in the Singapore Zoo. There is one main path and several side paths that you can follow in order to explore the park. Occupying over 69 acres of land, the park can be a lot to cover in a single day. If you get sore feet or just want to do less hiking, there is a tram that can take you along the main path. It runs frequently and stops at predetermined locations along the route.
The zoo also offers an opportunity to have breakfast with the orangutans. You can read about this experience on Travel with Boys.
I love big cats and we got super lucky that this White Tiger was out in the open.
Each enclosure is large and designed with the particular animal in mind. The Elephant habitat is huge and set back away from the path people can walk on.
It is possible to get much closer to the Giraffes. At set times during the day you can actually feed the giraffes by hand.
I have never seen Pygmy Hippos before. These animals are the size of a large pig and can be seen walking along the bottom of the river bed.
The Orangutan habitat looked like it would be a lot of fun and the young orangutans we saw there seemed to be enjoying themselves. It was raining quite heavily at the time this picture was taken. Singapore is a tropical country which means it is prone to afternoon rain. Always carry an umbrella and be prepared to take a break while you wait for the rain to stop. It rarely lasts for more than a few minutes.
We finished with the zoo just as it was closing. Our feet were sore and we were tired in general, but we still had one more park to go!
SINGAPORE NIGHT SAFARI
The Night Safari is next to the Zoo past the taxi pick up area. There are a few good restaurants to choose from – I always get the Lamb Burger. Entry into the park is staggered and based on the time stated on your ticket. I highly recommend booking a slightly later slot rather than trying to be part of the first wave of people admitted. The park is at its best after dark and the sun is still up for the earlier slots.
The Night Safari is absolutely amazing. There is something truly wonderful about strolling through the softly lit rainforest late at night, peering at nocturnal animals as they go about their lives. We heard lions roaring in the distance while wondering the various paths. We saw tapir close enough to touch while on the tram that runs through sections of the park that are inaccessible by foot.
Every trip to the Night Safari should start with the tram ride. The tram takes about 40 minutes and has one stop. About half of the ride is through areas that cannot be reached by foot, so do not skip this one. I recommend taking it at least once without stopping.
After the tram ride, I always head out onto the trails. There are four themed trails that form a loop through the park – the Fishing Cat Trail, the Leopard Trail, the East Lodge Trail, and the Wallaby Trail. You need at least ninety minutes to cover all four trails. If you don’t want to walk that much it is possible to do the Fishing Cat and Leopard Trails and then catch the tram back to the main entrance station. From there you can loop through the Wallaby Trail. The East Lodge Trail takes you past some of the animals you see on the tram and is really just a connecting trail – so you won’t miss out on anything if you decide to skip it.
Walking along the trails you will encounter bats in an aviary, see a cloud leopard just a few feet away, and watch fishing cats splash in a bubbling stream. The paths meander through rainforest, lead to raised viewing platforms, and give you an opportunity to stand right next to a wallaby. The Night Safari never disappoints.
Thoroughly exhausted, we caught a taxi back to our hotel. Tomorrow would be another full but slightly more relaxing day.
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