Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Our First Day in Singapore - Singapore Zoo and Night Safari

My first impression of Singapore is that it's very clean, traffic-less and main highways are very colorful due to the assorted varieties bougainvilleas that line its main highways. What amazed me the most is that for a densely populated nation, they have managed to preserve a large percentage of it's forest land. Large trees abound all over the hilly terrain of the city. I was truly impressed and a bit envious because the Philippines is a much larger country and more interesting terrain-wise but we have managed to crowd our streets, polluted our land and water and cut down most of our forests.

For our first day in Singapore, Hubby and I decided to go to its most famous tourist attractions, The Singapore Zoo and Night Safari. Hubby will be working all week and this is one of the few times that he can explore Singapore.

After checking into our hotel and dropping off our bags, we asked for directions to the neared MRT (Mass Railway Trans) station. People here at the hotel are not very adept in giving directions, the map isn't very helpful either. After walking for 15 minutes or so and still not finding the nearest MRT, we figured maybe we should turn back and hail a cab directly to Singapore Zoo to save time. Now, hailing a cab here is much more civilized that what we have in Manila. You can only hail cabs in designated areas where as back home, you can practically flag down a cab even in the middle of a highway!

Singapore Zoo

The cab ride takes about 25-30 minutes from our hotel. It's not cheap. We shelled out around SGD18 (P576) one way. Upon reaching the zoo, hubby was adamant that we eat immediately for we haven't had lunch yet. The first restaurant that greeted us was Kentucky Fried Chicken. It's no culinary adventure but our grumbling stomachs were not very choosy. We were surprised that they don't serve rice with their chicken dishes. It's like we're not in Asia, strange. They do have coconut pie which we don't have in Manila. I tried it, it's like macapuno filled pie. Nothing really special. Our macapuno wins by a landslide.

With our hunger appeased, we glance to the next stall. It's Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream! Hubby's excitement cannot be measured. We were both so eager to buy some since it's not yet available in Manila and the nearest that we can get it is in Hong Kong. Hubby ordered one scoop each of Strawberry and Chocomint. I ordered Chunky Monkey which is banana ice cream with walnuts and chocolates. All flavors were yummy and my favorite by far is the Strawberry.

We finally buy our tickets. We got the Park Hopper's Special which costs SGD38 that provides entrance fees to both the Singapore Zoo and Night Safari with unlimited tram rides to both. We got SGD5 savings per ticket. Both a bad deal.

The zoo is our first stop. I was greatly impressed with the zoo. Mature trees abound and it was really like walking through a rain forest (in most parts). Monkeys run free and if you're lucky, they will sit still for a short period while you take your picture. Snap fast because they don't still still for long.

Many animals can be seen throughout the zoo, mostly mammals and reptiles. They have a wide collection of big cats like lions, tigers, puma, leopard, African jungle cats named Tango & Cash and the creme de la creme, two white tigers, our favorite.

For the first time in my life, I've seen a huge polar bear up close (well, my nose pressed into the glass kinda close). They truly are magnificent creatures. Do you know that they don't have natural predators except man?

Hubby and I took turns having your picture taken with a life-sized image of the polar bear.

Hanggang pusod lang ako :-)

The weather was a bit freaky. One minute it was sweltering, the next it was raining. Always bring a small foldable umbrella with you when you're visiting. It is after all, part of the rain forest. So, expect a bit of rain and moisture at the end of the day. Be prepared to smell animal dung throughout your visit, it is a zoo after all. There are very few toilet stations in the whole zoo. One is in the park entrance and one in the middle of the zoo where some of the restaurants are.

Some of the attractions are not accessible by tram so be sure you have the energy to traverse the zoo's hilly terrain. Keep yourself hydrated at all times. Singapore is a tropical country so it's weather is hot and humid. Wearing sunblock is not a bad idea too.

You will only take 2 hours or 3 hours at most to see all the animals. There's no need to for you to come very early if you're going to the Night Safari as well.

The Night Safari

Make sure when you buy your ticket for the Night Safari, get the one with unlimited tram ride for some attractions are only accessible by tram. For a donation of SGD5 you can get your picture taken with an owl, an African jungle cat and a python.

Start your journey by taking the tram. An English-speaking guide will "walk" you throughout the park. The information being shared are both helpful and trivial. You will see a variety of animals like Tapir, Water Buffalo, Asian Rhinos, Jackals, Bearded Pig, Hyenas, Lions, Sloth, Bat-eared Fox, Hippo, Babirusa, Tigers, Flamingos and a host of other exotic animals. At the end of the trail, a huge elephant will provide a wet send-off by spraying the tourists with some water and a playful wave from its trunk.

A variety of deer roam freely throughout the safari. These are wild animals and should not be touched or petted. Flash photography is strictly prohibited. Flash from your camera damages the animals' eyes and would eventually blind them. Some people despite being constantly being reminded not use flash photography continue to do so. If you do visit the safari, please refrain from using the flash.

There are several areas in the safari where you can take a walk inside the enclosures. One of which is the flying squirrel enclosure. The squirrel doesn't actually fly but rather glides between treetops using their "flaps" or skin between their arms and legs. They didn't actually parachuted while we were inside, darn. But one came down and watched us pass by. Very surreal.

Another such enclosure is the bat trail where several species of fruit eating bats live. Don't be afraid, they don't bite humans. They're quite friendly and unafraid of humans. The keepers place fruits near the trail so that the humans traversing it's path will have a close encounter with one of the bats. A must see when you're there. Please no flash photography. Commit the images that you see to memory instead.

The leopard trail also provides an interesting walk for the more adventurous. The trail is very dark and the animals found there are just barely illuminated by artificial lights meant to shine like moonlight. Just imagine yourself taking a moonlit walk in the jungles of Africa, Sumatra or Brazil. Some animals that you might see are Otters, Golden Cats, Clouded Leopard (my favorite), Porcupine, Owls, Tarsier, Badgers, Malayan Civet and a lot more depending if they're not hiding in the brush.

Our evening was capped with an animal show. Very entertaining specially if you're bringing children along.

Singapore Zoo and Night Safari, a must-visit when you're in Singapore. Should you decide to go to these places, start by mid to late afternoon at Singapore Zoo. The zoo will only take about two to three hours (at most) to traverse. Night safari opens its doors at 6pm. Your time will be better spent if you proceed directly from the zoo to the safari. Not to mention huge savings on taxi fare and park fees.

With that, hubby and I trekked back to our little hotel. We were both dead tired. I fell asleep as soon as my head touched the pillow. Poor hubby still had to work until past midnight answering emails and such.

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