A passing downpour fills the air with a scent of steaming soil. Inescapable humidity is intensified by large-leafed tropical trees and fan-shaped palms.
Under a bridge, through the forest floor, flits a small, brownish animal. Black, beady eyes watch cameras and hidden behind them, people. Small, mouse-like nose sniffs the air. Thin, deer legs carry the creature into the thick, lush greenery. Mouse-deer, having satisfied its curiosity, returns to a busy daily schedule.
We can hear wild shrieks and nervous screeches ahead of us. Soon after, behind a low, glass partition, their furry source is identified. A colony of otters loudly demands food. Without receiving the intended reaction, one of them picks up lying nearby pebbles and begins to juggle. Still nothing. Resigned, it utters the last, disappointed shriek and deftly disappears in the water basin.
It starts raining. The nearest shelter is next to the elephant enclosure. For the powerful, majestic creatures, heavy drops rolling off their hot skin, is a pure pleasure. In the pool, they splash each other with water, like playful kids. One of them rhythmically and gracefully swings to the rhythm of a rain reggae. We watch hypnotised long after the rain stops.
The wind carries a sound of delighted cries. We direct our attention toward tightly surrounded by visitors’ enclosure. Dozens of faces are pressed against a glass wall of an underground pool, watching a fantastic air-water ballet. Inuka – the world’s first polar bear born in tropics – dives. Massive paws cut through the water. With one powerful thrust, like a white torpedo, he flies high in the air. Razor-sharp fangs close on a hanged over the water plastic canister – Inuka’s favourite toy.
Branches creak over our heads. Shaken by the wild chase leafs fall on shoulders. Orangutans move to a more convenient place where, in the fork of the branches, lies a comfy-looking blanket. The fastest of them grabs the cloth and covers itself completely with it. Once in a while, it cares to cast a lazy look from underneath it. On the ground, gray-faced chimp grandpa smiles toward cameras. Nearby, the young generation carefully watches as the more experienced family member uses a stick to extract food from the closed plastic box. Several attempts later baby-chimps triumphantly show-off their trophy. Education hasn’t gone to waste.
White, powerful paws pace back and forth in a nervous dance on the rock ledge. Wild, blue eyes follow closely every single move of a gathered crowd. The crowd is usually buzzing with excitement. This one speaks only in a low, hushed voices. It senses the nervous tension of watching predator – a fascinating white Bengal tiger. In the moat below, lazily swims tigress. Husband watches over her leisure.
History of Singapore Zoo
Singapore Zoo opened in 1973. Famous for its “open” cages. Do not panic – it does not mean that lions, tigers, and other human-eaters run freely around the park. It only means that the protective fences and barriers are perfectly camouflaged. Prison-like metal rods are almost completely eliminated in favor of wooden fences, moats, and water canals cleverly integrated and merged with the natural surrounding and greenery. Some animals can roam around almost without limitations: there are special suspended bridges for monkeys, specific birds species can fly in and out of zoo as they please. An interesting thing is an enclosure co-habituated by few different species – of course, carefully selected so that they don’t end up as each other’s dinner.
Singapore Zoo is home to over 300 animal species, of which almost 16 percent are considered as endangered ones. One of the most important missions of the zoo is to promote knowledge of the human-imposed risks animals are facing in their natural environment. There are many educational shows where zoo animals star in leading roles, for example ‘Rainforest Strikes Back’. The show tells a story about a poacher who wants to destroy tropical rainforest and build in its place lucrative hotels and housing estates. But local tribes supported by the animals living in the forest (including orangutans, lemurs and peacocks) effectively ruin his plans. One of the most famous shows in the zoo is ‘Breakfast with an Orangutan’. Monkeys are performing numerous tricks and stunts and are awarded for their efforts with the treats from the audience. The entire show is narrated by the orangutan keepers who explain their habits and behaviours.
Singapore Zoo has the world’s largest colony of orangutans living in closed conditions. Ah Meng was their most famous representative, zoo mascot and ambassador. This rescued from illegal smuggling orangutan became quite a celebrity adored by the entire Singapore. Over 4000 people appeared at her funeral in 2008 to say their good byes. Now, Ah Meng’s 5-year old granddaughter Ishta is following her famous grandmother’s steps. She has just been announced a new ambassador of the zoo.
Know before you go
It’s best to reserve one full day for a visit to the zoo. Then, without haste, you can walk around the entire park (or take a zoo-tram). This includes lunch and snack break as well as few moments for energising ice coffee (2SGD/1.40USD). Eateries – hawker centres and restaurants – are conveniently scattered throughout the whole park (for example kaya toasts – 2SGD/1.40USD, laksa – a spicy, coconut milk based soup with noodles and seafood – 7SGD/4.90USD). However, you need to stock up on water supplies – at least, 1.5l per person. There are drinks vending machines available, however, to survive in hot weather you would need to spend a fortune on them (2SGD/1.40USD).
Dense, tropical flora of the zoo intensifies air humidity, and as such it’s a good idea to wear light and breathable clothes during a tour. If your visit falls on the inter-monsoon season (April – May, October), then you don’t need to worry about umbrellas and raincoats. If you are planning to travel during the rest of the year, better check the weather forecast on the day of a visit. Taught by experience if the forecast predicts up to 60% chances of rain – such will not happen or it will be very short. Anything above that means that the sky will be crying for almost the whole day.
Singapore Zoo covers 28 hectares of land, located in the Central Catchment Nature Reserve.
The closest MRT stations:
Choa Chu Kang (NS4)
Ang Mo Kio (NS16)
926 (runs only on Sundays and holidays)
The most convenient, unfortunately, the most expensive option is to travel by a taxi. A route from the city center is about 20-25SGD (15-18.50USD).
Open daily – 08:30 – 18:00 (last entry at 17:30)
Adult – SGD33 (25USD)
Child (3 – 12 years) – SGD22 (16USD)
There are special offers and discount packages. For more information visit the official website of the zoo: