I didn’t realised that there were three zoos in Singapore. To me, they were the same; albeit different segments offering unique experiences at a common location. Well, I was wrong and this was something that I discovered only during one of my recent fieldtrips. Apparently, I was not the only one, as most of my Singaporean classmates expressed the same ‘oohs and ahhhs’. Bewildered we were!
Anyway, I had the good fortune to visit Asia’s first and only river-theme wildlife park, otherwise known as the ‘River Safari’ yesterday! This ‘zoo’ is the newest among the three and it just opened last year (2013). Divided into two zones; River of the World and Wild Amazonia, the park is easy to navigate and has the right balance of fun yet educational elements! While the Singapore Zoo may seem overwhelming at times, the well-contained River Safari promises a fulfilling experience since it is so manageable (to me at least)!
Prior to our visit, I have heard comments that there’s nothing much at the River Safari and that it is very small. Well, I was there from 10am to 4pm and still, I cannot say that I’ve read all the informative panels! There’re just so much weird creatures interesting facts to learn! If you have been to the other prominent attractions around Singapore, you might feel as I did that the River Safari feels like an amazing combination of the Singapore Zoo, Universal Studios, the S.E.A. Aquarium at Resorts World Sentosa and Gardens By the Bay with a nice twist and more!
River Safari: 7 happy experiences & reasons to visit
1. An enriching walk to learn about rivers in the world!
Rivers of the world offers interesting facts about seven famous rivers around the world (duh!) with some of the weirdest river creatures! This interesting indoor + outdoor walk can sometimes be terribly crowded and much patience will be required if you are there on a Sunday morning. Anyway, my favourite river has got to be the Ganges River, as the Indian Gharial is so magnificent!
#Tip We realised that there were lesser people in the afternoon and that allows a leisurely and far more enjoyable walk!
2. Get closer to nature & indulge in beautiful scenery
It finally rained after a long period of dry spell and the air smelt so fresh! Looking out into the still waters made me feel like I’ve stepped back into nature.
3. Blow a kiss (or several!) to manatees that hover above you
At the Amazon flooded forest (reminds me of the S.E.A. Aquarium!), you would find the world’s largest fresh water aquarium! Be awed by HUGE manatees and other water creatures that swim before your eyes. This immersive exhibition makes me feel small (not in a bad way!) and I left feeling amazed by the mysterious underwater eco-system taking place across the South American rainforest. It is always a wonder to think about how nature works!
4. Embark on a boat adventure into the mysterious Amazon wilderness!
The Amazon River Quest was mum’s favourite and excitement shone in her eyes, as she finally sat onboard the boat. Amid the rain and insane queues, we managed to sail along with our panda suit raincoat. It was a short ride of 10 minutes but we were exhilarated! Gentle raindrops failed to dampen our spirits, as we sailed passed Brazilian tapirs, sleeping jaguars, preening flamingos and more! Even the smells are unforgettable. 😀
#Tip Purchase boat tickets online or early in the morning at the visitors centres, as there are limited availability and usually sold out by noon. Ticket price per adult is S$5 child S$3. In case of rain, bring along a raincoat (umbrellas not allowed onboard) or purchase a cute panda raincoat for S$5 at the souvenir shops.
5. Gawk at the pandas shamelessly (even I couldn’t resist!)
Another highlight of the River safari is the Giant Panda Forest and this might possibly be the main reason why people visit at all. It is unfathomable how two flurry animals with dark eye rings could render otherwise reserved adults into excited beings that can’t stop gawking and snapping away at the camera. Allow me to say this just once – they are soooooooo cute!
Ahem. (Resumes poise) Anyway, the Giant Panda Forest is the largest panda exhibit in Southeast Asia and the two giant pandas (Kai Kai and Jia Jia) are gifts from China. They are comfortably housed in a bio dome with a cool climate of 18oC to 22oC, reminding me of Gardens By the Bay. Along with them are the adorable red pandas and golden pheasant!
#Tip We went once in the morning (super crowded!) and returned in the afternoon again after our boat ride. There were considerably lesser people in the afternoon and panda Kai Kai was out eating 😀
6. Pose & eat (ahem!) pandas 🙂
I hate to admit this, but one of the reasons why I wanted to visit River Safari was because of the food served by the Mama Panda Kitchen. What can I say? I am a glutton for food and more so, for cute-looking food. Apparently, I was not the only one. Queues in the Mama Panda Kitchen are never-ending, and all because of the Panda Pau (S$2.90 each) – buns that resembles panda. I especially like the Giant Panda cappuccino (S$5.50). 🙂
#Tip If you do not like queuing but still want a piece of panda snack, do check out the kiosk outside of the Giant Panda souvenir shop. There are cookies in the form of panda that you may bring home.
7. Explore the Amazon forest & say hi to squirrel monkeys
They call this the Squirrel Monkey Forest and perhaps, it does resemble a forest for the squirrel monkeys that are so tiny! Trek on foot at your own pace and say hi to these adorable (yes, again) creatures.
#Tip There is a signboard at the left side of the entrance that reminds visitors of certain things not to do. It is not advisable to carry a plastic bag while walking through this ‘forest’ because the monkeys tend to associate these bags with food.
The above information has been complied based on various sources, including my own experience and should only be used as a reference. For more information on the destination, please visit: http://riversafari.com.sg/