Phew, that's a lot of zooing

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August 15th 2018
Published: August 15th 2018
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I decided today to visit Singapore Zoo and do the bird park tomorrow l, primarily because one of my top targets for the zoo was not captive, but I wanted to see one of the wild colugos that live there and I didn't know whether I might need to visit again later of I missed that.

There seemed to be lots of ways to get to the zoo, including various direct buses on MRT and then bus options (but no nearby MRT) and the easiest seemed to go to the Khatib MRT station from where there was a direct shuttle bus. The latter part of the MRT ride was above ground and through the apartment-filled suburbs.

Although I had been warned that this was not advisable, I decided that I would do the zoo, night safari, and river safari all today. Furthermore, I was only able to get an entry slot to the river safari at 8:15. This was going to be a long zoo day, especially given the humidity and over 30 degree temperatures. Given than Singapore Zoo opens at 8:30 and Night Safari closes at midnight, you could have 15.5 hours in zoos in a day and the three zoos are all right next to each other and can pretty much be considered a single place.

Singapore Zoo is a general zoo with a distinctive mammals focus and a fair few reptiles, River Safari is themed on rivers obviously and Night Safari is a zoo with nocturnal animals that only opens after dark. The lack of birds in these three attractions is excused due to the presence of Jurong Bird Park which I'll be visiting another day, probably tomorrow.

Singapore Zoo was the place I visited first, and their main thing is being an 'open zoo' without bars. I found this distinctly unimpressive. It's a beautiful zoo with amazing planting and very pretty exhibits, but they're pretty from a human perspective and most of them, especially those for the larger mammals are actually quite small. They may be 'open' and 'without bars' but replacing bars with glass isn't exactly revolutionary and big moats and masking the boundaries of exhibits may make them look open and very pretty and natural, but doesn't necessarily improve them for animals.

However having said that, many of the primate enclosures generally seem very good with lots of rope bridge type things connecting different sections of enclosure. Most of the enclosures looked ok, but on the small side and I think Singapore Zoo ought to do better. I'm not sure how much space the zoo actually has access too, but the enclosures mostly ought to be bigger and a lot of time, money and effort has been spent making them look pretty. It's impresssive certainly, and it's good that exhibits look good, but it's difficult to say that the zoo is much better than average from the animal's perspective. I also didn't like a particular sign describing the four main primate groups of 'prosimians, monkeys, apes, and humans'. Hmm.

Another major attraction are the wild colugos that live in the zoo and night safari. These are quite difficult to find, and I wouldn't have found any without binoculars. The first one I found in the zoo near the elephant area, but it was really far away, on the other side of the enclosure from where the path is, and not visible at all without binos. The second one I found after I exited the zoo before going to the river safari when I checked the trees outside Night Safari. This one was closer, but awkward to view because it was on the wrong side of the tree. Extremely cool though and a long-awaited lifer as I've been in Colugo range countries for so long on this trip but didn't see any in Malaysia or Sabah (apart from an untickable probably one seen in Sepilok gliding but lost before I could check properly). Also of interest on the wild mammal front was a colony of Dog-faced Fruit Bats roosting in the shelter of the Sumatran Orangutan House as well as a wild Slender Squirrel. I also saw a 'wild' Prevost's Squirrel which I think was an escape.

I headed into the river safari at about 2:30 giving me a very long time to do the zoo slowly until the closing time at 7. There was no reason to be out any earlier since I was staying for the River Safari and had missed being able to get the first entry slot at 7:15 and had to wait until 8:15.

The first part of the zoo has exhibits with species from various large river systems, and a large Giant Panda building as well with the Yangtze River. There is a pretty good setting too next to a river and reservoir which is very green and leafy. There is then a boat ride for the Amazon River, and I got a boat to myself because there was an animal show in the area just before the boat ride and I left just before the show ended to get there before the masses.

I had heard that the boat went around too quickly, but seriously? It was at least 3x faster than it should be, the whole thing lasts a few minutes and gives you literally seconds to look at each enclosure. The focus species of the ride is a jaguar and you get maybe 20 seconds to find and look at the jaguar. There's an announcer going too that tells you the animals as you zoom past. 'if you look to your right you'll get three seconds to look at a giant anteater (with a baby) and if you only spend two seconds looking at the anteater, you might be able to see a maned wolf'. Surely they could just slow down the boats? Even after the show it didn't take them long to process the backlog.

After the boat ride is the Amazon Flooded Forest with a squirrel monkey walkthrough, small Amazonian aquaria, a nice underwater viewing for Giant Otters, and the large manatee tank which also has redtail cats and arapaima. It's certainly a big impressive tank, but if I'm honest my expectations were too high and I expected far bigger. There are a lot of manatees, 12 in total including youngsters and a massive one, but the aquarium isn't so ridiculously big. It doesn't seem all that much bigger than Wroclaw Zoo's and Singapore does go on about how their's is the biggest in the world. An absolutely stunning tank, sure, just not quite as stunning as I had expected. The only particularly impressive thing was the number of animals.

You could easily do the River Safari in two hours, but since I had time to kill at this point, I sat and watched the manatees for a while. I didn't need to rush to get to Singapore Zoo early as it turns out (I got there for 9 - I did have to traverse the nation, which took an hour - which felt like I was behind but actually wasn't a problem).

I relaxed for a while after I was done with River Safari. It's a long day, but I think all three zoos is perfectly doable. 100GB of data and very fast 4G speeds meant I didn't get bored.

Unfortunately, I did have to buy a full and expensive meal from by the zoo as I had brought my usual zoo snack lunch but not really enough for a satisfactory dinner. I'm quite shocked actually at how much I've managed to spend in Singapore in 48 hours. I've spent several hundred dollars and I put the accommodation as well as a couple of bits and pieces on the visa card...

The problem while I was waiting however was that there was literally nowhere to sit. Nowhere. I had to eat standing up and then sit on a rock in the corner. I don't understand why it was so busy. Is the Night Safari always this insanely packed? The queue for 7:15 entry started to build at 6:30. There were an obscene number of large tourist groups which was a large proportion of the people and just severe overcrowding.

At about 7:20, while I was standing by the man letting people in, he said that 8:15 tickets could now go in and I was able to get straight into the zoo. The set up of Singapore Night Safari is that there are three walking trails that see all the smaller species, and a tram that goes around to see the larger animals. The queue to board the train was obscene since pretty much everyone seemed to go straight to that, so I went for the walk instead.

The zoo is lit by moonlight-immitation lights which certainly look effective. Not sure on the effect on animals, and the animal enclosures all looked very good at least superficially, and although it's difficult to tell in the dark, most of them did seem to suffer the same problem as the Zoo of being too small.

It's a really cool concept though, and apart from overcrowding it seems to have been pulled off extremely effectively. There are a number of cool species too like Hog Badgers, although Tarsiers seem to be a recently lost species and I don't know what the situation is with the flying squirrels because they're on the map but not signed in the enclosure which seems to just hold a barn owl.

The trails were not busy either and really a great zoo experience to walk around. Once I was done with the trails, I went to watch the 9:30 showing of the Creatures of the Night Show. I don't normally bother with zoo shows, but this one seemed like a big deal and I wanted to see what it would be like and do the tram ride afterwards. I stationed myself as close as possible to the exit because if I could get out first, I would get a tram quickly.

The show was quite entertaining. Slightly fake and theatrical, but that's to be expected, and it was entertaining to watch with some quite cool species that wouldn't work as well in a day show. They also got to play with the lighting since it was night of course.

My tram strategy was very successful and I got straight to the front of a queue that rapidly built up behind. The tram ride was very well done from an immersiveness point of view with cattle grids and such to make an effective experience that can definitely be described as a night safari. The highlight of the ride though was not part of the designed experience where opposite from the Asiatic Lion enclosure (with nyala? Something like that?) I saw a Colugo fly across right where I was looking then land on a tree and look around, rather silhouetted but nice and clear. Amazing!

By the time I got out of the zoo it was 10:50 and I was quite tired. In pleased I did do all three in one day though because I don't feel like I rushed anything or had any lesser of an experience by doing them all together. 14 hour zoo days? Easy. I'm no lightweight.

I had by this point however just missed the last direct shuttle back to the MRT so would have to take an ordinary bus, and I just wanted to get back to my pod so I called a S$20 Grab. No regrets. I've already spent a fortune today anyway.

The Grab I got was actually a taxi who did Grab as well when convenient, such as today to skip the taxi line, and we had an interesting discussion about the economics of Grab and normal taxis. Tomorrow I intent to go to Jurong Bird Park but I do feel like a good rest now so don't know that I'll be shooting off. I can have another day or half day at Jurong if I need it too since I've got four days left in Singapore which are looking like they will be Jurong, Pulau Ubin, Bukit Timah + Gardens by the Bay, and one extra day for revisits or to do some of the several sites that are on my secondary priority list. (If anyone wants to suggest what other sites are the top ones to fit in, please do).

But overall a great day of zooing in three great zoos. Night Safari in particular is a really interesting concept that I enjoyed seeing. And, of course, wild colugos too!
New mammal:Malayan Colugo

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16th August 2018

Glad you enjoyed a fruitful/FAUNA full day!
Singapore is very small William and that is why things seemed crammed. The botanical garden is huge and you will need time to enjoy that. Marina Bay Sands is a famous landmark too and the view from up there is beautiful. Talk to the locals William and they will give you an idea where to go.

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