By Lauryn Axelrod, GoNOMAD Senior Editor
Singapore was a 3-day layover: another stopping point in which to recoup and relax for a few days before heading to Bali for the next month. But the real reason for stopping in Singapore was the zoo: the Singapore Zoological Gardens is one of the finest zoos in the world and one of the few places you can see the famed Komodo Dragons outside of Komodo Island. That was reason enough for a few days' visit.
We arrived late after a long flight from Tokyo and checked into the Robertson Quay Hotel, a clean, budget hotel with a pool, Internet café, and "beach" bar right on the bank of the Singapore River steps away from Chinatown and the seafood restaurants of Clarke Quay.
We took a short walk along the moonlit quay to stretch our legs before hitting the hay early: tomorrow morning, we were having breakfast at the zoo with the orangutans!
A Wild Time
At 8:00 am, we were up and moving; breakfast was scheduled for 9:00 at the zoo. At the shaded, jungle pavilion deep within the zoo's grounds, we helped ourselves to fresh fruit, noodles, eggs, pastries and juices and waited for the monkeys to arrive.
At 9:30, two zookeepers began setting out fruits on the platforms by the dining area: the animals' breakfast. Then the show began. Our first guest was a huge python ceremoniously wrapped around Josh's shoulders, while the zookeeper explained how pythons squeeze their prey to death. Good thing it had already eaten!
Then came the stars of the show: a mother orangutan and her four month-old baby were brought to the platforms for breakfast. While they ate watermelons, bananas and other fruits within inches of our own plates, we watched in amazement, fascinated by their every move. The zookeeper explained how orangutans live and breed and also talked about the zoo's conservation efforts with the monkeys and other animals: it was just a taste of what the rest of the day would bring.
After everyone - monkeys and humans - was sated, it was time to explore the zoo. The Singapore Zoo is unique in that it is an open-concept zoo; there are no cement and metal cages for the animals. Habitats are built and bordered with natural barriers like streams, and with the exception of dangerous or difficult animals, which have glassed in viewing areas, the wild things are free to roam within their boundaries. Some are even free-roaming, and you are likely to be accompanied on your visit by peacocks and other birds.
Humans are also free to wander shaded, well-marked paths past the various animals, and from inches away, watch as they go about their business. Animal feedings and lecture-demonstrations take place at regular times, and in some cases, visitors can help feed the animals, too!
Josh and I spent five hours exploring the zoo: the most time I have spent in a zoo since he was a baby. We marveled at the colony of more than 50 Hamydras Baboons in the newly completed Rift Valley habitat; laughed at the antics of the white-handed monkeys swinging above our heads; fed and rode elephants; giggled at the otters; stood in awe before the lions, tigers and other big cats; clapped for the seals and penguins; and were amazed by the various forms of reptile life that lives in the tropical jungles of Asia, including the famed Komodo Dragons! Hundreds of animals, from near and far captured our attention, many of which we had never seen before.
for lunch at one of the jungle restaurants, and it wasn't until the animals
started settling in for their afternoon naps that we decided we needed
one too, and headed back to our hotel, exhausted, but happy. It had been
a fascinating, wild day: a highlight for both of us.
are only open in the daytime, when many animals are sleeping. But the
Singapore Zoo is unique in that it is also open at night for Asia's only
I arrived at 7:30pm, when the park opens, and until midnight, we prowled
the paths, getting face to face with giraffes, Malayan Tigers, Bongos,
hyenas, leopards, rhinos, wolves, sloth bears, wild boars, and even gigantic
fruit bats that hang inches from your face!
It was the best evening entertainment we had had in a long time, and as we sipped our fruit juice in the East Lodge café, watching the silhouettes of ibex and giraffe in the moonlight, we were glad we had come to Singapore for the zoo: it was worth the layover!
It turned out that the zoo wasn't the only kid-friendly attraction in Singapore. From the streets of Chinatown and the colorful markets of Little India, to the busy restaurants of Clarke and Boat Quays, and the theme-park attractions beaches of nearby Sentosa Island, there was more to see and do in Singapore than we had time for.
We did however dine on cheap seafood along the river, wander the alleys of Chinatown, soak in the old colonial atmosphere at the Raffles Hotel (where the Singapore Sling was invented), and even catch the latest Jackie Chan movie at an Orchard Road mall with a bunch of local kids!
When it came
time to leave, we felt as if we hadn't been in Singapore long enough.
Even though it is known for its somewhat Draconian laws, the lush, clean
and colorful island country had captured our hearts. But Bali was our
next destination, and we would have a whole month to play on the beaches,
explore villages and volcanoes, and learn Balinese dance, music, and other
Wild Breakfast or Tea with the Orangutans is held daily at 9 am and 4 pm. Tickets are available at the zoo.
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