I got a chance to visit Singapore and being a wildlife lover I had three destinations in mind. One is the famous Night Safari, Singapore Zoo and the third is the Jurong Bird Park, and I never regretted my decision. It was a two day trip and so these three destinations fit in beautifully.
Getting to know winged beauties at Jurong Bird Park
Day one began with a visit to the world-famous aviary for me. I had heard so much about Jurong Bird Park, the biggest tourist attraction in Singapore. This bird park, managed by Wildlife Reserves Singapore, covers an area of 0.2 square kilometres (49 acres).
Opened in January 1971, Jurong Bird Park is home to magnificent bird life from around the world and includes one of my favourites — a large flock of flamingos. It is currently the world's largest bird park in terms of the number of birds, and second largest both in the number of bird species and land area. The park has 5,000 birds of 400 species, of which 29 are endangered ones.
So, once you enter the park you get to choose which exhibits and shows you want to see. My day started with a parrot telling me my fortune. I knew my day was going to be good. From among the various exhibits I first chose the Lory Loft. The world's largest walk-in flight aviary for lories and lorikeets, the Lory Loft has over 1,000 free-flying lories. Other species housed here that you can see are the megapodes, currawongs, eclectus parrots, king parrots, cockatoos, and various Australasian parakeets. As I entered the nine storeys high and covering 3,000 square metres (32,000 sq ft) loft, I felt as if I have entered a rainforest valley. What came as a pleasant surprise was that I got to offer the lories a special nectar mix, that definitely made my day.
Now it was time to visit Parrot Paradise. I am forever thankful to Jurong Bird Park for showing me the all three endangered species of blue macaw — the hyacinth, Lear's and Spix's. Other than them the zone houses some of the park's other parrot species, mostly cockatoos macaws and conures.
From among the various exhibits, I first chose the Lory Loft. The world's largest walk-in flight aviary for lories and lorikeets, the Lory Loft has over 1,000 free-flying lories.
One of the avian species that I am totally in love with is the Flamingo, I love their colour and they are so dainty and elegant at the same time. So I decided to head out to the Flamingo Pool and Lake next. I went to look over the main pool which houses the Caribbean and Chilean flamingoes, along with a smaller pool for Lesser flamingoes and Cape shelducks. The Flamingo Lake is the largest of the three flamingo exhibits and houses the park's flock of Greater flamingoes.
There are an endless number of exhibits you can see at the park, and I was lucky to visit the maximum number of them. But there was a special section I went to and I applaud Jurong Bird Park for it and that is the Breeding and Research Centre (BRC). Around 150 birds are hand-reared here each year, including many rare and endangered species like the Bali mynah and blue-throated macaw. Visitors like me can look at a nursery room where handling and feeding of newly hatched birds occur, as well as an incubation room to allow guests to have a look at how the park incubates their eggs. This was a once in a lifetime experience for me.
These were some of the major exhibits that I wanted to write about but there are endless exhibits. So keep your day free go with your instinct.
Before calling it a day at Jurong Bird Park I want to mention about the shows that I had witnessed. I went for a show called the High Flyers Show, which showcased the world's largest number of performing birds in a single act. We were regaled with the antics of talented birds like the mimicking cockatoos other than that we saw the natural behaviour of birds like pelicans, flamingos and hornbills.
Here around 150 birds are hand-reared here each year, including many rare and endangered species like the Bali mynah and blue-throated macaw.
In between the exhibits I headed for the Kings of the Skies Show, it was showcasing birds of prey such as eagles, hawks, owls and falcons. We witnessed the speed at which they flew in loops and soared above the treetops and we learnt about their hunting patterns. And during lunch I had parrots for company, yes, you can enjoy a parrot show over lunch in front of the Flamingo Lake.
Finally, I said goodbye to the avian friends but the day was not over yet and I got ready for the Night Safari.
Meeting nocturnal creatures at the Night Safari
It was dusk and I was ready to meet over 1,000 nocturnal animals about to start their nightly rituals. I opted for the relaxing tram or buggy ride as I was really tired by now. Otherwise, you can opt for the walking trails to see even more animals that are not visible from the tram journey.
When Night Safari opened in 1994 next to the Singapore Zoo, it was the world’s first nocturnal wildlife park. It is now a world-class attraction that welcomes more than 1.1 million visitors a year. Once I entered this dark world my eyes took time to adjust to the darkness. We were told the park's lighting has been specially designed to be only as bright as the full moon, and since animals are used to that, they are awake and active. Once my eyes adjusted I was now ready to be greeted by the resident animals, including many indigenous to the region, such as the endangered Asian elephant, Malayan tapir and Malayan tiger.
In all of this please remember flash photography and flashlights are prohibited for obvious reasons.
When Night Safari opened in 1994 next to the Singapore Zoo, it was the world’s first nocturnal wildlife park. It is now a world-class attraction that welcomes more than 1.1 million visitors a year.
The Night Safari is divided into seven geographical zones. There are four pathways that lead you through them all. My 40-minute tram ride had a live commentary and took me across seven geographical zones of the world. My knowledgeable tram guide filled me up on the beasts and the geographical zones as we drove through them.
What was heartening to know was that The Night Safari has been very successful in its conservation efforts as well. Numerous animals have been bred here, including Malayan tigers, Asian elephants, fishing cats, clouded leopards and Asian lions.
If you are nocturnal like the inhabitants of the safari then this place is for you. Other than the animals you can opt for the cultural performances that are a regular feature at the safari, and include tribal dances, blowpipe demonstrations and fire eating displays. I chose the Creatures of the Night Show, a performance presented by the animals in the safari.
The animal world from up close at Singapore Zoo
My day started with ‘Breakfast with an Orangutan’ which allows you to meet and interact closely with the orangutans in the zoo. After a tempting fresh and sumptuous breakfast with the orangutans in attendance, it was time to meet the inhabitants.
Singapore Zoo opened on 27 June 1973 and occupies 28 hectares (69 acres) on the margins of Upper Seletar Reservoir within Singapore's heavily forested central catchment area. There are about 315 species of animal in the zoo, of which some 16 percent are considered to be threatened species. The zoo attracts 1.7 million visitors each year.
My day started with ‘Breakfast with an Orangutan’ it will allow you as it did to me to meet and interact closely with the orangutans in the zoo.
The zoo follows the modern trend of displaying animals in naturalistic, 'open' exhibits with hidden barriers, moats, and glass between the animals and visitors. The main attraction are the orangutans, it houses the largest captive colony of orangutans in the world.
Here visitors can opt from the various modes of rides available within the premises like the trams, animals, boat, pony and horse carriage rides. I went in for the tram. On the way to the animal enclosures, we were shown a statue of an orangutan named Ah Meng, she had died in February 2008 and was the mascot of the zoo and an icon of the Singapore tourism industry.
Here at the zoo too you can choose animal shows, or feed the animals which are coupled with live commentaries by keepers. The zoo is a must-visit for families and kids. Do check out details of the ‘Rainforest Fights Back’ show, ‘Elephants at Work and Play’ show, ‘Splash Safari’ show which exhibits the zoo's aquatic mammals and birds and ‘Animal Friends’ show, housed in the Kidzworld amphitheatre in the zoo's children's section and see which suits you.
What I saw was animals like giraffes, lions, cheetahs, zebra, ostrich and sea lions, to name just a few among hundreds of others. It’s really up to your capacity and interest, the zoo has almost all species of animals. Here I would like to mention that I also saw the world’s smallest species of deer.
As for me by mid-day, I was done with the zoo and the wildlife attractions of Singapore. I just had the evening and night to see and explore other parts of the city before my return flight that was scheduled for next day morning.
The views expressed are the writer's own.