For my first zoo review I’m excited to start with the one I visited most recently, the Singapore Zoo. Last month I spent a week in the Lion City and we decided to do a zoo day on top of the Night Safari, which was a most unique experience I’ll talk about next time. But the daytime zoo is nothing short of fascinating – read on!
Overall Rating: ★★★★☆
Not having done any research prior to the visit, we went without any expectation. The first surprise came right at the entrance, when a soft, high-pitched chirping sound greeted us – it came from a tree not far from the gate, and upon closer inspection, we realized it was a few cotton-top tamarins (rather than birds). There was no cage and one could easily reach the fluffy-looking monkeys (does NOT mean you should; besides, they are incredibly agile). There is no water around acting as a barrier, so it seems like the monkeys are free to come and go. That left me wondering whether we were just lucky the tamarins happened to be there, or perhaps they favored that particular tree, or perhaps we were missing some subtle barriers that stopped them from leaving the area?
Once past the entrance area, it’s clear that the zoo is designed to simulate the rainforest environment, giving visitors a safari-like experience and the animals a home that feel like their natural habitat. Of course, for animals like rhinos, bears, lions, white tigers and other big cats, a larger distance is kept between guests and the animals, but most enclosures seem spacious and well taken care of. One of my favorite areas is the Primate Kingdom, where a wide range of monkeys call home. This area has an especially natural look, with tall trees and rich vegetation landscaping each species’ island. I had never seen so many different species of primates in one zoo – from macaques to the beautiful douc langur – later from their website I found out that they have 39 species!
(Click to enlarge! Scroll down to see the rest of the review.)
I would have given it a four-star rating for “condition”, however, the polar bear enclosure was quite disappointing. It isn’t that small but the fully-grown bear can certainly use more space. Polar bears are very playful animals and they like playing with different kinds of toys: buckets, tree branches, balls, etc. but there weren’t many for Inuka the day we visited. His home consists only of a big pool and a land area without any natural vegetation. (Some may imagine polar bears only live on ice – probably even on ice floes, so familiar are we with the image of a lone polar bear stranded on melting ice as a result of global warming –in reality they spend a lot of time on land and even more so now as sea ice doesn’t stay frozen for long.) He seemed anxious the whole while we were there, swimming in circles before hitting land just to pace back and forth.
The 23-year-old bear appeared green; the zoo explains that it’s due to microscopic algae from the water entering his hollow hair shafts. The algae aren’t supposed to hurt him in any way and he should look white again once his regular shedding cycle is complete, which takes a few months…
The size of the zoo is definitely on the large side; we barely covered everything even though we had spent the whole afternoon there. Aside from the arctic zone and Primate Kingdom, there are areas dedicated to African (think lion, African painted dog, giraffe, cheetah and zebras), Australasian (kangaroo anyone?), and rainforest animals (lemur and the funny-looking lesser mousedeer!), as well as reptiles, Asian elephants and white tigers. I was surprised that they had a cassowary, probably the world’s most dangerous bird, which I’d always wanted to see!
The natural design may contribute to why it was a bit confusing at times to find our way (definitely not because we didn’t understand the map or the cute albeit a bit creepy animal-head signs!). Overall it was a very enjoyable experience and we would certainly love to revisit in the future!