Explore Singapore Zoo
Dear Travel Guru,
It's summer holidays, and once again my parents have decided we're going to Singapore. I don't mind Singapore. It's clean and leafy and the food is great. But we've been two times before, and to me it just seems like a tropical version of Hong Kong. I'm wondering if it has anything that Hong Kong doesn't.
Thanks for your letter, Singapore Blues. Singapore is one of the most vibrant cities in all of Asia, and you're right about the food - whether it's seafood or Indian curries you want, few cities can rival Singapore. But you are also right that it is, as you say, 'like a tropical version of Hong Kong'. So, think tropical and visit the world's first outdoor Night Safari park.
Singapore Zoo and Night Safari covers 40 hectares and is home to more than 1,000 animals of about 120 species. Nearly 30 per cent of those species are endangered, so this is a rare opportunity to see them up close in an outdoor setting. The forest setting is so real, the animals have no idea they are actually in a city - though they no doubt wonder about all the curious human beings that come to peer at them every night.
Just like home
For the animals, that is. Singapore Zoo and Night Safari practises what it calls 'environmental enrichment'. What that means is creating an open-air park where the animals live more like home. In an ideal environment, animals will behave just as they would in the wild - this is difficult to do in a normal zoo. So, at the Night Safari, the keepers make sure the animals have things to do just as they would in the wild.
The monkeys and apes have climbing structures so they can stay in shape. The anteaters have specially made termite mounds. There are bathing pools for the big cats, and more pools for the otters to frolic in. The meerkat likes to burrow holes, so special sand pits are available for them. The idea behind all these features is that the animals will play and carry out problem-solving just as they would in the wild.
A night at the zoo
Animals that come out at night are called nocturnal. Most zoos - in fact almost every zoo - opens during the day and closes by night.
The night safari is open from 7.30pm to midnight, which means you can see the nocturnal animals at their liveliest.
A good way to start your safari is with hamburger dinner at Bongo Burgers. At 7pm every day a tribal show from Borneo takes place - eat your hamburger and watch the performers eat fire! There is also a 'Creatures of the night' show where you can see animals perform. After dinner, you can take the tram to the Leopard Trail. The tram will pass rhinos, wild deer, giant anteaters and capybara (the world's biggest rodent), and you will probably hear the chatter of hyenas in the distance. The zoo has several distinct biomes, from the pampas to the Himalayan Foothills with animals and scenery to match. The main attraction of the Leopard Trail is - of course - the leopards. Don't forget to walk the other two trails - the Forest Giants Trail and the Fishing Cat Trail, on which you really can see a cat fishing.
1 Bring insect repellant - you are walking through a tropical forest and insects that bite love the tropics and forests.
2 Wear long trousers and comfortable walking shoes - preferably trainers.
3 Go to see the big cats first - lions, leopards and tigers. They feed at 7.30pm, and watching them gobble down their food is a fascinating experience.
4 Have dinner early - preferably at one of the Night Safari restaurants - so that you are in time for the 7.30pm opening. There's a lot to see in the park, and if you leave it too late you will be ready for bed before you have seen everything.
5 If possible, go on a weekday evening (but not Friday). The Night Safari tends to be less busy during the week. You won't have the park to yourself, but you won't be sharing it with huge crowds either.