Located in a region known for its intense levels of biodiversity, the Singapore Zoo showcases Southeast Asia's wildlife as no other regional destination can.
Of course, the appeal of the zoo goes far beyond regional species - the Singapore Zoo houses almost 4,000 animals in its 40 hectares, giving visitors the chance to come eyeball-to-eyeball with orangutans, white tigers, kangaroos, elephants, baboons, boas, polar bears, and New World monkeys, among others.
The Zoo exemplifies an "open zoo" concept of zookeeping. Cages are almost nonexistent. In the Zoo, bigger land animals are surrounded by deep moats, which are artfully concealed from zoo-goers' eyes by vegetation or varying elevations. Expert climbers, like snakes and jaguars, are kept in glass enclosures.
The "open zoo" sets both visitors and resident animals "free" - the animals are allowed to live almost like they would in their natural habitat, and visitors can observe the animals in an environment almost free of artifice.
This is an especially welcome bonus for photographers, who can shoot to their heart's content without any cage bars or chicken wire obstructing their view!
Children in particular will be amazed at this candid look at life in the wild (although you might want to shield their eyes when the primates choose to, uhm, "do what comes naturally").
This "open" treatment works especially well for the larger social mammals - the chimpanzees and baboons are confined in groups, and are fun to watch especially during feeding times.
The real "magic" happens during feeding hours. You'll be allowed to participate in the feeding of certain species - I enjoyed throwing fruit to the baboons, and was especially freaked out when I had the chance to feed an arapaima (the zookeeper gave me a fish tied on a stick, and told me to hold it a few inches above the water - the arapaima jumped out and grabbed the thing, fish, stick and all).
In other exhibits, the zookeeper will make a show out of feeding time, as with the polar bears, who will go to some amusing lengths to get their hands on the fish being dangled before them by their keepers.
(Don't be surprised by the greenish hue of the polar bears' fur - the animals' hair sprout algae, which would otherwise have been killed by the Arctic's sub-zero temperatures.)
You can even have breakfast with some of these animals - the orangutans are always game for a photo session, as are the Zoo's cotton-top tamarins and snakes (just don't get too friendly!).
With over 40 hectares and miles upon miles of trails exhibiting thousands of animals, there's far too much in the Zoo to comprehensively describe here. However, there are a few exhibits worth noting here:
- Hamadryas Baboons Exhibit: The baboons are housed in a habitat built to simulate their home turf, the Great Rift Valley of Ethiopia. About eighty baboons live on this rocky island surrounded by a watery moat and a glass wall that lets you come face to face with highly aggressive alpha males (take my advice, do not bare your teeth at a baboon!). For a few Singaporean dollars, you'll get a cup of fresh fruit slices which you can throw at the baboons during feeding time.
- The Splash Amphitheatre: the wet n' wild setting of the Splash Safari show, starring pelicans, Californian sea lions, jackass penguins, and Caribbean manatees, all trained to perfection and performing for your enjoyment.
- The Elephants At Work and Play show: Zookeepers at the Elephants of Asia exhibit demonstrate how elephants are put to work at logging camps throughout Southeast Asia.
- Tiger Trek: Singapore Zoo is home to a few specimens of white tigers, living alongside the more familiar Bengal species. The exhibit comes with an interactive show that sells the conservation message to visitors.
A tram connects the Zoo's major exhibits. It runs through 2.2km of track, with three stopovers all around the complex. The tram eases the burden on your legs and allowing you to see the Zoo in detail at the same time.
Getting There and Getting In
The Zoo is open all year round, and is open from 8.30am to 6.00pm daily. The Singapore Zoo website features different ways of getting to and from the area. Adults pay S$16.50 for admission, children from 3-12 years of age pay S$12.
Animal lovers can avail of the "Park Hoppers special" that lets you see the Zoo, the Night Safari, and Jurong BirdPark at the low price of S$40.00 (adults) or S$28.00 (children).
Singapore Zoo at a Glance
- What it is: the most advanced zoo in Southeast Asia - a must-see child-friendly destination in Singapore
- Address: 80 Mandai Lake Road, Singapore 729826
- Website: www.zoo.com.sg