Eat breakfast with an orangutan. Hand-feed a kangaroo. Get dangerously close to lions on an African safari. Ride an elephant. Observe the shenanigans that go on in the animal kingdom while we humans are lost in the world of dreams. You can do it all – and much, much more – during the course of a day (and maybe a night, too) at the Singapore National Zoo.
Beauty, diversity and a world-famous reputation
Of all the zoos on this planet of ours, Singapore’s is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful, diverse and, quite frankly, epic. It has now won the Singapore Tourism Board’s Best Leisure Attraction Experience award no fewer than nine times. Having been open since 1973, it has developed a world-famous reputation for its exceptionally naturalistic, open habitats. The 26 hectares that make up its grounds are actually part of the Mandai Rainforest, which continues beyond the zoo’s boundaries into the Upper Seletar Reservoir.
Innovative, immersive animal adventures
Rather than merely viewing animals on display, the Singapore National Zoo encourages visitors to immerse themselves in the experience. The enclosures include special features, like elevated platforms that enable you to look giraffes in the eye; underwater galleries where you can be privy to the secret lives of pygmy hippos, otters and crocodiles; and glass observatories through which you can see lions and cheetahs in action.
Wild Africa, Frozen Tundra and the Australian Outback: global habitats
The zoo has made an impressive effort to replicate various natural habitats from all over the world. In ‘Wild Africa’, found in the zoo’s southeastern section, you’ll encounter white rhinoceroses, giraffes and meerkats grazing alongside cheetahs, African wild dogs, zebras and lions. ‘Frozen Tundra’, the zoo’s most recent addition, transports you into the Arctic, where you’ll see raccoon dogs, two wolverines who are actually brother and sister, and Inuka, the first polar bear in the world to have been born in the tropics.
Another nine habitats comprise the zoo’s grounds – the Fragile Forest, the Australian Outback, the Great Rift Valley of Ethiopia, the Treetops Trail, Gibbon Island, the Primate Kingdom, the Reptile Garden, Critters Longhouse and the Tropical Crops & Orchid Garden.
Dining with orangutans and going behind-the-scenes
A diverse array of unusual activities is also on the zoo’s menu. Many incur an additional charge, but they’re worth it. Every morning between 9am and 10.30am, the onsite Ah Meng Restaurant hosts the ‘Jungle Breakfast with Wildlife’. Visitors enjoy an international buffet with a family of orangutans for company.
There are also numerous wildlife tours, giving you the chance to ‘go behind-the-scenes’ with zookeepers, engage in hand feeding and get up close and personal with some species. Plus, if you’re not keen on walking and would prefer to see the zoo by some other means of transport, opt for the rolling comfort of a tram, the old-fashioned romance of a horse-drawn carriage or a boat.
Finding somewhere to stay
For a really special accommodation experience, it’s hard to go past the Parkroyal Pickering Street Hotel in Singapore. It drew headlines upon opening last year for its exceptionally green design, which includes 15,000 square meters of stunning sky gardens. Every fourth level of the hotel’s twelve storeys is overflowing with tropical foliage, including frangipanis and palm trees. Plus, the location is pretty convenient, across from Hong Lim Park and overlooking the Singapore CBD, and there’s a long list of indulgent facilities: an entire floor dedicated to wellness with a terrace pool, spa and elevated running track; a rooftop Orchid Club lounge affording 360 degree views; and luxury suites.
The nitty, gritty details
You’ll find the zoo at 80 Mandai Lake Rd, Singapore, 729826. It’s possible to catch the MRT on the North-South line and then take a connecting bus. Alternatively, board the Singapore Attractions Express Service, which travels direct from various points, including Orchard Road, Little India, Beach Road, Suntec and Chinatown.
The zoo’s opening hours are 8.30am-6pm daily. Final ticket sales happen at 5.30pm. Tickets are $28 per adult, $18 per child (3-12 years old) and $12 per senior citizen. Online bookings attract a 5% discount. For enquiries, call the zoo directly on (65) 6269 3411 or get in touch via email at [email protected]