Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The Singapore Zoo

Wild animals at the Singapore Zoo. From left to right: Julius, Sophie, Kelly, Sif, and Ritchie

As you stroll along a paved footpath surrounded by a wall of ferns and leafy green trees, you glance up at an orange furry Orang-Utan and her baby hanging from a network of vines above your head. Casually chewing on a bamboo stick, the pair looks as though they haven't got a care in the world. Not far away, another Orang-Utan is lazily crossing from one tree to another via a swaying vine bridge. The animals are so close they could jump down to say hello if they wanted, but they prefer to keep their distance, safe up in the rain forest canopy.

This is the Singapore Zoo. Not your traditional zoo where animals and humans are kept at a conservative distance from one another, but a more modern, progressive zoo that strives for people and animals to interact as much as possible. They understand the excitement of happening upon real animals in the wild, and try to replicate this by letting some of the docile animals wander around freely in the park so guests can encounter them naturally.

Like the Orang-Utans. Or the turtles and harmless snakes roaming around. Or the beautiful butterflies and birds that circulate freely. For a small fee you can even go on an elephant ride.

This is one guy I would NOT want to encounter naturally, and fortunately for us he was not roaming around freely. This is the Komodo Dragon, a cousin of the dinosaurs. When attacking his prey, he plays it cool and moves very nonchalantly at first, until he suddenly decides to pounce! If you somehow manage to escape and he doesn't tear you apart, you will die from infection. The Komodo Dragon's saliva contains over 50 different strains of bacteria, and only one person has been known to have survived from a bite.

After wandering around the zoo and taking pictures of the amazing animals, we decided to rest our feet and re-hydrate whilst enjoying the Elephants of Asia show. It was fascinating to see how strong elephants were and how good their balance was, but overall the show was a little too long and slow-moving. If they took out the excessive banter, they could easily shave off a good 10 minutes.

Apart from this, my only complaint about the zoo, which is not really the zoo's fault, is that it's not easy to reach. If you're downtown, it's not that bad because there's a direct bus called the Singapore Attractions Express, which stops at most of the big hotels. But if you live in the west of Singapore, you have to take the MRT, then a public bus. The buses weren't running frequently at all, maybe because it was a Sunday, and we ended up having to wait 45 min to an hour for the bus. In all, it took an hour and a half to two hours to get there, each way, which is just insane because it would only take about 20 minutes to reach by taxi.

We bought the "Zoo-per saver" which is a day pass with unlimited boat and tram usage. We used the boat, which was scenic and nice, but waaay too slow. We didn't use the tram at all, so that was a waste of money. If I return to the Singapore Zoo, I will just get the regular ticket.

Right on schedule just like exactly one week ago in Pulau Ubin, we got caught in an afternoon storm. The park is normally open until 6pm, but the place cleared out at 5pm because of the crappy weather. Fortunately we had the good sense to bring along our umbrellas this time, and didn't end up completely drenched.

Dr Cornelius

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