Meet the stars

Meet the stars

The ever-bustling city of Singapore boasts of many wondrous man-made structures. So the first query that comes up in the mind of a nature-lover visiting the place is — how does this concrete marvel house one of the best zoos and bird parks in the world? Well, this tough feat has been possible because of the constant efforts of the Wildlife Reserves Singapore (WRS). The Singapore Zoo and Jurong Bird Park have towered over many of their counterparts, thanks to the dedication of WRS employees.

Breakfast club

The Singapore Zoo, which is known as ‘The World’s Best Rainforest Zoo’, was the first place that we were taken to. We had a well-planned day awaiting us as we entered the sprawling property that is home to over 2,800 animals. We started our day with breakfast. Well, except that it was in a zoo, and with orangutans! Just like its name, ‘Breakfast with the Orangutans’ will help you enjoy your cereal and fruit early in the morning with not just one or two, but an entire family of orangutans. While we scrambled over to take as many pictures of and with the mischievous creatures as possible, one of the presenters kindly let us hold a corn snake too. The designs on its body reflected a corn on the cobb, and the crawly  organism was quite friendly.

We then went inside Frozen Tundra, the newest exhibit of the zoo which is home to inuka, the magnificent polar bear. Yes, that’s right, a polar bear in a tropical city! True to its name, the Frozen Tundra was freezing. But it was just right for the creature which was walking in its ice-cold cave most of the time. You can even catch her swim in the pool at certain times of the day. It is not a surprise that a star like inuka has wolverines as her neighbours. No, the two bear-like creatures, Boris and Ivana, aren’t from X-Men, but are part of the weasel family! As we walked to the butterfly park, we were looking up in amazement at the creatures that sprang out from the lush greens above like the raccoons, fruit bats, brown lemurs and the white-faced saki monkey.

At many given points of the day, visitors can feed the animals and watch the feeding sessions as well (in case of creatures like lions and leopards). We were taken to feed the rhinoceros and giraffes and as these friendly creatures snatched the bananas and carrots from our hands, we couldn’t help but assume that they enjoyed our company.

The latest addition to the zoo is River Safari. We were first taken on a long walk across rivers Congo, Ganges, Nile, Mississippi, Yangtze and Mekong. Well, it wasn’t a walk across the world, but through a replica of these regions housing certain organisms that are exclusive to them. So, while the Ganges had the Indian gharial and the frog-faced softshell turtle, Yangtze had two of the biggest attractions of the zoo — the red and giant pandas. While the mysterious red panda greeted us as soon as we entered the replica of the upper region of the Yangtze river, the cuddly Kaikai and Jiajia were engrossed looking for pieces of carrots scattered around in their respective homes.

Soon we were off for the River Safari Cruise, which was basically a view of the zoo from the river. As we spotted elephants and giraffes from the other side, we were entertained with some interesting trivia on the boat.

No one leaves the Singapore Zoo without experiencing the Night Safari! The zoo in the night has a magical charm of its own and visitors are entertained first by the Fire and Light Show, which is reminiscent of an Indian mela. Post an early dinner, we were taken for the Creatures of the Night show, which had furry, sometimes scary, creatures coming out in the dark. Otters were swimming swiftly out of the pond, on to the stage, and teaching people to segregate waste!

It was then time for the Night Safari. As the cart moved into the dark wilderness, the faces of animals shone in the artificial moonlight — they looked so real that I couldn’t believe it was another man-made creation. A half walk, half drive, the Night Safari enabled us to enjoy the wild in the dark, and be it leopards, tigers, the Asian lion or bears, we could get up close and personal with the magnificent creatures without endangering our own safety.

Birds on hills
The second destination on our itinerary was the world-famous Jurong Bird Park. Named after the Jurong Hill on which it is located, Jurong is a haven for all bird lovers. Winged beauties of all shapes, sizes and colours welcome you as you enter the amazing park. If you are here during lunch, you can have ‘Lunch with Parrots’, just like we did. While Pikasso, the sulphur-crested cockatoo, entertained us with his art work and happily sat on our arms, Ippy, the sweet scarlet macaw, taught us how to segregate garbage! In a similar vein, we can even have ‘Dinner with Penguins’.

Lori loft feeding is something that even non-bird-lovers enjoy. For a change, it wasn’t us chasing the pretty little exotic creatures as they readily came towards us to be fed. If you are more daring, you can feed worms to hornbills among others! Like the Singapore Zoo, even Jurong has a number of shows where visitors can be entertained by the wit of birds. The ‘High Flyers Show’ has parrots flying through hoola hoops and hornbills swooping down to sit on your hand. However, the best is saved for the last as gorgeous flamingos come up on stage, forcing you to take your cameras out and pose with them.

Then there was the pelican feeding show where we saw eight types of pelicans being fed. While we waited in anticipation to see which pelican caught the worm (fish, in this case), we were also enlightened by the constant information provided by the warm hosts of the show about these majestic creatures. Another must-watch here was the ‘Kings of the Skies’ show that made me feel like I was in a movie with its dramatic sound sequences, the birds of prey swooping down and the staff racing into the field on horses.
Everything is not just about recreation at the zoo and the bird park. The two also hold an array of enlightening activities to create awareness about the need for conservation.

A tryst with the wild in Singapore can surely not be put in a limited number of words. But I can only sum it up by saying, if you love animals and Africa seems like a distant possibility, then Singapore it is!

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