Last Saturday (1st June) was Alex’s first birthday. We had planned to take him to the River Safari to see the 2 giant pandas. My in-laws were here too, as my mother-in-law’s birthday falls on end May and she wanted to have a co-celebration with Buddy. But my husband developed a fever the evening before, and we thought we had to postpone it. Lucky our family doctor is pretty close by, and my husband went to see Dr Shrimpy who gave him ibuprofen. He was well enough the next day, and we went ahead with our plan so that Buddy’s birthday was a special one.
My husband insisted that we should be at the zoo (which is really next to River Safari) early to beat the crowd, according to reviews he read. I wasn’t convinced that there would be hell of a lot of people since the pandas have been around for some time already. When we arrived at about 9.30am, the car park was only partially filled and there weren’t any tour coaches. In fact there was no thronging crowd. But once we were at the F&B outlets and the ticketing booths, a small crowd was already there. As we were having some snacks at a cafe, more people turned up particularly families. So it turns out my husband was right to follow the advice from the reviews. Alex was very excited when we arrived at the zoo; it was new sights and sound for him.
At the entrance to the River Safari, we get a view of the green scenery that makes up the park, very different from what you see anywhere in Singapore.
Here’s the map of the Safari park. The large reservoir of water is what is seen in the picture above.
The River Safari features 8 notable fresh-water rivers and their fauna from around the world, and they are housed in huge tanks.
The Mississippi River is the first showcase; I thought the Gar Fish found there is pretty amazing looking with it’s alligator-like snout.
The crocodile in the Ganges River tank is scarily big. Imagine encountering one!
The size of the giant catfish in the Mekong River tank is like that of a baby shark. Anyway I’m sure the river itself is not this pristinely clear. This is the ideal environment, but caged up.
I’m not sure why the giant pandas are housed in the River Safari since the park features river animals, and the panda’s habitat is nowhere near any river. Maybe the zoo runs out of space.
A special dome was built for the enclosures of the giant pandas and the other animals in the same habitat, including the cute red panda. We were so relieved that it’s air conditioned! The heat and humidity caused Alex’s eczema to flare up quite badly. Like the pandas, he requires a cool environment.
I’m not sure why the giant panda is such a popular animal, and it’s even used as the symbol for World Wildlife Fund. When we talk about endangered animals, there’re a whole bunch of them. The Siberian tiger is facing the same risk, so are the Javan rhinoceros (only 60 left), and the Northern Sportive Lemur. Honestly, is it because the panda is deemed to be cute and cuddly? Though personally I only find the baby panda cute, but most baby animals are cute anyway. Remember Knut, the baby polar bear? He was a cutie. But disproportionate amount of attention is focused on the giant panda that I think it is seriously over-rated. But since China has taken on the animal as a national symbol and the country is now a rising power, it’ll definitely want the panda to be constantly in everybody’s radar. That, to me, doesn’t do justice to the other animals. The Siberian tiger is certainly not gentle, but it’s a magnificently beautiful animal. Too bad the Russians are not advocating on it’s behalf.
I find the red panda more adorable and endearing than the giant panda. This pretty one is also rather frisky.
Guess what were the giant panda doing? This one, Jia Jia, was sleeping like a log. My husband even thought it was dead because it didn’t stir one bit.
As for the other one, Kai Kai, she was hiding inside the enclosure because she’s too shy to show her face.
Well, we might as well watch the pandas on the TV. At least the cameraman would be the one spending hours filming the action.
The highlights of the tour turn out to be at the Amazon Flooded Forest. The piranhas are the first attraction. These scary fishes went into a formation when a number of people started crowding round the tank. They were almost motionless as they stared back at the crowd, looking like they were ready for an attack. My husband felt it was pretty unnerving; and said if the piranhas started to rush at the glass, that would send the crowd running away screaming.
My favorite tank is this humongous one that houses the manatees and other big fishes.
It’s quite an amazing sight standing right in front of this huge floor to ceiling glass tank, looking at the fishes and manatees swimming above you.
This is a view of the tank from the top.
There’s a mother and baby manatees. I was a little surprised to find these mammals feeding on cabbage.
The park is supposed to have a boat ride along a river within it. But there was some problem with the boat and so that part of the park is closed for the time being. So the ticket costs S$25 per adult right now instead of S$36. We didn’t get to see all the exhibits, like the squirrel monkey forest as it out under the sun and we were afraid that it might worsen Buddy’s eczema. It has been a pretty enjoyable visit, many of these animals are never before seen, except on TV. We would definitely return for another visit especially for the boat ride which would be fun. However we have to wait till Buddy is slightly older and his eczema problem has pretty much receded before coming back. This time we’ll check out the squirrel monkey forest. And we’ll also bring along lots of water and some snacks. The food at the park, whether fast-food or sit-down, sucks! Water is $2 a bottle and you need lots of it because of the heat. Only the panda enclosure and the Amazon Flooded Forest have AC, other than the restaurants and souvenir stores. Outside the panda enclosure, a fast food Chinese restaurant serves the panda bun, which is really red bean bun, but don’t count on the taste. Buddy was fascinated by it, as with the rest of the food we were having.
Here’s our baby panda. Strangely he doesn’t mind this woolly hat. We have tried putting a floppy hat and a cap on him and he pull them off his head.