Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Singapore Mandai Zoo - Where to bring your kids in Singapore

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An icy stare from the Hamadryas Baboon (photo by Ross Pollack)

TT heads to Singapore for a short visit and goes straight to one of the island's top attractions.

I have said it before and I will say it again. The number one destination for children (or for anyone) in Singapore is the Mandai Zoo.

The Singapore Zoo is well known for its beautiful rainforest setting where animals are allowed to roam in open and naturalistic environments modelled after their natural habits. Covering 26 hectares, the Singapore Zoo is home to more than 2,800 animals making it a must go for anyone who wants to be closer to nature.

On every trip back, I have always made it a point to visit the Zoo and each time I fall in love with it all over again.

Something for the adults

The Zoo has something for everyone. You don't have to be a kid to appreciate Treetops Trail, set close to the entrance of the Zoo with an elevated platform weaving its way through the forest canopy. Residents of the Treetops Trail include the free ranging brown lemur and the white faced saki monkeys but on my recent trip I failed to spot them among the trees. I did hear whooping cries though I must admit I have no idea who made those cries. I did spot the False Gavial (a crocodile like creature) lurking in the swamp beneath the broad walk.

Another favourite exhibit of mine is the free ranging area for the orang utans which is the Zoo's flagship species. My generation grew up with Ah Meng the orang utan bring the face of the Zoo. Breakfast with Ah Meng was the highlight of a trip to the Zoo. Sadly she has passed away but the orang utan would always have a special space in my heart. Seeing these giant gentle creatures swing and climb around or just sitting quietly chewing on their food is extremely therapeutic in my opinion.

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The Orang Utan (photo by John)

The part of the Zoo which holds the most magic fore is the Fragile Forest zone, a bio dome with a 20,000 cubic metre flight area. It seeks to recreate the rainforest Eco system and brings the visitor close to the animals that are resident there. It is amazing how close you are to the animals and I kept worrying whether I might accidentally step on one of the sloths crossing my paths. The beautiful birdsong provides the soundtrack against which you can admire the stunning butterflies as they flutter around you. Leaving the Fragile Rainforest, I have a reinvigorated enthusiasm to do my bit for rainforest preservation.

Something for the Kids

Children would love the Kidzworld and I suspect most of them end up spending most of their time in this area. There are goats, ponies and bunnies on exhibit as well as goat and bunny petting sessions. Pony rides and carriage rides are on offer too. The key attraction though must be the wet playground where a giant tipping bucket and a multitude of water jets help to cool the kids in the blazing sun. If you forget to pack your kid's swimsuit don't despair. The souvenir outlet has swimsuits on sale. At 4 pm daily there will also be a kids' show at the amphitheatre where dogs are the star performers. Something to wind the kids down before you call it a day.

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Kidzworld - a splash of fun (photo by Choo Yut Shing)

To make the most of your day at the Zoo, do go online to check out the times for the various shows and the feeding trails. Kids would be thrilled to feed the elephants of the proboscis monkeys though I thought having a go at feeding the giant tortoises would be pretty cool.

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The giant tortoise (photo by Karl Monaghan)

The Zoo is also very accessible for families with children. There are buggies to rent (at $9 a pop) or wagons in which the children can be rugged around in. Or one can opt for unlimited tram rides which would save you a lot of walking!

Kids will love the souvenirs available ranging from cuddly softoys to glow in the dark key rings. The shops also stock T shirts some of which are quite tastefully designed.

Where to grab a bite

Food wise the Zoo has two KFC outlets - one at the entrance as well as one in Kidzworld. They also have a convenience store and An Meng Kopi (selling drinks and local favourites) at the entrance. There is also an air conditioned food court in the heart of the zoo so food is readily available at any point in your visit. Be forewarned that food prices are marked up in the Zoo) as with all tourist spots worldwide. A bowl of noodles in the good court will set you back around S$8 more than twice the price of an equivalent bowl elsewhere.

A tip - Do bring a poncho or a brolly. Large parts of the Zoo are not under shelter and when it rains it pours!

Also read about TT's verdict of Gardens by the Bay - yep, the one with the giant trees.

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