Monday, January 16, 2012

Singapore 2011: Nature Parks and Wildlife

Whenever we visit any country, I make sure to always bring the kids to visit nature parks and/or city gardens to allow the kids to be aware of and have appreciation for the innate physical beauty of the country - to see beyond the theme parks.  We are humbled whenever we see the natural beauty of any place as it always serve as a magnificent reminder of God’s great love and provision.  

Having said that, I’d like to start my series of post about Singapore with an inventory of my favorite Nature Parks.  The thing I love most about Singapore is that while it is highly urbanized, almost half of the country is nonetheless covered by foliage.  The country has put in place a flourishing environment for nature and wildlife – all nestled within the city.

1. Singapore Zoo
We spent an entire day exploring the award-winning Singapore Zoo, 8 hours total... imagine that!   

The zoo is set in a lush rainforest, and the animals are free to roam around their spacious, cageless confines. This open-concept animal exhibit allowed the children to experience an “almost” up-close and personal encounters with the creatures.

The weather predicted to be rainy the week we visited so I prepared and placed foldable umbrellas, hats, and waterproof parkas in our bags.  No worries if you forgot to pack some as the zoo sells ponchos by the entrance.
If you have elders or young ones with you, or if you are just the type who tire easily, the zoo has a tram take you around the zoo. You can hop on and hop off as you wish. But we are not that type of family. I am used to taking long walks; we all know how my kids’ energy level always seem to be running on full; C is compliant and accommodating to the kids’ interest, so we explore it on foot… for 8 freaking hours! 

Just looking back now, it amazes me that the kids had the endurance to go on for that long.  But they were truly excited and wanted to fill up their curiosity about all the animals, so C and I were only too happy to oblige.  I really do feel thankful that C and I got lucky with our kids.  It is such a privilege to parent kids who have a natural curiosity about the world around them.   . :)

Many of the animals are free-ranging, and among the first we encountered are the primates.

The girls were also thrilled by the pink color of the flamingos...

The zoo houses a large colony of orangutans in a naturalistic and open enclosure.  The charismatic apes also demonstrated that a mother's instinct to protect and guide its young is not exclusive to humans; this orangutan mom patiently held the arm of its young as he practices swinging from the branch.  of course, the kids did not let this moment pass, and a good twenty minutes were spent looking up at this parenting display.

It was fun walking under the trees with these gentle and endangered species just a few feet above our heads.  With J ever so scared that one of the apes might accidentally lose a grip and fall on her....

The African savanna animals are a sure hit with the kids.  Lions, giraffes, zebras, rhinoceros, cheetahs, leopards... all roaming around freely, and if you go to the enclosure at the right time, you can even have the chance to feed them.

 

Did you know that the horn on the tip of the rhino's nose is actually just a mass of hair stuck together?  That is why a new one grows in its place when it gets knocked over. The rhino enclosure was also a quick lesson lesson in the food web:  The bird feeds off the ticks on the animal's back.  The rhino loses the annoying parasites. Everyone is happy.

The kids expressed a little apprehension about the big cats being cageless, so C and I had to reassure them that there are hidden barriers and moats separating the animals from us.  
I just learned that big cats sleep for 20 hours of the day?  It is no wonder that previous encounters with lions in zoos, they'd always be lying around.  When we visited the lions enclosure earlier in the afternoon, they were expectedly taking a nap.  But when we passed by again around 5 in the afternoon, on our way home, we found them up and about.  A real treat to see them running about and playfully chasing each other.  It was entertaining and truly one of the highlights of our trip to be able to watch the two lionesses in active play.   

It was just too bad that we were not able to capture it on camera.  After lugging the DSLR for about 5 hours, we decided it was just too heavy and burdensome and placed it inside C's bag. :) 

Within the day, we tried to catch the animal shows as not only are they interesting, educational and entertaining; it also provided our grown-up legs with a much-needed break. Anyone who visits the Zoo should watch one show, at least. We were able to watch The Rainforest Fights Back and Elephants at Work and Play.

If the afternoon heat is too much for the kids, (and your tired legs cannot keep up with the young ones' energy) bring them to the Rainforest Kidzworld.  This part of the zoo has a wading pool where the kids can play amid splashing fountains and water slides.  But since we visited during the peak holiday season, I did not let the kids play in here anymore... the pool was filled solid with kids and a crowded pool is a surefire breeding ground for viruses.  Instead they tried out the mini zipline and the obstacle courses - while I happily planted myself on a nearby bench.  This facility is free with the zoo admission. 

The zoo is continuously being upgraded and it is scheduled to open River Safari in 2012. It will be home to a pair of giant pandas in a climate controlled bamboo forest. Other residents will include red pandas, raccoon dogs, Mekong giant catfish, Manatees, giant river otters, and polar bears. 
  
2. Singapore Botanic Gardens
Entering Singapore’s Botanic Gardens immediately transported us into another locale, making us quickly forget that we are still in the middle of a bustling city.  The Botanic Garden is a Michelin three-star attractions and Time Magazine's best pick for Asia's best urban jungle.

We visited late afternoon and took long leisurely walks that lasted up until the early evening. The Garden is segregated into different areas, each with its own character. The kids totter and toddled, skipped and strutted…soon we reach the rain-forest zone. The trees here are gigantic with massive trunks. The air is decidedly heavy with moisture and the temperature drops a little.  
This small tropical rain-forest is even older than the Botanical Gardens itself.  My love for Singapore grew when I learned that Singapore is one of only two big cities with a tropical rainforest grown within its border.

In the middle of it all is a garden that is serene and languid.  Here we find the Bandstand, an octagon-shaped structure, which was once used to stage musical performances by military bands. Though it is no longer in use, the bandstand is still one of the best features of the garden. 
 

Our walk is punctuated with short breaks as each wooden bench softly invites us to take a mellow respite on its lap.
At every turn, a solicitous bench.... and how we indulged those benches!:)
 
 
For C and I the garden was a refreshing change of pace, and we quickly adapted to the silence, which was interrupted only by the rustling of the leaves...  But not for long.  Soon enough, the unbridled energy of the kids couldn't be contained anymore...



Phenomenal TIPS:
~ If you are sensitive to mosquitoes and other insects, take some repellent with you.  My kids got a few bites, and so it was good that I have my Human Heart Nature citronella spray with me.
~ A hat, umbrella, poncho would be useful to protect against sun or rain.
~ Water and some snacks would be useful for the kids, too.
~ You can have your kids bring their swimsuits as there is a water-based playground called Rainforest Kidzworld at the Singapore Zoo.
~ The Singapore Zoo, Night Safari and Jurong Bird Park have a 3-in-1 joint ticket called the Park Hopper Ticket. This is great value if you plan on visiting all 3 parks. You get to save a chunk off the total ticket price. You may also get a variety 2-in-1 Park Hopper tickets for entry into any 2 of Zoo, Night Safari or Bird Park. Prices vary according to your selection of parks and rides.
~ Always remember to grab hold of the map of the place.
 

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4 comments:

The Sunset Goddess said...

The Singapore Botanic Gardens is one of my absolute favorite Singapore destinations :)I wasn't able to go the zoo though (no more time!). For the next trip na!

Mom-Friday said...

On both times I went to SG, I only visited Night Safari. Maybe if we go there with the kids, the garden and other zoos will definitely be on the itinerary! :)

Mom-Friday said...

Beautiful photos by the way. :)

jen laceda said...

Awesome recap of your day at Singapore Zoo and Singapore Botanical Gardens! Definitely worth a visit when we are in that neck of the woods (pun intended!) LOL! I'd like to try Night Safari with the kids, too. From what it sounds like, people I know have really enjoyed the experience.

By the way, love all your great family shots! Your kids are growing up so quickly...! And R really looks like the Lam side. R looks like your brother!

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