Throughout the course of our trip, we have focused more on immersing ourselves as deeply as possible in the local culture of wherever we happen to find ourselves rather than bopping around obvious attractions that seem geared more toward pleasure-seeking holiday makers and vacation takers. We don’t have a hardline policy that eschews popular, well-known activities, it’s just that I have found that I tend to learn the most about the world by simply being out in it, wandering the streets and observing the locals living their lives, than I do when we seek out museums and similar diversions. I suppose I simply like my history alive, watching the eddy of time culminate in whatever is unfolding before my eyes in the here and now.
But Singapore is chockablock with enticing diversions that really tell you nothing whatsoever about the country (save for the fact that whatever Singapore does, it seems to do so with gusto and an eye for excellence, if not perfection) that we nevertheless found impossible to ignore.
We rounded out the triumvirate of Singapore’s premier animal attractions that include the Night Safari and Jurong Bird Park with a visit to the one that is arguably the best, the Singapore Zoo.
I’m not going to bullshit you: I didn’t experience any life-changing lessons or moments of transcendence at the Singapore Zoo. It is, after all, just a zoo. But, it’s a really good zoo, quite likely the very best zoo I have ever visited. Given all the sad stories you hear about most Asian zoos, the Singapore Zoo is certainly a testament to how great zoos can be when done right, regardless of continent. I think the best zoos are the ones that celebrate the diversity of the animal kingdom and foster a happy, healthy environment where their occupants can thrive; there’s no question the Singapore Zoo does both of these things incredibly well.
The number and variety of animals on display is really impressive, ranging from your traditional offerings of tigers and elephants, to more unusual offerings like tapirs, proboscis monkeys, and the increasingly threatened but always loved pandas (both giants & red, the latter being our personal favorites. Quick bit of trivia: did you know that red pandas are pretty pugnacious and when they are cornered they stand on their hind legs and box? As if they couldn’t be any cuter!). I’ve been to my fair share of zoos, and yet I still saw a few creatures that were completely new to me and was really impressed with the number of animals on offer.
But by far, the very best thing about the Singapore Zoo, and surely the thing that sets it apart from any other zoo I’ve been to, is its sense of spaciousness and attempt at making the park feel more like a nature walk than an animal jail. For obvious reasons, most zoos involve heavy chain-link fences and cages or suffocating, claustrophobic glass enclosures to pen their animals in, but—much like the Night Safari—the Singapore Zoo seems to try its utmost to avoid this wherever possible. Instead, the animals have large compounds that have deep, wide gulfs with steep walls to keep them separate from each other and from visitors. This gives the sense that most of the animals can just freely roam, and indeed, some of the less ferocious animals are seemingly given free reign of the park: upon entering the zoo, we came across a copse of trees right in the middle of the entry plaza where several adorable teeny tiny Cotton-top Tamarins (pictured in this post’s lead image) were hanging out. It would have been so easy to stretch out a hand and ruffle a fluffy head or two, but not wanting to incur a horrifying Arrested Development-esque “No Touching!” moment, somehow we managed to restrain ourselves.
I think an added benefit of the zoo’s open-concept, naturalistic setting is that not only does it delight human patrons, but the animals seem to really appreciate and flourish within this kind of setting as well. I think we’ve all had experiences where our zoo visit has largely involved watching animals sleep, but the ones at the Singapore Zoo were remarkably active (even ones that were supposedly nocturnal, if the Night Safari is to be believed) and it was very rare for us to approach an enclosure and not catch sight of its occupants.
We were in Singapore during the rainy season and unfortunately experienced the worst weather of our time there on the very day we chose to visit the zoo. As a result, we didn’t manage to see the whole thing and even had to put our camera away halfway through our visit; at one point the rains became so torrential, I wouldn’t have been surprised to see an ark go sailing by to round up all the animals. But even with pretty much the worst weather conditions you can imagine, we both thoroughly enjoyed our time at the zoo and would happily return to check out the parts that bad weather forced us to miss on our next visit to Singapore.
When it comes to broadening our horizons or learning more about this beautiful world we live in, I can’t say that the Singapore Zoo taught us very much at all, but I’m glad we visited it all the same. It was a pure pleasure outing that happily turned out to be very pleasurable indeed.
Tell us: What’s the best zoo you have ever been to? What was an activity or attraction you visited during your travels that was purely for fun?