Forget museums with stationary exhibits – you’ve got to visit the Live Turtle and Tortoise Museum (LTTM) located within the iconic Chinese Gardens in Singapore.
Owned by collectors Connie and Danny Tan, here’s where you’ll get to meet living exhibits in the form of cute, shelled animals that will follow you around as you pick up informative facts about them.
At a very affordable admission fee of $5, it’s a great venue for family outings and dates.
Fans of wildlife parks and mildly curious visitors will enjoy the museum like we did. And to get you started, we’ve got a few recommendations on how to make your visit a well-spent one.
One of the first tortoises you’ll see upon entering is a beautiful African spurred tortoise, also referred to as the Sulcata tortoise. It is the third-largest tortoise in the world, and you’ll have no problem spotting the adults wandering the grounds while munching on grass.
You can pat them on the head, or better still, lure them nearer to you with vegetables that you can buy at the counter for $2 a bundle.
Although sunbathing is a favourite and important activity of any reptile, the Sulcata will sometimes hide in shady places.
Most of the terrapins are also found in the garden area. While they usually form an eye-catching row of shells along the pond, the occasional explorer can be found traversing the grass.
The wary ones escape into the water when they see you, and at the same time, bolder ones will swim up and crowd around nearby in hopes of getting tasty snacks – if you don’t want to disappoint them, food pellets can be bought at $1 per pack.
By “free-roaming” we mean that the critters in the garden roam wherever they please – that goes for pooping and peeing too so watch out for any “surprises” they might have left behind!
LTTM is actually a Guinness World Record holder for the largest collection of turtles and tortoises and is home to over 500 live specimens of 48 species. There’s no place better in the world to see and get close to them so we’re lucky that this museum’s in Singapore.
Some of the animals here can only be reared with a license so it’s unlikely you’ll ever meet them anywhere else; the LTTM is a golden opportunity to actually meet them in the flesh.
Of all the museum dwellers you’ll meet there, here are a couple of our favourites.
Meet Xiao Hei, a tortoise with approximately 30 years of age under her belt and many more decades to live through as she is “still a baby”, as described by Connie, her owner.
Xiao Hei is an Aldabra tortoise (which is the second-largest kind found on Earth) and while she’s afraid of strangers, she likes gentle strokes on the head from people whom she’s familiar with.
The Alligator Snapping Turtle has a very strong bite and often poses with its mouth open to catch fish. Depending on your luck, you might get to see it in all its glory, with its jaw poised in place.
Try to spot the wriggly, worm-like part near the bottom of its mouth which it uses as bait in the wild.
All the turtles have their own unique personality and quirks that draw us to them, but many, especially the snapping turtle, should not be touched.
For your own safety (and the safety of the animals), do keep out of the enclosures and ask to find out which ones are comfortable enough with humans to be given a pat. Oh, and definitely remember to wash your hands after each visit.
Although the live turtles are the main attraction of the whole place, the fun doesn’t stop there. You can complete your visit to the gallery which houses 5000 ornaments, featuring the stars of the museum.
You’ll find statues made of all sorts of materials, plush toys, t-shirts, even a couple of potties (yes, toilets for babies) and lots more.
We wish we could have brought this adorable wine holder back with us; it’d be the perfect addition to anyone’s coffee table.
While you’re there, take a look at the map they’ve got on the wall to see where they’ve collected all the items from. A lot of the artefacts here were found overseas, can you guess how many countries they were sourced from?
Even though a few of the ornaments are extremely realistic, none of them are made from preserved turtles – out of respect, deceased turtles are buried, not stuffed. That being said, you’d be amazed at the detail and design of the works here as some pieces genuinely resemble their live counterparts.
After meeting so many turtles and being buddies them, you might want to bring something back to remember them by. That’s the cue to stop by the displays near the front counter, where you’ll find quite a variety of mementos to choose from for yourself, or anyone else you’d like to shop for.
For something simple, these tiny turtle figurines at $2 each would make a great gift, or could be used as craft materials for a bigger project.
Those passionate about essential oils and other mood-setting products would be delighted in candles ($20) and oil-diffusers ($8), both modelled after turtles, of course.
These purses are rather detailed and come in three colours: red, brown and green. They’re sold at $15 each – for genuine leather, that’s quite a steal!
Come on down to the LTTM and who knows, you might just find a new enthusiasm for these reptiles in quite an unusual experience.
Prices: Admission is $5 per pax, Turtle Food ranges from $1 – $2
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